Which Vehicle Will Work? Choices For Post -TEOTWAWKI Transport by John in Central New York State

The following are a few comments on what might be a good vehicle at times of crisis, infrastructure failure, etc. Call it what you want – I don’t know what will, or will not happen in the future. This lack of knowledge makes it equally difficult to know what attributes might be needed in a car or truck. I live in a rural area of New York State – maybe 200 miles from New York City, 50-60 from the state capitol – Albany. My experience is that of a diesel mechanic, electrician, farmer, and house builder – mostly “old school” trained in all. If some sort of disaster occurs – will I stay here or will I be “heading for different hills?” I don’t know. I’ve got land, a home, and a shop along with solar-electric here; I’ve got a crude cabin with solar power in the Adirondack Mountains, and also some wild forest land on the New York – Canadian border. If I had to travel – and I don’t know how far or for how long – issues include, at least, cargo and people carrying, possible trailer pulling, 4WD, and . . . probably most important – decent fuel mileage and the possibility of finding more fuel. I suspect, in just about any crisis, gasoline will disappear fast – real fast. And – you can’t plan ahead and store it since it goes bad quickly. This leads me to diesel. Diesel will store virtually forever – I’ve used ten-year old fuel with no problems. Availability? At least here in the Northeast, most houses, schools, businesses, etc. have heating-oil tanks and heating oil is simply diesel fuel with dye added – to stop people from using it on the road and avoiding paying tax. I suspect, during bad times, diesel will be easier to find than gasoline – especially considering how few people there will be than can use it. Home oil-heating systems won’t work without electricity. Most modern diesel cars and trucks with electronic fuel-injection systems will not run on off-road diesel or heating oil. So, for the most part – the only road vehicles that can use it are the older ones – mostly pre-1994 (there are a few exceptions). Same vehicles will also run on combinations of waste motor-oil, cooking grease, corn oil, etc. My choice – perhaps not perfect – is a Chevy 4WD truck with a 6.2 diesel. They can often be purchased in the $1,000 price range. They were made from ’82 to ’93. In ’94 the engine was enlarged to 6.5, the block was cheapened, and an electronic fuel injection system was added – and I’d stay away from it [due to complexity and EMP vulnerability]. Ford also had a good system up to mid-’94 – but the Fords are not as fuel-efficient. Ford never made a light diesel full-size truck like GM but the International Harvester 6.9 or 7.3 engines used by Ford are very good. The Dodges with diesel engines were not offered in light trucks either – but their Cummins diesels are the most efficient engines on the market. I didn’t chose Cummins because of their high-price. It’s hard to find a Dodge Cummins with low miles at a reasonable cost. Some of the older Dodge 1 ton pickups, however, can get just as good fuel mileage as a 1/2 ton Chevy.
My reasoning is this. The Chevys are pretty cheap on a relative scale. They are fuel efficient, and parts are easy to find and cheap. Much cheaper than for a Dodge Cummins. The US military uses the GM diesel engines in the [obsolescent] CUCVs and [currently fielded] Humvees – adding the bonus of military surplus parts. My situation is thus. I have half a dozen diesel Chevy trucks – so I have lots of spare parts. My ’82 Chevy K10 4WD pickup will get 23 MPG on the flat highway. If pulling a 3,000 lb. trailer – the mileage goes down to 14-15 MPG. I can pull the trailer with some gear and also a 300 gallon fuel tank. So, hooked to the trailer – I have a total of 340 gallons of fuel – and a potential travel range of 4,760 miles. That’s pretty good – but I’m also not figuring on the chance of someone shooting me along the way. I did say “potential” miles. I can also fit a 150 gallon tank inside the truck bed – thus making a total fuel reserve of 190 gallons with no trailer hooked behind. Not sure what the fuel mileage would be – but probably in the 17 MPG range. That gives a potential trip length of 3,230 miles – still pretty good. The Chevy or GMC diesels, unlike the Fords or Dodges, uses the same engine-bolt pattern and same drive-train parts as the gas trucks. So, many gas-powered truck-parts fit the diesels, and even a complete gas engine will easily bolt in place of a diesel engine. Since neither Ford or Dodge make their own diesel engines – parts don’t swap between gas and diesel units.
I’ve read a few comments about diesel powered trucks being overweight and clumsy. Not true with all. This comes back to GM being the only company to make a light diesel truck. The diesel truck weighs a few hundred pounds more than a gas – that’s all. They offered the diesel in 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton, and 1 ton pickups. Also in full-size Blazers, vans, and Suburbans. I’ve read a few claims/ issues about turbocharged engines not being reliable. The 6.2 does not have a factory turbo, but one can be added if desired. It does not present a huge problem. A turbo will provide more power and more potential of better fuel mileage. In real-world driving though – when we can go faster – we usually do go faster. So, usually adding a turbo does not raise MPGs. Turbos last a long time – I’ve got 300,000 miles on one of mine. But – if a turbo fails on the road – you can remove it, and drive without it. You don’t have to be stuck.
On a side-note- the issue of older gas engines with carburetors – in cars, trucks, tractors, even electric generators. Most can be made to run on smoke from a smoldering fire. This was often done in Europe during WWII. cars, trucks, farm tractors, etc. They were run on paper smoke, wood smoke, brush smoke, etc. You still need gasoline to start the engine though, it must be warmed up before it can run on smoke. Not very useful for a car that needs to be started and stopped often. Much more practical for electric-generator use – or perhaps long trips if you can find anything to burn along the way.
Ultimately the best plan – is a safe country with a sound future for us and our children. I can’t enforce that plan and I do not trust our government to ensure it. I have to keep reminding myself – that our government is not some magical clear-thinking entity. It is a large group of people – with little motive to strive for excellence. Some of them are smart, some are idiots.
Second best plan- is the ability to stay put and survive off of what I have here in storage for me, my family, and crippled dog. I have no way of knowing if that will be possible when things go bad. We have food for a year, solar power, gravity water available, firewood, a couple thousand gallons of diesel fuel, etc. If we did not have to move – I suspect we’d have trouble protecting what we have – both from people run amuck – and de facto governments. If we had to take off – quick? Obviously, we cannot take it all with us. If someone has a better idea, I’m listening. – John in Central New York State