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8 Aug 2007
I'm interested in what most of you think regarding the below article. As some of you may know, I'm not a big diesel fan, but as fate sometimes deals us a cruel hand, I've been working on diesel engine calibration for a couple of years now, and have recently taken a job at GM's Milford Proving Grounds calibrating the 4.5L diesel that will be coming out in 1/2 ton trucks for '09. Much of the auto industry has big plans for diesel and I'd like to hear if you agree with the writer of the below article or if you might find a use for a 1/2 ton Silverado or F150 with 500 lbs*ft of torque. Or, let's say, something along the size of a Ford Fusion with a 2.0L diesel in it, making 300 lbs*ft of torque.


From 8/6 Automotive News:

Any time I drive a prototype vehicle around Los Angeles, the first question from fellow drivers is not "Hey, is that the new Volvo?" but rather "Does that come in a hybrid?"

Are you sick of the hybrid hype yet? Evidently, American car shoppers aren't. J.D. Power and Associates predicts 2007 will be the biggest year ever for gasoline-electric powertrains. As the Detroit 3 join Toyota, Honda and Nissan with their own hybrids, especially in light trucks, their popularity will likely get even stronger.

Yet, seemingly, following any story I write about the Toyota Prius or any other hybrid, I get inundated with hate e-mail from diesel-loving skeptics.

"Diesel is the answer!" the elbow-patch crowd exclaims. "Haven't you been to Europe? See how successful they are over there? Just you watch. Diesel will catch on in America as well."

I'm not buying it.

Diesel joy in England

I lived in London for nearly a year, and I experienced the diesel miracle. I found joy behind the wheel of a Ford Mondeo diesel that was far better than its petrol-powered siblings. In addition to its wondrous torque, the Mondeo delivered my wife and me on a 600-mile jaunt to England's Lake District on one tank of fuel. Similarly, I was smitten with little Peugeots and VWs with gutsy diesels under the hood.

But Eurodiesels make up for their cost premium over petrol cars thanks to massive tax breaks from Europe's national governments. Diesel fuel is cheaper for the same reason. Without those subsidies, the retail story would likely be quite different.

Then there is the emissions quarrel. A survey by the United Kingdom's WhatCar? magazine showed that the Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Prius and Lexus RX 400h hybrids are greener than their counterpart diesels in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. The only diesels that outperformed the Civic Hybrid and Prius were a couple 1.0-liter buzz bombs that will never make it to American roads.

But that doesn't stop the oil-burners from trying to convince us that diesel is the way.

I spent a week driving the new Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec. Technically, I shouldn't have been driving it in California, as it doesn't pass emissions regs here. But with a nudge and a wink, the keys were in my hand.

For all the publicity surrounding Bluetec, I expected blistering performance and astonishing mileage. I got the former, but not so much the latter.

Nothing eye-popping

In a 955-mile week, which included a 600-mile freeway-only dash to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the diesel delivered a respectable but hardly eye-popping 30 mpg. That's basically the same mileage figure delivered by the Lexus hybrid RX 400h sportwagon and GS 450h sedan that the diesel crowd loves to bash.

Even on the 200-mile return run to Mojave that entailed a 5,000-foot descent -- feathering the throttle the whole way -- the Bluetec's mileage improved to just 33.3 mpg. So much for its 35 mpg EPA highway rating.

On the performance side, the Bluetec was indeed a star. Its staggering 400 pounds-feet of torque made quick work of passing big rigs on I-395 and quickly dispatched the two-lane freeway's Mad Max aspect.

But in city driving, the Mercedes' transmission jarringly surged between first, second and third gears. Pulling sedately from a red light routinely resulted in something like whiplash, as the diesel hunted to find the right combination of efficiency and power. This dysfunction repeated itself in slow-and-go freeway conditions as well.

Diesels have made huge strides since the clattering, stinky '70s VW Rabbits and their glow plugs. But diesels will always have a particulate perception problem, no matter how clean they claim their emissions are. Even though automakers and refiners now are trapping particulate crud as small as five microns, it isn't good enough.

Crud in the blood

The new California standard may require filtering below two microns. Those minuscule carcinogenic particles remain aloft for weeks and are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Yuck. If the petroleum refiners don't play ball and clean up the fuel, that's an expensive moving target for engine makers to hit.

"The horrible Achilles heel for the diesel people is that particulates are much harder to manage than hydrocarbons," said Eric Noble, analyst with The Car Lab in Orange, Calif. "They're already doing pretty unnatural acts, like putting cans of urine onto the cars to meet the current standards. You can only imagine how hard it will be to meet the future standards."

Finally, there's the matter of obtaining ultralow-sulfur diesel fuel. Mercedes apocalyptically warned that filling the Bluetec with anything but that fuel would result in emissions system damage, plagues of locusts and the return of disco.

Upon pulling into Mobil, Arco, Shell, Alliance and two Chevron stations in blue-collar San Pedro, Calif., I was unable to find a pump that dispensed regular diesel fuel, let alone a place that sold the ultralow-sulfur variety.

Realize that San Pedro is a town full of building contractors who will argue for hours whether their Cummins Ram pickup can kick the snot out of your PowerStroke F-250. Still, it took a 13-mile journey to find a Shell station that sold the right stuff.

That's the final straw. With a hybrid, any filling station will do. Heck, in the near future, any wall outlet will do, what with rapid advances in plug-in hybrid technology.

Then consider that Toyota sells nearly as many hybrids in America as BMW or Mercedes sells total cars, let alone their small fraction of diesels, and you see the consumer already has made the decision. Plus, hybrids are a natural gateway to fuel cell vehicles.

Sorry, oil-burners, you missed your chance. Hybrids got the jump. Diesel has too steep a mountain to climb, even if it has 400 pounds-feet of torque.

1 Jan 2007
This is the last item I have of my long lost Firebird. Everything else has been used to build up my '94 Camaro or has been sold.

The hood is unpainted and was never mounted or modified in any way. It is in excellent condition. The asking price is $100 (new VFN price is $260) plus help in figuring out the best way to ship the hood. I know VFN uses truck freight, but I have never done this, so I have no idea who to call. Would also consider bringing the hood to some track events this year (MI, IL, OH, IN area) if that's more convenient, as I'm going to start doing some track days with the Camaro.

Hood weight is 12 lbs.
3 Jun 2005
If any of you have a LT1 body Firebird I have the above hood sitting in my garage and now most certainly will not be using it. It has never been painted or drilled for mounting. I picked it up a little over a year ago and it's been sitting in my basement ever since.

I'm really not interested in trying to ship this thing by truck so if anyone here wants it who is somewhere near the Detroit area or will be here in the near future it's yours. I welcome donations, but it's free if you want it. (IMG:http://www.frrax.com/rrforum/style_emoticons/default/cool.gif)
23 May 2005
Well, Brian Doll picked up my Firebird body on Saturday. He's going to race it in American Sedan. I'm glad it's going to a good home. I kept all the suspension, C5 brakes and powertrain so it's a modfest coming up for the Camaro very soon now. Gonna put the 383 in it this winter but I plan to get at least one track day in this year with the new suspension. Sam, Brian kept the rear end in the Firebird so in not too long I'll get another T2R from you.

Then, to make my day even better on the same day I traded in my '03 Ram for a '05 Rumblebee Ram. It's a 2 door in bright yellow with the Hemi (finally) and 20" wheels. Got the towing package to give myself the flexibility to get a trailer next year to tow the Camaro to track days when needed. It's SO much more fun to drive this truck than my 5.9L QC Ram. I'm told the 1/4 mile time for the truck should be about 15.3 stock. Already planning out a few mods for the truck . . .

You know, it's amazing how much money you have when you just have street cars.

Now I'm off to San Diego for some training for the week. Then when I come back I'll sign up for the Skip Barber school.

Can you guys tell I'm in a good mood right now?
8 May 2005
First by a long shot in Luxury Sedan and 6th overall. Not bad for a 4200 lb. auto tranny stock V8, huh?
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