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Old 04-09-2013, 06:28 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Help me brainstorm the perfect truck

needs the following characteristics:

great fuel economy (30mpg+)

decent utility (4x4 and the ability to tow would be ideal)

cheap (3-4thousand dollars max) * i can do engine swaps and other related work.

i really want to find 1 that has all 3 things going for it. an older 4x4 ranger is a little light on utility. an f150 or tacoma arent really there from an fe standpoint. the thing im thinking is that ill have to do a smaller diesel engine swap (a 2.8L powerstroke might be perfect except for the price issue). any thoughts or ideas are much appreciated. thanks.

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Old 04-09-2013, 09:41 PM   #2 (permalink)
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My brother said he's getting 26mpg in his 1996 Nissan with two motorcycles in the back.
I use my parents 2 wheel drive Ford Ranger to tow my Commuti-car on a trailer to car shows without much trouble at all and get 25mph while towing that 2nd car.

One thing that I've thought about doing with my parents Ford ranger is getting the front drive train from a 4 wheel drive version and making it a plug in hybrid, I figure I can fit 15-20 miles worth of lead acid batteries behind the front seats of the extended cab, so being able to start out any trip with 20 miles worth of electric range seems like it will help, driving 100 miles and you'd improve your gasoline mileage by 20% 25mpg changes to 30mpg, only going 50 miles increases it by 40%!!! around town and you don't use gasoline at all.
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Old 04-09-2013, 09:54 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryland View Post
My brother said he's getting 26mpg in his 1996 Nissan with two motorcycles in the back.
I use my parents 2 wheel drive Ford Ranger to tow my Commuti-car on a trailer to car shows without much trouble at all and get 25mph while towing that 2nd car.

One thing that I've thought about doing with my parents Ford ranger is getting the front drive train from a 4 wheel drive version and making it a plug in hybrid, I figure I can fit 15-20 miles worth of lead acid batteries behind the front seats of the extended cab, so being able to start out any trip with 20 miles worth of electric range seems like it will help, driving 100 miles and you'd improve your gasoline mileage by 20% 25mpg changes to 30mpg, only going 50 miles increases it by 40%!!! around town and you don't use gasoline at all.
interesting thoughts with the hybridization ideas. im leaning toward something a little bigger than a ranger just for utility purposes. but the same concepts could still be applied. I wonder if I could get enough decent batteries cheaply to make that idea pencil out. i'd also have to study how to do an electric drivetrain as it seems like a pretty big hassle at first thought, for how little range you get out of it. i wonder if an svo diesel conversion wouldnt be a practical option. anyone know of anything semi plug&play in terms of something like a smaller diesel and a tacoma tranny/chassis?
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Old 04-10-2013, 01:51 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeyjd View Post
tacoma arent really there from an fe standpoint.
My friend has a 5-speed 2000 tacoma with the 2.7L and it gets 22mpg with fairly agressive 31'' yokohama AT-S tires, he was getting 24mpg before that with 31'' good year highway tires.

I believe a 4-cyl tacoma with a 5-speed using 31'' highway tires or LLR tires, an efan conversion and V-6 axle swap* could net high 20s on the highway.

* the 2.7L 4 cylinder came with 4.10 axles and the V6 came with 3.73s

We already know AT vs. HT tires can make a 2mpg difference on a tacoma.
Belt driven fan deletes and efan conversions ususally produce a 2mpg gain, for everyone.
I would bet the axle swap would get another 2mpg.
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Old 04-10-2013, 02:41 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Several folks swap the VW TDI into other vehicles, including pickups such as the Tacoma. Here's a forum: TDI Conversions - TDIClub Forums
And a sample thread on a Tacoma swap: Tacoma V6 - ALH bolt in swap - TDIClub Forums

Gives you some pretty good grunt along with decent FE.
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Old 04-10-2013, 06:54 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but…
Depending on what it is exactly that you need to tow, haul, and engage 4wd for, you may be better served with a rough and tough truck with less than stellar mpg and then have a car for those other uses. My first truck I purchased wasn’t up to the task of what I needed it for, and I ended up pouring money into it just to keep it fixed and going. My second truck is up to the task, but it gets very poor mpg. My car however gets halfway decent mpg. My driving is approximately 80% car 20% truck, and with the car at 35 MPG and the truck at 12 MPG, that is the same as if I bought a 25 MPG truck and drove it everywhere. Carrying this forward, if I hit my goal of the car at 40 mpg the truck at 15 mpg and 90%/10% usage, this would be the same as a 34+ mpg truck driven everywhere.
Not trying to dissuade you from getting a truck with good mpg, but I encourage you to first and foremost get a truck that can do/tow/haul/pull what you need it to, and then focus on the mpg and improving it. Otherwise you will spend your time and money fixing instead of eco-modding.


Edit:
Ok, to stop being such a buzz kill, here is my dream MPG/utility truck. Get an old smaller 4wd Toyota pickup (think Hilux/pickup not Tacoma) with the good fully boxed frame. Swap the rear axle out for a fully floating one (GM 14 bolt, some 93+ FJ80s, etc). Put manual hubs on the front if it doesn’t have them. Swap in an overdrive manual transmission if it doesn’t have one (NV4500). Swap in a smaller diesel engine (Cummins 4BT, Isuzu 3.9L, Cummins B3.3, etcetera) with a properly tuned turbo to provide acceptable power and good economy.
If you have time, tools, scrapyard access, luck, and know how you could probably pull this off within your budget.

Last edited by aardvarcus; 04-10-2013 at 07:07 AM..
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Old 04-10-2013, 10:53 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Also consider some of the members here who are getting some pretty amazing FE out of their full sized trucks:Obviously there is driving style involved in getting that kind of FE, but it shows what is possible without an engine swap. Also none of these are 4WD, which may not meet your needs. Depends on how important the 4WD is vs FE.
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Old 04-10-2013, 11:09 AM   #8 (permalink)
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4WD just gets you stuck farther away from help. And consider that several generations of American men somehow built this country without this severe penalty.

I'd back up on the plan and list:

1] How long in operation (years)?
2] How many total miles?
3] How many empty/non-towing miles?

We might say that "payload convenience" is at stake. What would it cost to have someone else do the transporting (or, over a car pulling a trailer)?

Pickups have high convenience costs. I used to drive full-size station wagons. Getting better FE than a 1/2T pickup was easy. And there was very little I couldn't fit inside or on that extra-long roof. There wasn't anything the pickup could tow that the wagon wasn't a better choice.

IOW, in the past year, how often was the pickup contemplated a better choice (than the way you did something)?

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Old 04-10-2013, 12:37 PM   #9 (permalink)
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4x4 is nice but not essential

If you aren't mudding or going after serious slick rock trails, you might not need to 4x4 capability. A well-sorted 4x2 can get you very far afield. A couple of extra inches of lift, a couple of extra inches of tire and a locking diff or a good limited-slip diff can work wonders. Look at all those VW sandrails and rock buggies that get so far out in the wild, they do okay with only two wheels driving.

I think the important bits are to keep your CG low, keep the suspension soft and long to keep the tires on the ground (a switchable antiroll bar is good for this), and shed as much weight as you can. The less mass you tote around, the less traction you need to shift it. If you can add an overdrive (pricey) to slow down the driveline on the trail, that'd be nice. Add a sacrificial airdam (you know you're going to leave it on a root or something) to minimize the wind underneath and off you go.

Really though I think your best bet is what the other guy said: for towing and highway use, you can do well with a nice vehicle that gets good mileage. And when you have to go blazing trails in the backwoods, dig out Ol' Crusty and don't worry about the MPGs quite so much.
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Old 04-10-2013, 12:40 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeyjd View Post
im leaning toward something a little bigger than a ranger just for utility purposes.
What part of the truck do you need to be bigger? I've found that if you go with a much bigger truck you end up with worse mileage and needing a step ladder to get in the truck bed, we have a crew cab 4 wheel drive Dodge 1500 at work with the same size bed at the Ford Ranger and the truck bed is over a foot higher up off the ground making it pretty useless, the 4 wheel drive is ok, but it doesn't help you stop any quicker.
We end up using that truck for towing and the truck bed gets used for tossing trash from job sites in.

Quote:
but the same concepts could still be applied. I wonder if I could get enough decent batteries cheaply to make that idea pencil out. i'd also have to study how to do an electric drivetrain as it seems like a pretty big hassle at first thought, for how little range you get out of it.
How much range do you need? how many miles per use and per year are you planing to put on this vehicle?
With lead acid batteries I think you could build the hybrid drive train for around $2,000 with new batteries and a used motor off Ebay, $4,000 to $5,000 with lithium batteries, that might sound like a lot but swapping a diesel engine in to another vehicle is not free, VW TDI engines start at $1,000 and go on up, then you need to shoe horn it in.

I'm also a big fan of trailers, they put the load low to the ground, you can drop the trailer full of cargo and still use the vehicle and when you are not towing your mileage is great!
Of course I'm also a fan of knowing people who own pickup trucks, that way I have options as to what truck I want to use.

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