Published on April 15th, 2011 | by Christopher DeMorro
Video: The Finnish-Built, Wood Burning El Camino
Truth is stranger than fiction, or so the saying goes. And I could not make this story up if I tried. A Finnish politician has converted his American-built El Camino to run on woodgas. How’s that for awesome?
Juhas Sipilä’s 1987 El Camino, affectionately dubbed “El Kamina” (The Stove), features a very steampunk-like woodgas generator taking up about half of the truckbed. El Kamina’s 400 Chevy engine can take the 4,400 pound truck about 125 miles on 175 pounds of biomass, or about 1.4 pounds of biomass-per-mile. The truck itself can carry enough fuel for around 800 total miles of travel. Juhas, a parliamentary candidate, genuinely seems to believe that homegrown biofuels can reduce his country’s dependence on oil, and it is nice to see a politician (even if it’s a Finnish one) put his money where his mouth is. Juhas is in good company too, as there is a whole society for woodgas-converted vehicles in Finland. Whether or not that helps him get elected remains to be seen, but it probably won’t hurt.
I’ve covered woodgas before, and even had the chance to meet one of these biofuel pioneers in the flesh before. Wood gas generators are nothing new; they’ve in fact been around since the second World War, and the premise is symbol. Two separate, very high-heat reactions “gasify” wood or other biomass into a syngas that can be used to run a gasoline engine. Woodgas, when done right, can provide a cleaner and better burn than gas or diesel engines. Of course, as you can see from these pictures, a woodgas system takes up a sizable chunk of the El Kamina’s rear bed, and it isn’t what I would call a “sleek” vehicle.
But is it cool? Hell yes, and sometimes being cool counts for more than being practical. Besides, as long as he’s got a few tree branches or rotten fruit around, he’ll never be out of fuel. Hard to beat that!
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.