Newer Donor Vehicles

I’ve read the donor vehicle resource in the library and a few similar postings in the discussions. Almost universally they are for older vehicles, which are frankly getting hard to find. Is there a list somewhere of newer donor vehicles that have worked well?


Newer GM trucks seem to take to woodgas fairly well. And by “newer” I mean 2013 and back. Any of the Vortec engines should be good.

OBD2 can be tricky, if your engine computer doesn’t advance timing quickly to adapt to the higher octane woodgas then you’re not taking full advantage of the power.

I’ve done some test runs in my 2011 GMC Sierra with a 4.3L V6. It felt like I was driving with a 4 cylinder but it did get up to speed. Would have been better if my truck had a V8 of course.

Some guys had good luck with trucks and cars from the 90s, even OBD2 90s cars. The Chevy Cavalier with the pushrod OHV 2.2L I4 was a good example.

One thing to be careful of is more modern computers will save how much gasoline it requires to run, so it will change your fuel map over time even with the injectors and pump shut off. Too bad there’s no easy way to reset the fuel map with the push of a button(that I know of, I’m not a tuner).

Another big big thing to watch out for is if the engine has a plastic intake manifold. In the event of a catastrophic backfire you do run the risk of that intake being damaged even with relief valves installed. If you can find metal intakes to swap out then even better.


Welcome Max!

I agree we need to identify newer donor vehicles.

There is some good info here, but I’ve not found the silver bullet.


Great you’ve linked to this previous topic HansR.
I had seven very long detailed posts with info I’d put up on it.
Others did too.

None of us I expect will be repeating, again and again. 12 years now here on the DOW saying the same vein-things again, and again and a fellow gets plum tuckered out.

MaxK. there is not ever going to be a list of newer, “better” donor vehicles.
Just a recounting of those who have done it. The vehicle/vehicles they did use.
And a recounting of the tried - and failed.

There is a new topic CodyT. made on “LINUX - (as the) DIY Freedom Computing”.
Very, very quickly it has evolved into for most a gibberish of acronyms, specialty system names and personal experiences. Those participating are not wrong about how they are presenting; and their personal freedom pathway from the Priests of High Tech $$$$ Gatekeepers. Those who constantly churn the pot in games of keep-away.
New vehicles since at least the early 1990’s has required the same level of self-educating; trial and error; and new information racing to keep up with their evolving operating and control systems. A wildly weighted bouncing ball. A game; with many balls in constant motion.
Neither is beyond human concentration and capabilities to-learn, to-understand, and then use.
But the level of intensity a fellow has to put out continuously means you crave for a step-away simplicity for at least part of each and every day. A wind-down time in each week. And monthly resets, and personal enthusiasm recharge periods.

I know of none. Not a single one. Who can know-it-all in our evolved modern world.
It for sure ain’t me.

So . . . simplify. Do intensely learn deeply in needful areas. Accept Givens in other areas. Be willing to LIFE simplify to not be so beholding to others’ specialized hard learned knowledges and expertise.
And when you must . . . pay them. Hopefully in something they will need from you.
Clean home grown foods do nicely.
I traded two raised toilets and two wall hanging bathroom sinks to Euro-style change overs for free-range true organic eggs. One toilet teetering on old brittle asbestos tiles; on top of an old very unlevel concrete hand filled shower basin was a real difficult challenge. Took me two redo’s to be satisfied my name was on that install.
I was a master Auto-Tech/Electrician. Not a finishing-plumber. Needs-musts.
“Same Mud”
“Same Blood”
Steve Unruh


@SteveUnruh Steve, what did mean by

A) newer vehicles do not make good candidates
B) the list has already been written
C) something else

@mekennedy1313, you raise a very valid concern that we need to be identifying newer candidates as the older ones become less available. The problem was first and second generation Magnum V8 Dakotas were the best we’ve found for several reasons:

  • The engine runs well on woodgas
  • They have a power:weight ratio that even when horsepower drops when running on woodgas, there is still enough to move them along at highway speeds. A D-150 might have the same motor and thus will run just as well, but the reduced weight of the Dakota will permit you to cruise as 65-70mph which is not possible in the larger shell
  • They have MPFI and a distributor, making it easy to manage gasoline delivery and timing on the fly
  • First generation Magnum 5.2 (92-96) are OBD1 and second generation 5.2 (97-99) and 5.9 (98–03) although technically OBD2 still play nice with woodgas – fact check me on this one, I know people have had success with early gen 2 Dakotas and assume the later trucks are similar.
  • It is a truck and has a place to put the gasifier, and you won’t need to cut a hole in the lid of your trunk or be forced to pull a trailer
  • The trucks are relatively easy to work on and inexpensive parts are readily available
  • Fifteen years ago many nice used ones could be found inexpensively

All of the above remain true with the exception of the last point. However, a 30+ year old donor is not your only choice. We recently had our annual meeting and I had a nice discussion with @Chris and @JocundJake and we have a desire to test GM’s LS platform (see initially focusing on engines introduced prior to when Active Fuel Management was introduced,. Should this be successful, it would not only open up a very large supply of donors, but also a massive increase in the number of aftermarket performance parts. To my knowledge, nearly every gasifier is plumbed to a nearly stock motor. However, many of the mods which the hot rodders have been developing for the last 75 years would also help an engine when running woodgas. What other improvements can we make? Increased compression, high flowing intake and cylinder heads, custom cams, and headers? What is the ideal spark plug heat range for woodgas? I am confident, that question had never been asked but if we move to the LS as the default woodgas platform, we can begin to explore those questions.

The simple truth is that is it very possible there are many newer vehicles which could be great donors, but no one has taken the time to investigate. Woodgasers are few in number and new car models are many.

Theoretically, once tuned properly, both performance and efficiency will be greatly improved.

This is what has happened to gasoline engines:
1968 Porsche 911 Sportomatic
0-60 mph 9.3
Quarter mile 16.8

2012 Chrysler Town & Country Limited
0-60 mph 7.8
Quarter mile 16.1

Computers are more responsive than springs. Fellas, let’s bring wioodgas into the 21st century. And Max, thanks for the question.


Which of you 21st century truck owners is able to reprogram a salvage ECU when your gets fried? How many have the technical expertise and experience to trouble shoot and replace around two dozen sensors? How many cars in Florida right now are being hauled away to a storage yard and then a scrap yard because their electronics got some water in them. Wood gas is a fuel just like a handful of other ones that will power a IC engine. Of course it will fuel a 21st century vehicle as long as the electronic brain works and it will even work better in that vehicle until it doesn’t. That’s when the guy in the 1980 crapmobile will wave as he passes you because he has a tool box full of wrenches and maybe you have a scanner that reads SOL. We are all used to others providing for us the necessities of living on this planet. Only a minuscule number of us provide any of our own food or maintain our own dwellings, have our own source of water, provide our own fuels for heat or can keep a simple machine operating. My grandparents and all their peers could and such skills were taken for granted by every rural family. Might be wise to have a wood gas dinosaur in the back of the garage just in case.


Very valid arguments, and I’d like to add that in states like mine(North Carolina) you have to pass an OBD2 scanned emissions test if the vehicle is less than 30 years old. If that check engine light is on you immediately fail. Some counties don’t do the OBD2 test and some do, I’m unlucky and have to get an OBD2 test in my county.

More modern vehicles also have a long readiness period, General Motors vehicles especially. You have to meet certain conditions of the engine after a wipe or the scanner will also fail your inspection. You can only meet readiness by driving it around anywhere from a day to a week and you won’t know unless you have a scantool that can tell you if it’s ready or not.

So for my specific case, older stuff is better because I don’t need inspections, or at least no emissions inspections.

But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t drop a newer engine and all the benefits of that into my old VIN body truck. Chevy stuff has a big aftermarket for adapting older style transmissions to new engines. One less computer to worry about.


The problem with simple machines was they failed a lot, so you had to know how to fix them or at least try. No amazon, you had to have the hardware store, your stash, your neighbors stash, etc had something that might work. :slight_smile:

But the tolerances got significantly tighter, emissions controls got tighter, and people wanted more features. and the machines are more reliable, sooooo here we are.

The question is how to deal with it.


Hi Tom,

I agree, but those 1990s dinosaurs are getting old! I have a '92 Dakota I bought for the purpose of gasification. The truck is nothing special, but I enjoy it very much and was planning to bring it to the meetup, even though it currently can only run on a dinosaur’s remains. But it crapped out the week before the meetup and I had to bring a newer vehicle. Two other Dakotas, broke down en route, and neither of those malfunctions were gasifier related. Great as those trucks are, they won’t last forever unless we mothball them, which is the antithesis of driving on wood.

From the discussion linked above:

Back in 2016, Chris asked Matt about the feasibility of LS engines and Matt provided valuable insights. Eight years later Chris revisits the discussion and Matt restated his concerns. From what I can see, this does not feel like a foolhardy pursuit.

As we explore new ground, not every decision everyone makes is going to be a correct one. Some of those choices are going to result in time and money and supplies which do not immediately reap beneficial results. Hopefully, the losses are small and far outweighed by the gains and that we will each have the insight to recognize errors early and the graciousness to alert others in the community.

But the long and short of it is that we need to continue to explore and innovate or our ability to drive on wood is going to go the way of the dinosaur.


Matt innovated. He has generators set up. Which works with EVs. so you are driving on wood without the need to modify the vehicle at all. While the SHTF crowd may not like it, and it doesn’t have the appeal that driving around a modified vehicle on wood has, it still works to an end.


As much as I hate to say it, I think you have probably given the best answer.

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Yeah. Maybe. For some. You’d be then tied back to your home power systems. Tethered to at best a 150 mile radius.

As much as you’d like to paint us all as SHTF Panic’er . . .
Many of us develop for local found on the roadside fuels capabilities as our range extenders. Local barter wood fuels capabilities. Storm and events brought to the ground woods
Cross continents possible then with no supplied dependencies.
The Australian missionary couple did this. The rebuilt his Citron out of wood paneling fellow did this. later WayneK. Then Jacob North.

Choice. That is the true freedom.
Current EV’s take your choices away for DIY servicing for life-use extending.
Steve Unruh


The trucks are around 400 mile range unloaded. The 5 minute fill-ups are more the issue.

I haven’t seen your woodgas vehicle. AFAIK, and from what I gather, your roadside capability is depending on ‘the man’ to have electric and fuel available to pump at the roadside. There are many others on this forum who have made a different choices.

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Do you have any links to those “conversions” of EV’s to woodgas? I find it intriguing. It would open up a whole range of vehicles as one could tow a small trailer with the woodgas powered generator.

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Sean, Steve you are probably right about Woodgas generator charging EV vehicles being the easiest way to drive on Woodgas. The problem with that solution is money. Unless there are Electronic vehicles out there much cheaper than I am aware of then it is way out of my budget. I would love to follow that plan with an EV to drive around local but I can’t afford it.

I believe this is a very viable search I think it is worth the effort to try to find vehicles that are not dinosaurs to run on wood. 90s model vehicles are no longer 15 year old vehicles like they were when wood gassers started using them they are now 30 or more. I intend to start on a search for a newer platform to build on. I know nothing about computers and how to work them so trial and error and a lot of study is on the horizon. I think the LS engine is probably a good platform to start with. I’ll see how it goes.

What is the newest vehicle that has actually been converted?


May be a dumb question for those that know the answer but can an OBD2 computer be reprogrammed to be more compatible with woodgas? Not inexperienced with woodgas but for heating purposes and have no idea if reprogramming vehicles is even possible.


I think that would be either my 2011 GMC or Gary Gilmore’s Ranger. I forget the year model he had, but he documented his issues and has way more miles than my simple testing.

While I did route the gas and had air adjustment I wouldn’t say I fully converted. I didn’t put enough miles down to say so.


Oh for sure it could be. You could reprogram the ignition timing map.


Many of the Dakota’s are the first generation OBD2 so at least that works but we will see if the newer computers work.


I wish flashing the ECM/PCM was an easier thing to do. If we could figure out a semi universal way to set up a push button method to reset/switch the fuel and ignition map for easier gasoline running without resetting the entire computer I think that would be a game changer.