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Old 11-18-2009, 08:23 PM   #1 (permalink)
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hypermile homestead vehicle

Hi, first post, but have lurked for a while. I feel there is a need for a super efficient "real" 4x4 for people living off the grid on a budget, a.k.a. out in the boonies where the land is cheaper. I live in the largest city in Oregon and my wife and I own 12 acres 300 miles away and 5000ft up. It is accessable to commuter cars about 3.5 months of the year, the months which I am busiest with the big garden here in the city. 2 mountain passes have to be traversed, and the last 2 miles are snotty mud and slush, or deep snow. A hybrid 4x4 like a subaru just can't do it. I built an xfi with a full spandex boat tail stinger out the back like they put on recumbent bicycles now, custom hubcaps made by a friend who makes middle age armor as a hobby, and got low 70mpg's from it. I'm a great scounger, I swapped a $300 torch set for a running xfi with cosmetic front end damage. I wan't to do the same thing but be able to get to my land.

The goal, vehicle must be able to haul me, the missus, 1xst. bernard mutt, and ultralight backpacking gear(we pack light when we camp) out to the land
or take me, the fourlegged companion, and a load of dumpstered building materials out to the land.

I have not bought my base vehicle yet, because I wanted to have some smart folks like yourselves look over my fiendish plan first. I'll give point by point my mods and reasons, and any questions for those with more engineering experience than me.

Okay, perameters. 300miles there, 300 back. Last 2 miles in are aweful and beyond an old early 80's tercel 4x4 wagons ability to cope (too bad, they get 32mpg highway with 4x4!) It's so bad that even a stock "real" 4x4 truck without locked differentials can't do it. I'm not lazy, I backpack for fun and have walked that 2 miles hauling literally 600lbs in one day. But I don't trust the redneck tweekers to leave my vehicle alone if I left it out at the road, and I can build more on the cabin if I'm not busy hauling stuff in. Cheaper is better on the build, we are talking real economy hear, not just gas economy. Want economy and 4x4ability mods to not detract from each other if possible. must be smogable in portland OR, at least for now.

Here's the prototype idea

Suzuki Samurai, pre-1989 old fashioned gov mpg rating ( I find them closer to my light foot driving style than the new) of 29mpg highway. post 89 drops several mpg's.

It's a real 4x4, solid axel, lots of aftermaket parts that because of the low power 1.3 liter engine(same as the 4cyl geo) are cheap, they don't have to be as burly as for a big old v8.

Get's great mpg for class with truly terrible aerodynamics(means room for improvement)

It weighs 200lbs more than a geo metro, many owners talk about it floating over mud and snow rather than having to plow through like a larger truck jacked way up with huge tires. My gut is that huge tires are expensive and really bad for mpg, so this floating effect could be very good for my needs.

Mods
try to get a base vehicle with a low mile running gear

Pizza pan wheel covers

track lock locking differential in front. It is my understanding that in the front with the manual hubs unlocked this should not adversely affect hwy mpg at all while greatly improving my ability to get through the muck

full aftermarket exhaust aimed at torq improvement to delay downshifting

get a convertable model for weight savings over hard. Stage one mod get a "fast back" softop, a store bought part that looks surprising like some of the softop pickup bed mods on this sight. Stage two mod is to fold windshield down remove passenger seat, cut some doars in half from the wrecking yard, gangster my seat back a bit, and build a kind of toneau cover that goes from the front to the back of the vehicle with a little indie 500 hole for my head/seatback and stubby shelby cobra style driver only rollbar.

For 100 bucks I can put what's called a spool in the back, it essentially locks the rear differential all the time, I can't say good enough things about them off road, my question for the engineering types out there is, what do they do to mostly strait hwy mpg's?

front differential protector that is stronger and streamlined

grill hole delete whatever temp it will tolerate it at.

spare tire move o interior. If I have the volume I need.

some company makes aftermarket fender flares that are much smoother than factory, haven't been able to track them down yet, only scene theme in a picture.

vacuum guage, I own a scan gauge, but the samurai's that get the good mpg's are carbed.

aggressive tire chains to help make up for staying little with the tires.

some sort of removable cloth "boat tail" or "stinger" out the back, did this with my xfi with great results, built it in a day, and had it mount to a trailer hitch bikerack so it took 2 seconds to remove.

super bright headlights. If you pick right they draw the same watts but if I get into the land late friday night, good lights make trying to 4x4 in the dark a lot more fun :-)

Poly gas tank. lighter than stock. 150% stock capacity. hangs down .5 inches lower than stock, but has a smooth skid guard on it that is cleaner to the air than factory. Another engineering question, stock is 10 gal, poly is 15 gal, does the decrease in stops and starts for gas counter act the extra weight of the 5 gal of fuel, or should I keep it less than full except when venturing far off the beaten path?

skid guard. A company makes one that covers like 40% of the bottom in one smooth sheet of metal. Adds weight, but protects expensive stuff and smooths things up. One article said that if the bottom is smooth, higher off the road is more efficient. Don't have the math yet to know, but since I have to be up a bit for off road reasons, smooth would be better.

Rear seat delete. it's heavy, none of my friends are small enough to fit in it, not even my dog.

basic tuneup stuff. make sure everything is running tip top, so I have a chance of breaking factory mpg claims.

Mud terrain tires with the stock factory tire size, (may have to go a little bigger if I can't get in with them.) try to find which tire/wheel option is lightest


weigh front seats and see if one of the plastic racing seats is lighter.

carpet delete for roll in bedliner. have to do some calculations on weight first, but I know bedliner is lighter than wet carpet :-)

rock my ipod knockoff. delete factory radio and antena. weight and wind resistance.

make sure it dosen't have power steering.

bumpers. weld up some bumpers that flow better but protect better too.

Come-along instead of winch and big alternator and second battery.

Dynamic bead tire balancers. Suposed to work better for big 4x4 tires, and you don't have external lead weights to get torn off in the mud.

led lights to draw less from the alternator? haven't looked at the numbers, just brainstorming here. more waterproof though too.


Well that's what i've come up with in the last 2 weeks I've been thinking about this. Let me know what you think. I know you guys will come up with some stuff I have missed. I know those little metros are the best for highway flyin', but I think that this project could fill an important role as well.

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Old 11-18-2009, 08:37 PM   #2 (permalink)
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oh, and a coolant heater too.

What do you guys think is a reasonable mpg goal for my project?
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Old 11-18-2009, 08:57 PM   #3 (permalink)
jmf
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Sounds like a lot of work. Is there mud, rocks, streams? Why would a suburu not make it?
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Old 11-18-2009, 09:07 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Another option might be to park a cheap metro/civic/whatever at the edge of the "badlands". You will have to get your maintenance in while you can though

So, for example, if it is 2 miles of unavigable stuff and 298 miles of hardtop then this might work out for you. The smaller car would probably pay for itself in a few trips.
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Old 11-18-2009, 09:24 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Sounds like you are on the right track. Since your 297 miles is at speed, focus on the aerodynamic stuff and don't spend $ on weight reduction. If you're really handy, try lowering the seat and cutting the windshield and top of the doors down to go with the fastback canopy. Heck, put a metro body on the Samurai chassis!
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Old 11-18-2009, 09:39 PM   #6 (permalink)
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dcb's idea is pretty inspired. I like! You may even be able to save on insurance / registration if you're not driving the 4x on public roads.

I also agree (and you likely already know) that if you do end up driving the 4x4 to/from, aero should be the focus (moreso than weight).

Quote:
Originally Posted by bondvagabond View Post
I built an xfi with a full spandex boat tail stinger out the back like they put on recumbent bicycles now
Pictures? I'd love to see pictures.

Quote:
For 100 bucks I can put what's called a spool in the back, it essentially locks the rear differential all the time, I can't say good enough things about them off road, my question for the engineering types out there is, what do they do to mostly strait hwy mpg's?
In a straight line, my understanding of these things is there would be zero difference in drag. But we never really drive in a straight line for very long. So you're bound to see some added drag. Can't comment on how much.

Quote:
stock is 10 gal, poly is 15 gal, does the decrease in stops and starts for gas counter act the extra weight of the 5 gal of fuel, or should I keep it less than full except when venturing far off the beaten path?
One EM member, palemelanesian, keeps meticulous records and has documented the MPG penalty in his car (90's Civic sedan) of a full vs. closer-to-empty fuel tank. Weight is weight... less is better.

Quote:
led lights to draw less from the alternator? haven't looked at the numbers, just brainstorming here. more waterproof though too.
FYI: My LED tail light conversion ... has some power draw comparisons.

Pictures of that XFi tail, please!
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Old 11-18-2009, 09:47 PM   #7 (permalink)
jmf
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Maybe have the road fixed. For the cost of an extra vehicle you could have someone drive a bulldozer in there and fix the worst spots.
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Old 11-18-2009, 10:02 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmf View Post
Sounds like a lot of work. Is there mud, rocks, streams? Why would a suburu not make it?
The original developer who cut up the section into little sub 20 acre lots just cut "roads" through the brush and trees with a cat, unfortunately this makes them lower than the surrounding relatively flat terrain, and turns them into goo with all the freeze/thaw cycles. I had an old 1985 subaru wagon with a 5 speed. pulled the shot 1.8 liter out of it and put an earlier 1.6 liter engine in, because a friend told me that they came from the factory balanced unlike most engines I guess? anywho, that setup with factory roof rack on top got 36 highway, and that was back when I was dumb and driving it like I stole it. Just too deep and slippery for a suby
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Old 11-18-2009, 10:14 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcb View Post
Another option might be to park a cheap metro/civic/whatever at the edge of the "badlands". You will have to get your maintenance in while you can though

So, for example, if it is 2 miles of unavigable stuff and 298 miles of hardtop then this might work out for you. The smaller car would probably pay for itself in a few trips.
I've essentially been doing this for a few years now, at least in winter. I am a renewable energy engineering student (just getting started) and my wife has massive medical bills so I buy my vehicles as non runners usually and nurse them back. I'm not a very materialistic person, and a pretty mellow guy, but the thought of someone just counteracting all that hard work through vandalism/would tee me off. time for an alternative.

I thought about a suzuki 650 dualsport motorcycle, but can only haul like 200 lbs of non-me weight, and my wife is a big viking chick, let alone the st. bernard/camping gear/building materials.

I ride my bicycle everywhere, my wife is a city girl she grew up in tokyo and austin tx. I'm a country boy, and I pretty much only drive to get out to the woods because of time constraints/have to take care of the pup. Something like this project could allow me to spend more time playing out in the woods too.
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Old 11-18-2009, 10:32 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I have a samuria, and It will go anywhere within reason. I have pulled out of the snow a full size chevy pickup with it. He sank in the snow I did not. I have had a few, the previous one got way better milage, It was an 87 the one I have now is an 88.5. In late 88 they changed a couple things, the dash got diffrent vents, the springs got a little softer and 5th gear got a little shorter. I currently get any where from 15-20mpg (it's been getting cold so there is some significant idle time, and My trips are pretty short). The hubs are almost always locked, and it is usually in 4x4 as we have lots of muddy roads and plenty of ice and snow in the winters.

The soft top is not much lighter as the roll bar and what not add a little weight.

I would lock the front first. If you are driving on pavement with the hubs unlocked no penalty for the locker. When you need the 4x4 there is much more weight on the front so you will get tremendous traction up there with the locker. 31 inch tires fit with no mods or only slight mods on the inside of the bumper. With a set of 2 inch longer shackles you get one inch of lift and that would let the 31s fit very well.

I have pulled mine out of mud holes that I knew I should not have gone into with a 1500# come along and a couple snatch blocks.

I would not worry about the wind resistance of the antenna, the samurai is not a speed demon and the thing is so draggy anyway it likely would not matter.

There are a few cams designed for low end torque (these motors need it for slogging in the muck) My understanding is that most exhausts help with the higher end of things. In the low end there is not as much volume of gasses to flow.

I had a friend who did something similar, in the good times you could drive a chevy astrovan in, and out. In the bad it was a dodge truck with full time 4x4 and locking diffs. At the end of the trail where the road starts (still a dirt road) he had an econobox waiting.

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