Woodgas' greatest hinderance: Donor vehicles

For quite a long while now, I have been combing through online posts looking for my Dakota and have yet to find it. It seems what used to be a commonplace have mostly been beat up, crashed, or rusted away.

But first, a bit of my history. In 1987 my brother liked the new Dakota so much he bought one. If memory serves, it had no options which meant truck without power steering or power brakes, plastic door cards and no headliner, manual windows and locks and no A/C. It had hubcaps, no radio and a 4-cylindar 2.2 motor. Also, it was a demo. Not the ideal woodgas truck, but new — from the dealer — it cost $5,000. Now it seems that all run-of-the-mill (150,000+ mile) V8s in decent condition cost two or three times what he paid new.

Buying a cheaper one that needs a lot of work didn’t seem like a great option for me. Simply building the gasifier seems daunting and to add what could be potentially hundreds of hours of bodywork or other mechanical repairs would make a difficult project all that more likely to never get completed. Not that there can’t be satisfaction in bringing one back from the edge. Those projects can often be more rewarding than buying a nice one, but for me, right now, it didn’t seem like the best option.

Buying a more expensive one, still not an idea I’ve fully embraced, but when the average used car is over $20,000, if one pays $15,000 for a Dakota and $5,000 to build the gasifier, we’re still spending less than the average used car but will have something WAY cooler than the average used car.

Is there a third option?

By expanding the search for all 1987-1996 it not only opens up the 91-96 trucks with smaller motors, but it will also include four more model years when V8s weren’t available. Pretty elementary stuff here, but it took me a year to think of it.

You’ll still need a mill that will work and it’s quite possible you could pick up a clean V6 Dakota and a V8 donor for less than a nice V8 Dakota. Look for 5.2’s in:

  • 1992–2001 Dodge Rams
  • 1998–2000 Dodge Durangos
  • 1992–1993 Dodge Ramchargers (Please don’t kill off a Ramcharger, though)
  • 1992–2002 Dodge Ram Vans
  • 1993–1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees

and 5.9’s in:

  • 1992–early 2003 Dodge Rams
  • 1992–2003 Dodge Ram Vans
  • 1998–2003 Dodge Durangos
  • 1992–2001 Dodge Ramchargers (Please, please, please don’t kill off a 5.9 Ramcharger!)
  • 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limiteds (Ditto)

Another option is a crate motor. It looks like https://www.summitracing.com/parts/vre-dd58 will work (but check for certain before you buy it!) Although not currently in stock, it lists for $2,241.99. You’ll need to pay a core charge as well as a slew of other parts that won’t move from the 4 or 6 that came with your truck but it’s very possible that a clean V6 truck and brand-new motor will be cheaper than an existing V8 truck.

A quick search seems to reveal (but again, double check before you buy anything) Dakotas used 3-speed A998 or 4-speed A500 transmissions, both of which should stand up to a 5.2 on woodgas. Please correct me if I’m mistaken.

I have another idea for an interesting donor vehicle, but I’ll need to make a phone call first. Will try to post a followup to this in another thread. I’d be excited to know your thoughts.


You aren’t limited to just Mopar vehicles, plenty have used 90s GM vehicles to great success and I’d argue they’re just as easy to drop a 350 or 305 in an S10 as you could a 5.2 into a Dakota.

Fords as well. I think the biggest criteria would be an OHV V8 or large I6 in as lightweight a body as possible to achieve highway speeds safely.

The WK is a virtually universal gasifier for a pickup truck or trailer use.

But of course if you’re a Mopar guy then that’s your wheelhouse. I do have Dakota Envy of all the guys here that have one. The prices in my area are ridiculous and none of them have a V8 and usually have a blown up transmission.

As a side note, the NV3500 manual transmission was used by both Dodge and General Motors, I wonder how well one would fit in a Dakota and if it would bolt up to a 318?


The nv3500 was actually used in the dakotas, sport model with a 5.9 factory. Some floor modification to make it look stock, clutch pedals bolt into all trucks, crossmembers swap. Just like in the ram line, the dakotas were VERY universal in their design to fit different drive train packages. If a guy wanted to he could buy a 4 cylinder 5 speed which in my area are plentiful and cheap swap out the motor mounts and dump a 5.9 in it. But to my knowledge the 4 cylinder was only available in a standard cab, where as most of us seem to like a extended cab in the midsized dakotas for more leg room and storage. But then again pluck the trans, clutch pedals and cross member from a wrecking yard and plop it into a extended cab v8. The dodge lineup has and will always be the lego sets of adults, mix and match to make your own custom setup. Not to mention mopar is famous for its off the wall ideas (paint colors included) plum crazy purple, ralley green, go-mango, hemi orange and panther pink to name a few. Custom order as you wish from the factory. I bet if a guy had cash and walked in with a dakota to a dealer they would install a hellcat motor in it for him. Though it may not be super conducive to woodgas use but fun non the less :rofl:

As i sit here staring at a need to be rebuilt 488ci v10 on the floor, i think i could fit it in a dakota with some minor modifications to the cooling system. And i know for a fact it has been done in the round body dakotas


Hi Marcus, what is your area and how cheap is cheap?

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Anyone that can build a WK can build a vehicle from parts. It all depends on what you want to use it for. I think Don Mannes Tracker is a marvel. Not useful for doing much work but I’m guessing pretty good MPG of wood. Eddie Ramos’s Ranchero has gotten him all over S. American and even pulls a small trailer. If you live in my area you are pretty much SOL without 4 wheel drive. If I were going to build a Wood Gasser I’d look for a truck that was totaled due to a roll over. I’d mainly want the rolling chassis. I would build my own cab along the lines of an older military vehicle, just as basic as I could make it. I used to own a Jeep Wrangler 30 years ago. Ridiculous amount of money even at that time for such a simple vehicle. I could have built that cab and front clip out of plywood overlayed with aluminum sheet just like they made the Morgan Cars in England.


I wonder about converting hybrid vehicles, it seems like a challenge but also would be very efficient use of wood and they are cheaper vehicles now so more people are likely to consider it. Hybrid drive could help make up for the reduced power of wood gas.

Really the ultimate would be any of the newer electric cars with a gasifier trailer behind them. They have much more torque than any of these trucks produce on wood gas and it is instantaneous + regen & the gasifier could run at a much more stable rpm… Also so dumb of carmakers not to do more plug-in hybrids or range extended electrics, I know everyone will go electric eventually with improved battery tech, but an electric car with a range extender reigns supreme right now.

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You know when you guys talk like this many of the poor guys in we’ve only had small cars, Ute’s and front wheel drive mini-pick up in my country are very, very envious. And feel left out.

Have to remind you of those in those areas who have woodgassed Toyota cars, Datsun and Volvo cars, M.B. cars, mini-pickup (Nissan, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Ranger) trucks, European Opels, and such.

Where there is a will; you will find, or make a way.
Woodgas is made and used by Will Power.
Steve Unruh


All my vehicles are broken down right now, hope I’m not making anyone feel left out, have worked at fancy car dealer before & got to drive loads of cool cars because of that tho. Once I replace the battery on it I am pretty sure my prius will take charcoal gas easily, my concern is the stop-start function and if the incoming gas would bother the engine or over heat it. I know it is possible to disable within techstream so it would not be a big deal if that is necessary. But also will be interesting to see if I could adapt it to pause gas flow for stop start further down the line and not have any issues.


Washington state the western side i have seen beaters needing a motor for 400$ up to running driving 4wd ext v8 for 1500-2000$. Super common to see needing a transmission for 1000$ most in much better body shaoe then the salted roads states, unless right on the coast line where they all seem to need rocker panel and wheel arch opening cancer repairs


Ill nudge that they other way Steve, our across the pond brothers get all the super cute micro diesels that get extreme fuel economy, many mechanical injection that can burn their own oil change right in the tank! I would love to get my mitts on a few of them! They sell like hotcakes around us. But in the big ol USA we have that affiliation with no replacement for displacement. And it hurts at the pump every time we fill up. One reason we see a lot of USA members here i do believe, wanting to get away from that crippling monthly fuel bill. Though the easterners get all the cool heritage of woodgas where it was once bordering on mainstream even if it was a dark time for the world, pictures like @Woodrunner and @giorgio post have so much cool history behind them. Closest we have to that here is our extensive steam usage i think


Sam, I gave my Prius some gas from a charcoal unit I have. The prius didn’t mind the chargas. But the gasifier on the other hand had all kinds of problems with the starts and stops. Gasifiers like to have a steady draw on them to keep them up to temp.


I have just thought about it a few times in passing but I think for that Hybrid application it would work best with a Range Extender.

I still don’t understand how a 48-72v generator can power a Tesla with much bigger nominal voltage. I’ve seen videos of them working though, but not with any explanation.

Edit: this is the only video I’ve seen of a range extender constant running, but I still can’t wrap my head around how this could actually be charging the unit. It looks like a 420cc Lifan with a stator behind the flywheel like the 72v DC chargers.

Of course in YouTuber fashion he doesn’t really explain it or give resources. I’m skeptical.


Did you feed it the chargas while also running gasoline into motor? and is it a 2nd gen prius? I am pretty sure that can be coded out with techstream, or by tricking it that the battery is low/cold.

@Norman89 yeah we miss out on so many diesels. People were just talking about it on the diesel group I am in and they were trying to figure out if importing the engine for parts or offroad use is a way around strict controls for foreign cars…

back to old mechanical diesels tho it is possible to run an older diesel engine entirely off on wood thru a charcoal-water-slurry (CWS). Afaik this process is more thermodynamically efficient than charcoal gasification. Which would make it potentially more efficient than wood gas if the pyrolysis gas/heat is used for house heat or power gen when making charcoal. Potential weight savings too, CWS is a very dense fuel and no gasifier, but heavier diesel engine.


As those appear, please post them here. There should be another thread dedicated to it. Washington would be quite a trek for me, but not out of the question.

Thank you!

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I suppose…but some parts work better than others:

The Magnum 3.9’s timing can’t be set to run woodgas. In theory, someone might be able to somehow resolve this, but that’s well outside most everyone’s area of expertise.

Some Fords come with plastic intake manifolds which can end up melting when the woodgas buildup gets burned out. I suppose someone might be able to custom design one better suited for this application, but that’s well outside most everyone’s area of expertise.

The '89 Dakota I mentioned earlier had a 2.2 which I think was factory rated a 99hp. Wayne told me that horsepower can drop by as much as half when running woodgas. I doubt that anyone has ever tried, but let’s assume that 2.2 runs buttery smooth and puts out 49hp. Would that move a Dakota? I’m sure it would! I can push one on level ground and my output is probably somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of one, so 49 would certainly move the truck. But if I took that on the highway I’d be moving less than the minimum speed, and be a danger to myself and everyone else.

Has anyone got anything with an OBD2 (other than a Dakota) to function? It’s been mandatory in the U.S. since 1996, so we’ve had time to figure it out.

Dakotas are great, but there just aren’t enough left. When a decent one was $1,000, it was less of a barrier than now when they are 10X+ that and at any given moment, there are maybe a few dozen clean V8’s for sale nationwide. We need cheap donors to attract new folks and get already interested wanabees (like me) up and running. I’m just not figured what Dakota version 2 will be.

Let’s keep brainstorming!

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I think the 3.9 would run but with less power than being able to kick the timing up .

I drove a 3.9 for a few years but it was a 1987 and had a carb.


Sam, It was a 2007 prius. I didn’t take out the fuse for the fuel pump. So it could drizzle a dab of fuel. Most of the problems were not keeping a constant draw on the gasifier. Also in a permanent situation you would have woodgas build up in the breather when the engine shut off. Lots of stops and starts with the engine makes a greater possibility for flashback. I mostly gave it a snort of woodgas just to see how it would like it,


Just remember the difference in flex plates…


You would want the electric vehicle with the range extender. Then you can run the gasifier more or less steady the whole time and just use the electric drivetrain for propulsion, so there is no actual loss in power or operation.

Ford and GM recently announced they were going to use the Tesla connector for vehicles. Tesla has 1mw chargers. Provided both the charger and vehicle can handle it. It would give roughly 6min per 100 kw of battery for a vehicle. The F150 Lightning has a 130kw battery pack so like 8- 10 min fill ups are possible. If you can afford and are willing to pony up the cash you can also get a integrated home battery system. and you end up running the woodgas to charge your home battery rather then having all the fun and skill to actually drive on wood. :slight_smile:


Billy, A good reminder. Thank you!

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