4-16-06 Baby Blue Rides Again…cross country in an EV!

Hello to All,

I’ve always loved the 60′s thru early 70′s Datsun minitrucks, the original models that started the minitruck revolution that was the big thing for the 70′s period. Sadly, today there are no more true minitrucks as all have morphed into portly ‘midsize’ pickups. Anyway, some may remember a fun EV I put together back in the late 90′s, a ’68 Datsun minitruck I called ‘Baby Blue’. It was featured in a documentary about EVs called ‘Where the Rubber Meets the Road’, where I had to convert it from a gasser to electric in one day, on camera. Of course, after that exhaustive 14 hour build, I improved the design. The end product was a 192V, 1200 amp road terror that was super fun to drive. The drive train consisted of an ADC 9 inch motor (properly timed), a Z car 5 speed tranny, racing clutch, the first T-Rex high voltage controller, thick 4/0 cabling, and 16 of the first prototypes of the experimental group 31 Optima YTs. I had also made it possible for Marko’s Fiat to be equipped with the same prototype group 31s, in fact, these two vehicles were the only EVs on the street with these hard-to-get batteries. I had placed the batteries in a custom metal enclosure mounted forward in the bed, leaving about 2/3 of open bed space. The plan was to at a later date, do a tilt bed with the batteries all mounted properly between the frame rails, out of sight and down lower for a better CG. It was a fun little truck that one late night on the freeway, handily smoked a 5 ohh Mustang at 80+ mph to 100 or so. I enjoyed the truck for a couple of years, then reluctantly sold it to me friend John Tuss. The truck is still available for viewing at the EV Photo Album, and though he no longer owns it, is still listed as John Tuss’ truck:


Fast forward….several months ago, after 4+ years of simply driving this tough little EV as his daily machine, John sold the truck to friend Marko Mongillo of Fiamp fame (Marko’s Fiat 600 sedan also listed at the EV Photo Album). John’s a very nice guy but is not totally into maintaining an EV. The little truck had problems under his care and when two batteries failed (blew up from cell reversal)…he simply dropped it to a 168V truck and kept on driving. John drove the pickup way under its capabilities performance wise, driving as if he had an egg under his foot at all times (his normal mode of driving anything), so he noticed little difference at the reduced pack voltage. The pack never received regulators and pretty much was never equalized in any way. He simply charged it and drove it, day by day, until its range fell lower and lower.

Marko, with a little help from yours truly, has other plans now that he’s the new owner. I handed him 276V worth of brand new Exide Orbitals for the project. The past month or so we’ve been re-converting this nice little truck. Marko out-did his metalworking capabilities and made awesome stainless steel between-the-frame-rail battery boxes that somehow, hold all 23 batteries beneath the bed where they are out of sight. The truck looks like a stock, lowered minitruck with a fully functional bed again….nice! I’ve done all the high current wiring. Jim Husted just put some love on Marko’s motor:

Being that the High Voltage Nationals are only a month away….Thursday consisted of tearing into multiple motors and a lot of prep work…Added was a need to get Marko his motor as he also intends to bring out to Joliet this May.

Ah Jim, you’re letting the cat out of the bag! Oh well, time to let everyone know what we’re up to :-)

I had just returned from central Oregon earlier this week, and as Jim posted, met up with Father Time and Jim on my way through Redmond back to Portland over yummy Chinese food. This past weekend as we had all planned, Father Time came back through town with Marko’s motor in tow. Madman Rudman too, was passing through on his way to Newberg, OR to have Easter with his folks. On a previous trip to Jim’s motor shop, I had picked up the Husetedized front motor from Gone Postal and brought it back to my place, as a service to Rod Wilde. You see, we Pacific Northwest EVers tend to help each other out every chance we get. Why pay hundreds of dollars in shipping costs sending 150+ lbs. of motor the 450 miles or so back and forth between Port Townsend, WA to Redmond, OR, when you can piggy back the thing with your EV buddies? Why should Marko pay to ship a heavy motor from Portland to Redmond and back (300 miles), when John the forklift guy goes back and forth that way all the time? As the commercial says ‘It’s the network’. The circle was complete for Rod’s motor, when Rudman was passing through Portland for the holiday with his family, a guy who lives in Kingston across the woods from Rod’s hometown of Port Townsend. As a sidebar…I could have done an even sweeter motor hand-off, as Tim ‘Electric Monkey’ Brehm left on Friday for a weekend with his mom up in Port Townsend! He wanted to hook up with Crazy Rod Wilde while he was up there, and I could have simply handed Rod’s motor to him and he could have delivered it in person. Oh well, Friday was a hectic forklift wrenching day for me, and quite frankly, I forgot all about asking Tim to take Rod’s motor up there, but with Rudman passing through right on schedule, it wasn’t a big deal.

So here we all were, meeting up at Summit Sheet Metal…Father Time, Madman Rudman, Plasma Boy, and Marko Mongillo.
More from Jim:

I’d really like to stress here that there are some folks out west that are really pushing to ready their EV’s for the May Illinois race and for any of you who might be teetering on the fence to make the effort and attend.  Wayland I know has never been that far east with WZ, and I know EVeryone here is pumped about the Event!
Here’s the deal. Marko is planning a major cross-country trip in Baby Blue. The plan is to have the pickup all finished in time for a car show Tim, he, and I are part of at Mt. Hood Community College on May 5th. For the trip eastward, we’ll place my 10 kw generator in the bed of Baby Blue, along with a PFC 50 charger… a series hybrid for level ground cruising, and relying on stout battery power for climbing the Rockies. With all the recent talk here on EVDL about generators and all, this is a pretty timely project, don’t you think?

From David Roden:

When you add a genset, you have a series hybrid.  The energy conversions involved make it a real challenge to attain high fuel efficiency using this scheme.  It’s not impossible, but a garden variety consumer genset – intended to supply backup power for a few hours during a grid failure – is probably not going to get anywhere close…

Good points, David. We’d certainly like to have a beefier unit, say a 15 kw model, but we have to use what we have available, so we’re cutting it thin with the 10 kw unit I have. To reduce rolling resistance and minimize cruise current needed, we’re going through the entire truck’s rolling gear and have already found thick, sticky grease caked in the rear axle instead of slippery thin gear oil…yikes! The rear axle is getting a thorough cleaning, all new bearings, and thin but effective gear oil. The front hubs and bearings are also getting the work-over with new bearings and all. The front end will be aligned. Finally, thinner high pressure (lower rolling resistance) truck radials similar to the kind Dick Finley and I used on Red Beastie, will replace the low profile, fat street rod tires that don’t roll so well right now. When done, I expect the 276V truck will use about 35 amps (with the 250 lb. generator in back) to cruise at 60 mph or so.

To plan for the worse, Rudman is allowing us to bring his T-Rex as a drop-in backup controller, and I’ll have my spank’n new PFC50X, my experimental 75+ amp charger the Madman and Smalley have been tweaking for me, as a backup to the PFC50 we’ll be using. It should be quite an eventful trek for Marko and his tough Datsun pickup. It will be fun to see how well the truck can pull the steep mountain grades we’ll encounter.

Once we’re at our destination, the exciting electric races in Joliet, Il, while Tim Brehm handles driving White Zombie, I’ll have fun running Marko’s Baby Blue down the track. No, we don’t expect it to set any new records, but having yet another EV to actually race on the track will add to the excitement of the races.

I’ll be posting pictures of the reconversion process to the Plasma Boy website soon.

See Ya……John Wayland

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