Have Grease Will Travel

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Joseph, Manuela and Gerardo traveled at less than a ' mile per hour for over 5 hours before reaching the interstate. It wasn't looking good and the radio stations were already warning drivers that gas supplies were drying up. Luckily for them they didn't need gas. What they needed was a fast food place with an abundance of grease.

Joseph had modified his Chevy truck to run on diesel and vegetable oil. They had about ' tank left of each and traffic still wasn't moving. The trio spotted a boarded up Popeye's Chicken. Out back was, as Joseph described it, a beautiful sparkling dumpster of wonderful Cajun grease. Ten minutes later they were back on the road with a full tank of grease. Eventually traffic picked up. Thirty hours later with no A/C the trio made it to Houston. Best of all they did it on a single tank of grease.

Joseph was first exposed to 'grease cars' as a freshman in college. A friend of his had converted an old diesel Ford F-250 to run on veggie oil she got from a local Tai restaurant. It worked and it smelled pretty good too. Years later while living in Alaska Joseph decided it was time to pursue his grease car dream. He found a 1992 Chevy ' ton 4x4 diesel pickup and he never looked back aside from a peak over his shoulder while running from Katrina.

To get up and running with veggie fuel cost Joseph nearly $2000. The conversion kit for his truck with a 40-gallon tank was over $1000. Add in various pumps, tools and gadgets and you quickly approach $2000 for a diesel like his '92 Chevy. But that's just for parts. Joseph also did most of the work on the truck himself. So that saved him a few bucks.

The truth is grease just isn't practical for most folks. Besides the mess there's a whole host of technical issues to consider. Grease cars need two fuel tanks: the regular fuel tank that holds diesel or Biodiesel, and one in the trunk or truck bed to hold the grease. In fact, when the vehicle is first started it initially runs on regular diesel or Biodiesel to give the straight vegetable oil some time to heat up. Once it's 170 F or greater the viscosity becomes acceptable will it will no longer clog the engine. The user has to constantly switch fuel tanks when beginning and ending a trip.

Yes, Biodiesel and straight vegetable oil or SVO are not the same thing. You may hear them substituted for one another in casual conversation but there's a big difference. Biodiesel is essentially SVO that has been refined - it has been methylesterified using potassium hydroxide and methanol. Biodiesel can be burned in any conventional diesel engine without any modifications whatsoever. That means you save money on the conversion kits but you don't get your fuel for free. And in that rare occasion when you find yourself racing from a category 5 hurricane Biodiesel may be just as scarce as regular gas.

Grease has its challenges too, not the least of which is the nasty factor. When you're clean and it's late the last think you want to deal with is a big tub of grease. Also, sometimes it's hard to find good grease. During the summer months when it's hot most dumpsters are filled with rancid grease. Once you get settled down in a city it becomes easier to find the good grease but it's still tricky whenever you leave town.

To an outsider it sounds like a whole lot of trouble to burn grease. Why not just save yourself the hassle and buy a Prius or some other hybrid' Joseph's motivation can be summed up in one word, satisfaction. Despite the large initial investment nothing beats the feeling of filling up a 40 gallon tank and driving just about anywhere for free. It's fun to see people's reactions to his grease mobile and his classmates give him a little more respect. It's one thing to talk about burning grease it's another thing to go do it. Plus the exhaust smells pretty good. Joseph's favorite batch of grease, besides the batch from Popeye's chicken that possibly saved his life, came from a Texas steak house. He recalls it as 'pure jerky heaven.' Take that Prius!

Keep it funky -- Rick Spence



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