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The Joy Of Owning Two Vehicles

Two Is One, And One is None

Jason Sands
Jun 1, 2010
I alternate between my 50hp '82 Chevette and my 400hp '89 Dodge truck when I drive to the office, but usually the Chevette gets the nod due to its 37-mpg city figure. During the time I have owned the Chevette, it has racked up more than 20,000 trouble-free miles and saved me about $1,500 in fuel expenses. The only things I've done so far is change the oil a few times, and fill the transmission with a little more gear lube. I was beginning to think the Chevette was indestructible, so, of course, when the biggest rainstorm to hit Southern California in a few years arrived, that's when it broke. It failed in spectacular fashion, spraying the engine down with coolant, and creating a huge steam cloud. Luckily, I wasn't far away from home, so I dumped some more water in (I carry it with me just in case) and limped it home.
Photo 2/2   |   diesel Power two Diesel Powered Vehicles diesel Convoy
My '89 Dodge, known as Project Rust Bucket, has made 448 hp at the wheels on a dyno with a little shot of nitrous, yet it's still very drivable and gets about 17 mpg in the city. It's also been very reliable and has never left me stranded, despite all the high-performance parts on the engine. So when my Chevette decided to puke up all its coolant on the drive to work, I turned to the old, reliable Cummins, which, of course, wouldn't start. After numerous hard-starts due to it sitting for weeks at a time, the Dodge's old, corroded, melted battery cable ends finally decided to stop properly conducting electricity. This meant I now had one vehicle I was unable to drive, and one I couldn't even start. Normally, I would fix my broken vehicle situation by using one to fix the other, but with both rides out of commission, I was at a loss.
A few hours later, as I was mulling this issue over, I remembered a conversation I had months earlier with Harvey Grant, co-owner of J&H Performance, about how diesels produce very little engine heat at idle. A solution was found! I hopped in the Chevette (which had no water in it) and slowly idled my way to the auto parts store a few miles away. By the time I got there, the engine had created so little heat that it was barely warm to the touch. After purchasing some much needed electrical supplies, I was back (slowly) on my way home (again, with not a drop of coolant). When I arrived back at the house, the Chevette had gotten pretty warm, but I could still touch the head with my bare hand without getting burned, so I felt pretty confident I had not harmed it.
The best part about owning more than one vehicle is you always have a backup. Most diesel guys appreciate reliability, and the only thing more durable than a diesel-powered vehicle is two diesel-powered vehicles. I was able to take the least broken of my rides (the Chevette) and use it to help repair the one that wouldn't start (the Dodge). While it would have been nice just to have a friend come and help, in Los Angeles there is so much traffic congestion that it could be hours before anyone would have arrived. In my case, the properties of a compression-ignition engine contributed greatly to fixing my backup vehicle and made me glad that both my first and second choices of transportation relied on diesel fuel.
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