Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Biodiesel Options for Mercedes Diesel--my Armageddon car

When gas gets to be $20/gallon, I want a car that will run on WVO (Waste Vegetable Oil) from Chinese restaurants. There are Mercedes 300D and 240D’s advertised on EBay and Craigslist that aren’t expensive, some with WVO kits installed (to heat the oil in cold weather so it doesn’t gel). I also have a friend that modifies WVO with lye and sulfuric acid (to esterify the fatty acids and alcohols) and doesn’t use a kit. I’m not mechanically ept, but know a good (not too expensive) mechanic who’s worked on Merc’s. Which mode–kit or modified fuel might be preferable? How important are minor rust issues for old Mercedes’s? Thanks.

You won’t find many wvo boosters here, especially if you are ‘not mechanically apt.’ These old MBs are antiques, and require work and patience. The chemical treatment uses dangerous chemicals. If you’re still interested, I’m sure there are lots of forums that deal with these.

But know that a 240D is dangerously slow in modern traffic, and that a rusty body is a body unsafe in a crash. You’re letting your fear of gas prices put you in an old, unreliable, slow, and relatively poor in a crash car. Not worth it to me.

When gas gets to be $20 a gallon, every fuel including waste vegetable oil will be expensive. It’s a fools dream to think anything but a bike and public transportation will get you on the plus side. Leave the Mad Max ideas at the movies. If you aren’t mechanically incline, buy with the masses. A focus or Corolla will do. IMO, the closest you could come would be a flex fuel vehicle that runs on alchohol based fuels.

for Texases–the “dangerous chemicals” are lye and sulfuric acid, which are dangerous for non-chemists, but not contaminants. I’ve heard tales of 300D’s surviving collisions with trucks (w/o benefit of airbags) and the bodies for the 240D’s are the same as those for the 300D’s. Neither of the two comments have been helpful. I’m more interested in comparisons of the two methods.

If you want an Armageddon diesel car, may I suggest a non-turbo IDI VW diesel 1992 or older? They are far more common than a Benz, use far less fuel, parts are still commonly available and should be much cheaper than Benz parts. Although a VW does not have the protective mass of a larger car such as a Benz, there would be fewer cars on the road with people going slowly to conserve fuel.

duhem7, what dagosa says is spot-on. When actual diesel gets prohibitively expensive, you’ll be bidding for fryer grease with every other diesel user that cannot afford “the real deal.”

Econ 101: supply and demand. Unfortunately, the supply of used oil is much less than the demand for diesel motor fuel (which is why we can’t “grow our way” to energy independence). So, once demand skyrockets, the price will, too.

P.S. as long as you’re considering unconventional diesel fuels, don’t rule out used motor oil.

If I remember correctly, most of the 300 models had a turbocharger on them. As an armageddon car, this probably would be too much trouble. Lye and sulfuric acid might lead to corrosion problem with the storage and fuel delivery, I think I would avoid those.

If gas gets priced out of the hands of the average consumer, I don’t think speed or acceleration will be of any concern. There won’t be a lot of traffic to contend with. I would say the biggest safety concern with travel under those conditions would be dealing with all the desperate people that will try to take it away from you.

If you do go this route, I would recommend that you get two or three nearly identical vehicles so that you have a supply of spare parts. The parts vehicles could be wrecks or rusted out hulks as long as they have reasonably good glass, engines, transmissions and suspension pieces.

You might be better off with a horse.

The FIRST thing “The Authorities” will do when Armageddon arrives will be to close all the major highways to all but “official” vehicles…This will be done to “protect your safety”…

With our Nation borrowing $0.44 for every dollar we spend, this day is not that far off…

A couple of things to think about for Armageddon -
NO one will be going out for Chinese food - ergo - no WVO!
Where the hell are you going to go anyway???

As for the car I have owned a couple over the years - very safe, very reliable, very maintenance intensive - just the way German anything was designed back then.

Lots of these cars available - even rust free ones - just on ebay to price and the good ones still have a pretty good resale value for ‘antique’ daily drivers. Parts are getting hard to come by

As for safety these were the safest rated cars in the world for many years - you may not be old enough but they crashed two together in a test with live drivers in them at 60 mph and they survived pretty well unhurt - used to be video of it - check Youtube - still have a couple of magazines around with story and pics of the test.

As for WVO conversion to BIODiesel there are plenty of DIY processors available on the web. You can run filtered WVO but its really hard on your engine and it gels badly - thus the tank and line heaters required - and two fuel systems if your smart. I had a friend that ran WVO BIODiesel for years in a Chevy Diesel pickup. I also met a guy in a really grimy old MB one day - he was running used engine oil with a little gas mixed in - great for the environment.

Hope this helps.

duhem7 - you’ll hear all kinds of nonsense about old MBs. I imagine some claim to have survived a nuclear blast. And like I said, you’re in the wrong place if you’re wanting detailed comparison info about wvo vs. biodiesel. I wonder why you asked.

And so what if sufuric acid and lye are not ‘contaminants’? They’re very dangerous, espcially when stored and used together.

texases–here’s the chemical scoop on the use of sulfuric acid and lye: they are used in separate reactions (not together) to esterify the fatty alcohols and fatty acids; methanol is added to yield the ester. (And these are much less dangerous chemicals than gasoline or diesel oil); the fatty acid esters make the fuel less viscous and likely to gel at low temperatures. There is a new method, bypassing the two reactions with sulfuric acid and lye, using just one reaction with catalysts invented by some chemists at Brown University: see And I do believe the first hand account of the gentleman who survived a collision with a semi. After all, Mercedes was the first to do collapsible front ends and the air-bag.

Sorry, chemicals that will burn your skin on contact are not ‘less dangerous than gas or diesel.’ How can you say such a thing? And the safety issues with using acids and bases in the same facility are much higher than using either one separately.

Folks have survived horrific crashes in all kinds of cars. Sure, old MBs were better than old other cars of that era. But not compared to modern cars.

By the way, as petroleum prices rise, food prices will follow so you will also need an acreage for a “Victory Garden”. That may prove to be more vital than a car if your goal is to prepare for Armageddon unless you must drive to your garden. It would be better, however, to have the garden within your visual range to prevent others from harvesting your crops. I also suggest a junkyard dog in your garden for after dark.

Being resourceful is not only about transportation.

Here are some considerations. This is realism, not discouragement.
–First, ask your mechanic, since s/he will be the one actually working on the car. Also, if you can, talk with someone who has actually done this before you buy anything. This is probably much better than information anonymously posted on a website.
–Second, there’s likely to be a substantial time and equipment commitment, and you are probably better off viewing this as a hobby or a part-time job. A friend had a biodiesel car (called “greasel”) and he needed a pickup to haul the used cooking oil back to his garage, where he worked with filters and chemicals and fairly flammable slippery grease/oil all over the place. The oil was quite heavy, transferring it was not that easy (although maybe you’ll find someone at a restaurant who will deliver it for free), you have the chance at a catastrophic neighborhood spill (and a lawsuit) if you are not careful or lucky enough, he had to dispose of considerable waste, and despite all this had to put very clean fuel into the car’s tank. His house “didn’t smell too bad,” but his wife was an extremely tolerant person. You may want to consider adding an automatic fire extinguishing system in your garage, wearing non-slip shoes, and checking with your fire department and homeowner’s insurance to get their advice. My buddy considered it a hobby.
–Third, I used to own a 190 turbodiesel and although it was good on fuel with a durable engine, the rest of the car (especially the electrical system) was high-maintenance and very expensive. Engineered like no other, you betcha. Check out Consumer Reports, or again, ask your mechanic. Safety seems to be good, but it’s anecdotal, and according to a fireman I spoke with, a car with airbags (the more the better) will generally be safer than one without, even if it is a Mercedes.
–Fourth, if Armageddon arrives, a veggie diesel car may not be a huge factor for you.
–Fifth, rust simply depends on the car you buy. If you get one one eBay or somewhere out of town, you are pretty much on your own. Check with your mechanic.
–Finally, my uneducated guess is that rather than retrofit your own car, you might be better off finding someone who has already done this with their own car, gotten tired of fiddling around with the process, and wants to sell.
–Good luck with your choice.

By the time gas prices hit $20/gallon, the vehicles you have in mind will be even more rusty, and you will most likely be a photo on someones’ mantelpiece.

The price of gasoline adjusted for inflation hasn’t changed much over the last century, so are you predicting a big leap in the actual price of gas or incredible inflation? Either way, if you can do so successfully, you may be able to hire someone to handle your biodiesel worries.

The price of gasoline adjusted for inflation hasn’t changed much over the last century

Oh yes it has…The average gas price (accounting for inflation) was around $2.50. The cheapest I can buy gas right now is $3.91.

Gas prices are more…and people drive more and thus pay more overall for gas then any time in history.

After the bicycle and the horse, The true Armageddon car I feel would be electric. What other car has the potential to be powered indirectly by so many other sources, many free. Short of that, ICE cars if you insist would be cars powered by both alcohol based fuels and methane. Everyone produces it and without public sewerage and a little enterprising and cooperative bacterial support, the outhouse fuel could rule where the sun doesn’t shine.

dagosa, I’m with you on flatus-powered vehicles! But not all human flatus contains methane (only certain school boys were able to do the lighted match trick). However if you buy some cows, you’ll be able to get methane not only from bovine flatus but also from bovine eructations (burps).

"ME: The price of gasoline adjusted for inflation hasn’t changed much over the last century

MikeinNH: Oh yes it has…The average gas price (accounting for inflation) was around $2.50. The cheapest I can buy gas right now is $3.91.

Gas prices are more…and people drive more and thus pay more overall for gas then any time in history."

Please specify what year’s dollars you are using as a basis. I assume you are using 2011 dollars.

On another note, that $3.91 is the May 2011 national average, so a lot of people could buy gas cheaper in May.

You make a good argument.


After the bicycle and the horse, The true Armageddon car I feel would be electric. What other car has the potential to be powered indirectly by so many other sources, many free."

Where is this free electricity? My electric bill has become an annoyance.