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Old 08-07-2009, 03:16 PM   #1 (permalink)
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40 + mpg out of a mid size truck?


I'm looking to get a small or preferably mid sized truck in the near future and I'd like to get at least 40 mpg hwy 30 city out of it. Any recommendations on what truck and/or what engines to look for? I'd really like to get something a bit bigger and more powerful than a rabbit or pup, but I could live with one of those.
I was going to try and build a tube frame vehicle to do this but the cost of getting one built is looking to be a tad prohibitive and I lack all of the machinery to do it myself.

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Old 08-07-2009, 04:36 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I'm afraid without massive modification and drastic driving technique changes, you'll never even get close to those figures. You should be able to see 30 city with much practice ecodriving, but 40 highway is a really far reach. Most guys with small pickups are lucky to be averaging over 30.
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Old 08-07-2009, 07:13 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Do you really need the pickup? Are you hauling stuff that you absolutely can't fit in a hatchback with the seats taken out, or something like that?
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Old 08-07-2009, 08:31 PM   #4 (permalink)
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4-cylinder Ford Rangers, Chevy S-10s (GMC Sonoma) can both get great fuel economy.

Get a stock one with a manual transmission, do a few aeromods, lower it, and you got a pimpin' truck.

I also used to have a hatchback that I removed that back seat from. It really was amazing what would fit in there. I was very tempted to remove the passenger seat as well.

PS: My backburner project is to put a diesel engine from a Mercedes 240D into a Chevy s-10. That should hit 40 mpg AND be able to run on bio-fuel.

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Last edited by bennelson; 08-07-2009 at 08:34 PM.. Reason: Diesel project comment
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Old 08-07-2009, 10:36 PM   #5 (permalink)
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There are two attractive alternatives to owning a truck. One, even a small hatchback can tow a 4'x8' trailer, and thus move furniture, go to the hardware store, whatever. Two, you can rent a pickup from a hardware store or a car rental place for a very reasonable rate.

Or you could buy my Subaru Legacy wagon and cut the back off of it to make a 4x4 pickup truck. :-P
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Old 08-07-2009, 10:43 PM   #6 (permalink)
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80's Toyota pickups are known to get 35 highway with conservative driving. A decent hyper miler with some aeromods could probably see 40 highway with one, in proper tune.
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Old 08-08-2009, 12:34 PM   #7 (permalink)
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40 +

40 or over is pretty ambitious.If you've looked at the VW diesel Rabbit-based truck,then you're already familiar with that.My friends early-1980s Toyota diesel pickup,at the old 55-mph speed limit could do 38-mpg.A recently resurrected Mitsubishi diesel truck was so disappointing in mpg ( lucky to hit 30mpg ) that it's already been disposed of.Friend John Gilkison did see 42-mpg at old 55 limit,on downhill reach with tailwind descending from Cloudcroft,NM to Dona Ana,NM.--------------------------- I'll be lucky to see 36-interstate/38-hwy with the full boat tail trailer-T-100 combo.----------------------- If you found a pre-Tacoma,say,1993 Toyota,you might do it with extreme mods.That truck will do 31.6 mpg in interstate driving,with a cab-high cap (straight top and sides).-------------------------- You would probably have to lose the entire bed and build from scratch,with as much plan taper as would just contain the rear wheels and teardrop taper to roofline,with increasing tumblehome,such that at the tailgate,the sides would be rolling right into the roofline in almost semicircular form,viewed from rear.------------------ You'd also need a completely new all-curvature nose,full wheel skirts all around,complete bellypan with diffuser,airtight optimized cooling system,sculpted rocker panels,Moons,tire fairings,and boat tail.---------------------------- If you had the fortitude to work through that process you would have done the "impossible."
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Old 08-08-2009, 01:06 PM   #8 (permalink)
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A couple of folks on cleanmpg.com have achieved 40 mpg with MT Ford Rangers with the 2.3 L engine, hypermiling. I'm in favor of the subcompact pulling a trailer idea, myself.

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Old 08-10-2009, 01:24 PM   #9 (permalink)
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In 1989, Dodge diesels came with a 3.07 rear gear...if you bump the timing and swap in a gear vendors or overdrive trans out of a 91-93 model, you should be able to hit 30+. You'll also have about 250-300 hp with the turn of a screw, and be able to tow 10K. You could also get a later 91-93 truck and swap in the earlier rearend. Might be easier than a trans swap. There is a guy over on some diesel forums that gets 33 mpg in a 1-ton dually with this setup driving 65+mph. If you slow it down to 55mph and use a lighter truck, I think 40 is possible.

Edit: I just saw your goal of 30 city....that's one thing this type of swap won't do....you'll probably get 17-20mpg if you drive with a light foot. But it does work well on the highway.
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Old 08-10-2009, 07:31 PM   #10 (permalink)
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As a person who has squeezed some decent MPG out of a truck, here’s my two centavos.

I don’t know if it can be done but if it can you will have to do EVERYTHING right. Consider this: Almost every vehicle known that gets a consistent 40+ MPG is a subcompact car, even then most of those are hybrids or little diesels.

If it can be done, it is not to be done with a little coroplast and duct tape. You have to go to war with the road load equation.

First order of business is adjusting the nut behind the wheel. Go to CleanMPG, An authoritative source on fuel economy and hypermiling and read Wayne’s manifesto on hypermiling. Take it to heart. Adopt not only the techniques but the state of mind he outlines. Whatever you think of Wayne, he has the goods. He could probably squeeze 22 MPG out of an unmodded H2 Hummer. Without closely approximating his driving, 40+ is not in the cards.

If you have to have a truck, start with an S-10. I say an S-10 is preferable not for any qualitative reason but for the sheer practicality. There is all sorts of mod equipment out there for S-10s. For other trucks you will have to get a real good relationship with a fabricator. Early 90s S-10s can be had for a song, and an off-key song at that. The body-on-frame architecture is easy to mod. Many S-10s came with 14 inch wheels, so you can use the most LRR tires available. If possible get a 4x2, manual shift, long bed truck.

Get a 3/5 slam kit and install it. This lowers the ride height 3” in the front and 5” in the rear. More than 3/5 is available but super-slammed sport trucks are not practical on the street or normal roads.

If you are under 6 feet tall, look into getting the top of the cab “chopped.” This is an old an proven lakesters’ trick to reduce frontal area. Not cheap but it works. If you want 40 MPG, you cannot leave any stone unturned.

After slamming and chopping the truck, lose the stock bed. Have a custom bed fabricated, tapering the bed to a boattail in both the plan and elevation views. You should count on reducing wake area to less than 35% of frontal if you want 40+ MPG. Make the bed out of the lightest material you can afford. Only the bottom of the bed needs to be strong. While you are at it, have the rear axle narrowed so you can taper in even more on the plan view. The long bed layout will allow more length for reduction of wake area while keeping flow attached. Aerohead has mountains of information on this.

No way you’ll be able to see out the back of this setup. Design a CCTV system to give you some idea what’s behind/beside you.

Needless to say, you’ll need front and rear wheel skirts and Mooneyes.

You’ll need to swap out the engine and transmission. For an S-10, the best engine is probably a VW TDI, preferably a pumpa duze engine. (Common rail engines are very new and finding one is not likely. An old 4.3 GM diesel would work but good luck finding one. A 4BT3.9 Cummins is too heavy. Get an adapter made to mate the engine to a Tremec T-56. The T-56 has a very wide spread of ratios and its huge 0.5:1 overdrive will allow you to find an axle ratio that will let you run the engine under 1500 RPM at highway speeds.

Get rid of the auxiliaries. Lose the power steering and power brakes. S-10s in stripper form came that way. They are probably the last pickups that could live without PS/PB. Rip out any radio or stereo. No way you can retain an air conditioner and expect 40+ MPG.

Put the truck on a starvation diet. Get the smallest battery that will start you engine, and the smallest alternator that will charge that battery. Rip out all the soundproofing. Rip out all the interior trim.

Leave the brakes alone. S-10s have weenie brakes as is.

Finish off the aero package by covering the belly best you can and replacing the bumper and grille with rounded replacements with minimal openings.

All this is stuff racers have been doing for decades.

Unless you have the physique of Lance Armstrong, go on a diet. If you are like most Americans you should be able to diet off 20 lb. At this point another 20 lb off the truck may be much more difficult than taking it off you.

Get LRR tires. Inflate them rock-hard.

To tell you the truth, the project is not worth it unless:

You are over six feet four inches tall

You absolutely need freight-hauling capability

You want to make a point

If none of those apply, it would be much easier and cheaper to find a woebegone first generation Insight and restore it.

For some the simple challenge of doing it is worth the effort. At that point the truck ceases to be a DIY economy vehicle and becomes a true hot rod.

IMO, a DIY economy effort won’t get to 40 MPG. A true ecomodded hot rod just might.

And I don't believe for a minute an old Dodge with a 12v Cummins will get 40 MPG. I don't believe 27 unless you never drive over 35 MPH.

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