Saturday, July 30, 2011


The old engine and transmission
removed from the truck
Well there's no turning back now.  The internal combustion engine (ICE) is gone, gone, gone.  Ripped that baby out, threw it in the back of my friend's, pickup (along with a lot of other stuff I won't need now: gas tank, exhaust system, radiator . . .) and made a deposit at our local auto recycling center.  It was pretty cool pulling up to the recycling center and saying we wanted to make a donation.

All the stuff we no longer need
All that's left is a nice large space awaiting an electric motor, controller and some batteries.  The bulk of the batteries will be going in the back, under the truck bed, but there will be some up front under the hood. I still need to figure out exactly how the battery pack will be installed.

All this space just waiting
for an electric motor

The transmission will need to go out for a rebuild.  I noticed while driving it around that the synchronizer from 1st to 2nd was shot.  With all the work to do the conversion  it seemed like a good idea to go ahead and have the transmission rebuilt.  I thought about doing it myself, but I think I'll leave this to someone who's done it more than once.  I'm still finalizing my engine and battery pack selection.  I should be able to make a final decision this weekend and place the order first thing next week.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Work Begins

After repairing lights, before demolition
Pre-Demolition Work
I've finally started actually working on the conversion.  Before I could start the conversion to an EV I had to fix the existing electrical system.  The truck started and ran OK but most of the lights were inoperative.  After a bunch of troubleshooting I finally isolated the problem to the switch module on the steering column.  I removed the module, cleaned the contacts, and voila everything worked!  I no longer had to avoid taking the truck out in the evening for fear I'd be out after dusk without headlights.  I actually completed all the repairs in late June, but further works was delayed by my attendance at a conference subsequent vacation.

Demolition Phase I: Bed Removal
Bed raised off the frame
Since the battery pack is going to reside under the pickup bed, I needed to remove bed so I can fabricate and install racks to hold the batteries.  The bed was amazingly light.  Two people could easily pick it up off the frame.  According the the manual, you unbolt the bed from the frame, hook four straps to the bed and lift it with an overhead wench.  Unfortunately I lacked the wench and was working by myself.  I got a little creative raised the on 2x4s bit by bit until it was above the frame.  I did get help from my wife to move the various stanchions under the 2x4s as I lifted them up. 
Look Ma, no truck
 Then I simply drove the truck out from under the bed  as slowly lowered the bed to the ground a step at a time. I was then able to move the bed out of the garage using a dolly.  Cal-OSHA would definitely have not approved of my methods but I was kinda pleased with the creative if somewhat precarious solution.

Kinda stumpy looking without the bed

The truck looks really funny without the bed on--definitely something missing.  It's also a amazing to me how little  there is to the frame.  When I look at a car or truck it looks so big, bulky, and substantial.  But once you've pulled the body off a revealed the frame, there just so little of it there. And that's a good thing for EV conversion.  All that space between the frame members is 
Look at all that space for batteries
where most of the batteries will go.  I have to fashion a series of racks to hold the batteries so they're completely below the frame members.  I'll then replace the bed but add a hinge mechanism so I can lift the bed to get to the batteries.  Both the exhaust system and the gas tank will be removed which will open up even more space for the battery pack.

Demolition Phase II: Preparation for Removing the Engine
Engine waiting to be pulled out
With the bed removed I got to some serious demolition--removing fuel tank, radiator, exhaust system, and all the stuff connected to the engine.  It's amazing how much stuff I wont need in the converted truck.  To facilitate access to the engine compartment I removed the hood and set to work.  There's a lot more stuff connected to engines than there was in the '70s when I last worked on cars.  To get the engine out I will need that overhead wench or else I'll have to rent an engine hoist.  I also need some help to get the engine out.  My friend, Chris, is coming next weekend to help with the engine removal.  Now I just have figure out how to rig the wench.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Junk yards and dung beetles

I'm still in the process of making general repairs to the truck.  Ironically, I had to get the engine tuned up to past the California smog test so that I could transfer the title so that I can take the engine out and replace it with an electric motor.  Also replaced the worn out and leaky tires.

Auto salvage yard and environs in
Queens, NY photo by Jim Henderson
Made another trip to one of my local auto salvage yard (aka junk yard) last weekend to pick out some needed parts including, seat belts, rear view mirror, sun visors, and some electrical switches.  I find these really fascinating places.  First off, they're such entertaining venues that the can charge admission--really it's $2 to enter.  The entry fee does allow you to leave and reenter the same day, so if you get hungry and haven't yet had you fill of scavenging you can run out for a quick burrito and get back in without and additional $2 fee.   The reentry policy also allows to run out to your car, remove a part you're trying to replace and bring it into the junk yard to make sure the part you're pulling off of some old hulk will fit your car.  Now this has got to be the best deal in the entertainment industry today. Can you imagine your local multiplex allow you free reentry after you'd paid for one movie?  That just 'aint gonna' happen.  But, at my local salvage yard, I can spend all day entertaining myself with rackets, hammers, grease, oil, and just plain dirt for only $2!  Some of the yard even have food stands and tool suppliers in the parking lot outside the yard to serve your every need.  What a deal! I can get hours of entertainment, food, and any tools I forgot to bring for less than the cost of one crappy summer Hollywood movie.

Dung beetles feasting on horse hockey
in Namibia.  Photo by Duwwel.

As I watched my fellow scavengers climb over over, under, and around the decaying automobile hulks, I was struck by the parallel between us and a load of dung beetles scouring over horse hockey.  In both cases we're taking detritus commonly thought as untouchable, diving into it will complete abandon and hauling it away for some other useful purpose not intended by the original owner.

Fellow parts pullers at the salvage yard