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Veggie Across America: 1982 Benz 300TD Gets Makeover


creative commons: flickr.com - http://www.flickr.com/photos/alvarocastrojr/562339400/

creative commons: flickr.com - http://www.flickr.com/photos/alvarocastrojr/562339400/

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In addition to driving 3,000 miles on waste vegetable oil in an old-skool Benz that I converted, the December cross-country adventure had an admittedly vain component; a desperately needed makeover for Marlene, the stalwart 1982 Mercedes-Benz 300TD wagon I've been using as my daily driver since the fall of 2006.

Veggie Across America: pre-makeover

Veggie Across America: pre-makeover

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So, point #1: older-model diesel and turbodiesel engines, such as those from 80s-era passenger cars, and 80s, 90s, and even early 2000s buses and trucks, can be converted to run on pure waste vegetable oil. The stuff that America consumes in unbelievable quantities for fryers across the nation cooking up fries, fried chicken, stir-fry, burgers, shrimp, bacon, and any other number of comestibles that our nation consumes en masse. Some of this oil is recycled into biodiesel, a cleaned-up version that is nearly identical in every way to diesel #2 and can be run in many diesel-powered vehicles with no conversion whatsoever. Some of it is simply filtered down to 20 microns and dumped into the fuel tanks of older converted diesel vehicles like my Benz. But the bulk of this oil is thrown away as refuse, truly a shame considering its potential to power fleets of schoolbuses, city vehicles, and construction equipment while yielding a much cleaner emissions profile from the tailpipes of these vehicles.

Veggie Across America: Arizona, post-makeover

Veggie Across America: Arizona, post-makeover

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Point #2: My car was a true beater, and as an automotive enthusiast and scribe, it became rather embarrassing to drive around in a vehicle replete with rust, dings, a brown hood, a copper fender, and the other body panels a curious mix of silver and crusty battleship gray. A mechanic friend in L.A. does huge business with a body shop who gives him a considerable discount, so I decided to take the plunge and finally get my hulk painted all one color. While I was at it, I bought a set of Mercedes CLK 16" aluminum wheels that fit perfectly where my factory-issue 14" wheels had been since 1982. In an age where many cars come standard with 20" wheels, it was time to inch a little closer to acceptable rolling diameter.

Veggie Across America: post-makeover

Veggie Across America: post-makeover

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For less than $1,000, I got the paint job you see here. It isn't perfect - a touch of orange peel bumpiness on the vertical surfaces, for example - but I'm thrilled at how the Black Pearl metallic turned out, and finally feel that the aesthetics of my daily driver match the solid, serene way that it drives. Not bad for a beast with nearly 350,000 miles.

Veggie Across America: post-makeover

Veggie Across America: post-makeover

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