I found your very recent article on alternative fuels, especially its emphasis on ethanol-based E-85 to be quite informative. While I don't personally believe that E-85 or ethanol, in general, is some sort of be-all end-all as alternatives go, the fact of the issue is quite simple that the potential for ethanol-based alterative fuels, such as E-85, have much more potential. There needs to be much more research here, both privately industry funded and federally funded to really expand the scope of ethanol production and to radically diversify the sources from which we derive and otherwise obtain ethanol.
We need to expand E-85 availability to many more filling stations, and we also should be doing a very close study of the ethanol production system they're using in Brazil, which is becoming a worldwide model for such a system. Here's a little known fact: Brazil is the world's largest producer of sugar cane, and they can closely match sugar varieties to soil conditions to optimize ethanol yield.
All of this research has paid off handsomely for Brazilians. When they started their ethanol fuel program in the 1970s, they were extracting about 2,000 liters of fuel-grade ethanol per hectare. Today, they have tripled that yield to 6,000 liters per hectare.
The Saab bio-power system is also very, very impressive, and its advanced next generation system of fuel sensors allows a turbocharger system to go through the engine's CPU to self-calibrate what fuel is actually in the fuel line. This means the engine loses no efficiency and can actually effectively use the 105 octane of the E-85 fuel, successfully.
But, there is one reason why something like a bio-power-inspired system couldn't be used here. For one, GM has tremendous production experience building mechanically supercharged engines, specifically the GM 3800 series II and III V-6 engine. One scenario would have a flex-fuel engine, such as the GM 5300 V-8 engine used in a number of light trucks, equipped with a small computer-controlled belt-driven supercharger like the system on the 3800-series engines. The idea would be very simple; the supercharger wouldn't operate all the time. It would have a clutch system, and the supercharger would cut in only when E-85 fuel is available. The system would only produce 3 to 5 pounds of boost. This would permit the engine to have fully optimized operation for E-85 and keep the fuel mileage as high as possible. The effect would be the same as the Saab bio-power engine.
There's no doubt that with a concentrated effort this country can do much more as far as ethanol production and utilization goes. The Big Three are very well familiar with flexible fuel systems technology, so this isn't a big issue. It wouldn't be a total answer to the energy issue, but it would help a whole lot and that's what really counts.
B.P., you bring up some good points. Our story on E-85 has prompted many other folks to ask the same questions as well. Every other news piece on this fuel seems to say the same thing: E-85 isn't the answer to our oil-consumption woes and that our trucks will actually get worse fuel economy than on regular unleaded gas. It makes us wonder why our test truck worked so well on the stuff. Could it be that all these other news outlets are merely regurgitating old information and not running any tests themselves? Nah, couldn't be.
We Rock The Middle East
Hey Sport Truck, it's Bader from Kuwait. I just wanted to say that you guys rule and your magazine does, too. It's helped me a lot in the past, and I am getting a Sierra now. I will send some pics after I finish everything. I hope you will like it. Thanks, and you guys ROCK.
I just wanted to say thank you for putting my truck in your Readers' Rides section. It was in the Mar. '06 issue, page 140, Dodge Rumble Bee. Seeing it in the magazine just made me want to do more to it now. Thanks again.
Please excuse my bad spelling, but I wrote this letter as soon as I read your article about "The Five-0 Blues." I have been a Los Angeles police officer for more than 21 years. I am also a custom truck enthusiast. Not all cops are bad and a lot of us have been raised around custom vehicles, so we understand. A real cop doesn't have time to harass someone like Officer Keller harassed you. I apologize for that. In the police academy, two Mexican officers told us that people who invest money and time in their vehicles usually will not cause any problems. This is true. Some officers are "badge heavy" and that's the problem. I haven't been pulled over and I probably won't get a ticket when it happens, but I don't drag or act a fool because I am judged at a double standard and would be punished more severely. I do drive my truck to work and I lay it out-accidentally dragged the parking lot once!
I'm writing just to say sorry you were screwed with by someone with an authority complex. I am with a club and they know what I do. Thank God, they don't judge me because it would ruin my participation in the hobby. I have an '03 Silverado 'bagged by Go EZ owner Art Gomez. It's got 1/2-inch valves, wheeltubs, a bridge, and so on. I do show it. Thanks for a great magazine!
Darryl, you may be the coolest cop on earth. I sure hope the next time I get rolled, it's by a guy like yourself who is down for the cause. Thanks! -Skids
Drop The Taco
I have an '05 Tacoma, and I want to know what is the best way to lower this truck. All I have ever owned have been S-10s and Blazers, and the Taco's suspension is a little different than an S-10. Thanks for the help.
After just a quick search, we found a company that sells a lowering kit for the Tacoma. SOS Performance, www.sosperf.com, has the parts you need to get the truck down about 2 inches. Another great resource for this would be to log on to www.customtacos.com and check the forums. The site has a section dedicated to lowering the Tacoma and what a few owners have already done. Because this truck features a strut-type frontend, the parts will take a little longer to hit the shelves, but the back is a traditional leaf spring, and you can use a lowering block to get that down.
Cheap Kit For The C10
I have a '70 Chevy C10 2WD with rear coils, and I have heard that there is not a 2/4 suspension kit for it. Is this true? Have you heard of one without being really expensive, and can I do it myself with basic tools? Thanks for the help.
There's definitely a kit for you. This is a very popular truck with plenty of companies selling parts to drop it. A quick look at Brotherstrucks.com online store revealed a set of 4-inch lowered rear coil springs for the rear of your truck (PN LCSE36R) that cost $119. The front springs (PN LCSE36F) cost the same, too. You'll want to invest in the right shocks to go along with the lowered stance, and the fronts (PN FGS6372) will run you about $57 for the pair, while the rears (PN RGS6372) cost the same amount. So, for less than $400 (plus tax), you can drop your C10, make it ride better than stock, and do it all in your driveway with handtools.
Heigh Ho Silver!
I'm fascinated by the wild artwork I see on trucks at shows and in magazines. I have a decent natural artistic talent, so I've been trying to master as many airbrush techniques as I can. I drive an older Chevy Astro van with a million miles on it. I've lowered the van and put better wheels and tires on it, but it's basically a beater. That works out fine because I'm using it for my practice canvas. I'm painting it inside and out, one panel at a time.
My question is regarding using silver paint with white paint as highlights. I've been trying to do graphics where it appears as if the metal is ripped or if one object is coming out of another. I've done airbrushing that looks like rivets and other fasteners. I'm trying to make white highlights along edges, for example. The problem is that in some light and from some angles the highlights look more like gray mistakes or goobers than how they're supposed to look. Can you suggest some way of getting better results? Should I use a different color for highlights? This problem seems more prevalent when the silver paint has the highest metallic content. Thanks for your help.
Your problem is due as much to the reflective qualities of metallic paint, especially silver, as it is to the paint you're using for highlights. In the right light, the metallic silver "metal" can be considerably more reflective than the white highlights. That can make those highlights look gray, dull, or like mistakes.
The solution for more reflective white highlights is to tint the white with a small amount of the same silver used for the main metal graphic. You'll need to experiment as to how much silver to add, but you just want enough to make the white more reflective. You don't want to overdo it and turn the white into silver or gray.
Adding some silver is the easiest, least expensive solution, but you can also make the highlights more reflective by adding pearl pigment or super-fine flakes to the white. You can also use pearl white for the highlights. House of Kolor offers a wide range of pearl and flake additives plus pre-mixed pearls.
A benefit of using opaque white with some added silver is that the white will cover faster. Pearl paints can be so transparent that they can take several coats to get the desired highlights. Like any custom painting technique, the best way to find a solution usually involves lots of experimentation.
I can't afford a new truck, and the prices of '67-'72 Chevys are getting awfully expensive, especially for the rusted old hulks we have around here. My solution was to find a very nice '84 Chevy 1/2-ton shortbed Fleetside that had always been stored during winter months. I'm slowly customizing the truck, which leads me to my question.
I think the stock bumpers look like highway guardrails. I know I could remove the bumpers and install roll pans, but I'd like to keep the bumpers and only make them look better. I'd like to make the front bumper fit tighter to the fenders and get rid of the rubber rub strip. Michigan doesn't require front license plates anymore, so I'd like to fill the factory license plate recess and make it smooth. I'd also like to get rid of the visible mounting bolt heads. What's involved in making a better bumper? Do you have any other ideas for modifying the bumpers? I want to keep them chromed.
We agree with you about the guardrail-looking stock bumpers. Building a smoother, more streamlined, tighter fitting front bumper would be a huge asset to the truck's looks. What you need to do is slice and dice the bumper. Since the bumper will have to be re-chromed, you'd be better off starting with an un-chromed bumper. Various aftermarket truck parts companies offer new replacement bumpers. Some companies offer bumpers without mounting holes. That saves the work of filling the stock holes, but you'll have to refer to your present bumper to make the attachment points for the bumper braces.
Since you're going to eliminate the license plate recess, that's the perfect place to narrow the bumper. Depending on how tight you want the bumper ends against the lower fenders, you'll probably need to take an inch or so out of the middle. A plate will be needed to fill the remaining recess. This will involve a considerable amount of welding and grinding. You'll need to make the area seamless, as you can't chrome plate over body filler.
To mount the bumper, you'll need to remove the heads off standard bumper bolts and weld them inside the bumper, so they align with the holes in the bumper brackets.
If you really wanted to make the front bumper more svelte, you could section it about an inch. This is much more complicated than narrowing the bumper. The cuts have to be precise, and you have to compensate for the bottom-to-top slant of the bumper ends.
The final touch is to find a quality bumper shop that can put a show chrome finish on your handiwork. The resulting bumper will be a great improvement, but it's a lot of work. When you add up all the work involved, you can see why many people opt for roll pans.
Bad News Bearings
I bought a '94 Chevy S-10 pickup with the 2.2L four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. The clutch was totally shot when I bought the truck, which was why the price was so low. I barely got the truck home it was slipping so badly. The previous owner said he had planned to replace the clutch but ran out of time and interest, and decided to sell instead. He already had a new clutch disc and pressure plate, which he included with the truck.
It was a lot of grunt work, but I installed the new clutch without any major problems. My problems started a short time later. Things worked reasonably well at first. There was normal resistance when I depressed the clutch pedal. Then, over the next couple weeks, it got harder and harder to shift. It just didn't want to go into gear.
I'm concerned that there was more wrong with the truck than just a worn-out clutch. That might account for the eager seller. Is there something else I should check? Is this something I can check and fix without going through the whole clutch removal/replacement drill? I hope you can help me. Thank you.
We hate to "shaft" you by "bearing" bad news (corny clutch humor at your expense), but it sounds like you forgot to replace the pilot shaft bearing, also called a pilot shaft bushing. You didn't mention anything about the pilot shaft bearing, and since you got the parts from the previous owner he might not have gotten a new bearing or neglected to give it to you. It's not a large part. It looks sort of like a thick washer.
Most parts stores will strongly suggest a new bearing when they sell you the other clutch parts. Considering its nominal cost, it only makes sense to replace the bearing while the clutch is out. Even if you think the bearing is in excellent condition, never take a chance. Always replace the pilot shaft bearing. If you buy a quality clutch replacement kit, it should include the bearing.
The pilot shaft bearing supports the transmission input shaft. A damaged bearing makes shifting difficult, if not totally impossible. Hopefully, you spotted the problem before the bearing got badly damaged. A damaged bearing can be a bear-we crack ourselves up-to remove. You may need to rent a special puller to remove the bearing. Using force such as a chisel will cause hard-to-repair damage to the mounting surface.
Inspect the bearing surface of the transmission input shaft. Check carefully for signs of scoring. If it's damaged in any way, it should be replaced. When installing the new pilot shaft bearing, use a pilot bearing installation tool so the bearing fits squarely and completely into its mounting area.
As a graying member of the auto world, I found a lot to agree with in your column about the old speed shops. I had an occurrence similar to your own. I was looking for parts, and when I said it was a small-block Ford, I might as well have had worms crawling out of my mouth since it wasn't a Bow Tie engine. But, enough of that. I am a retired mechanic and hot rodder that works for one of those chain discount parts stores, and I know I'm the exception, not the rule. All of the things you mentioned are probably true in most stores. Heck, I've gone into several stores and never even been acknowledged for being alive-not only auto parts stores either. I am an ASE Master tech with auto body experience who got tired of the constant outlay of dollars for high-tech tools. So instead, I share my auto knowledge with our customers for their auto and truck parts needs. There are a few of us older guys that are doing that because of the love of the automotive field. I am beginning to realize that I am becoming one of the "old guys" I used to go to for answers. In short, I guess I'm trying to say not all discount auto stores are like what you mentioned. When customers go to the store, they should look around for the older guys because they may be able to help you out. But, you were fairly correct.John Cockie
Thanks for the letter, John. Indeed, you are the exception to the rule, and like Mr. Hankey, we feel the world needs more wise guys like you to make purchasing the right parts less frustrating.