The classic car has a special place in many gear heads’ hearts. I mean, who doesn’t feel a sense of American pride thinking about Steve McQueen racing his Mustang through San Francisco or the Cadillac Eldorado in “Smokey in the Bandits”? It’s just too bad that driving these older models comes with oodles of environmental problems. That’s why it’s wonderful to see some old, diesel trucks finding a useful home at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, West Virginia.
Like optical telescopes which need dark areas in order to operate properly, radio telescopes need shelter from electromagnetic interference. This is because weak cosmic signals can be easily masked by terrestrial radio waves. The NRAO, for example, is located in a quiet zone surrounded by national forests and the mountainous terrain of West Virginia.
To protect the zone from any interference, NRAO Regulations require visitors to limit motorized traffic to diesel vehicles. Electric spark plugs and computer chips inside modern, gasoline-powered cars interfere with the radio. Visitors can’t even use new diesel cars because the door chimes, seatbelt buzzers, and computer-controlled engine management systems are also problematic.
But old diesels don’t have the same problem. They use glow plugs instead of spark plugs and mechanical fuel injection instead of electronic injection. In other words, they’re actually good for the environment around a radio telescope because they don’t interfere with its sensitive signals.
Some of the old trucks seen around NRAO include Chevrolet Suburbans, pickups, and even some diesel-powered Checker Marathons. (Remember those?!) They range in age from 30 to 45 years old, and come complete with nostalgia-worthy features like blue vinyl seats and manual windows. While they may not be the classic Mustangs and Cadillacs of your dreams, at least these old trucks seem to be getting plenty of use.
Source | Image: Driving.ca