The diesel engine, long popular on European roads, is now piquing the interest of American automakers. General Motors rolled out a diesel version of the Chevy Cruze in 2013, and says there’s more to come. Chrysler recently put its v-6 EcoDiesel in the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Ford is said to be contemplating a diesel for its Focus sedan.
But while diesel engines have rarely been designed into American passenger cars and light trucks in the past, there have been a very small number out there. Oldsmobile produced a family of diesel engines in the 1980s and the Chevy Chevette employed a diesel around the same time.
We’ve collected photos of diesels in American passenger cars. From the Olds Cutlass and Chevy Chevette to the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chevy Cruze, we offer a peek at American diesels, past and present.
Click on the image below to start the slideshow.
Oldsmobile introduced a family of diesel engines, including the 5.7-liter V-8 LF9, between 1978 and 1985. The LF9 was said to be the world’s first diesel V-8 designed for passenger cars.
I think that higher cost of repair would be offset by the fact that many diesel engines go 500k miles without a major overhaul for those trying to squeeze as many miles as they can out of an engine. What's the true environmental cost of an engine that gives up after 200k miles compared to one good for 500k mles? And of course there's a ripple effect throughout the whole car because most people don't replace or overhaul just the engine at that point.
I owned a 1981 Chevrolet Malibu station wagon, and drove it about 300,000 miles. When the injector pump failed at about 100,000 miles, I purchased a replacement GM pump for $200 and installed it without any problem. That pump failed after about 80,000 miles, and I questioned the supplier as to the reason for failure. I was told that a phenolic thrust washer was at fault, and I needed a pump with a steel thrust washer. I readily (overpaid) $220 for the pump with a steel thrust washer and this pump indeed lasted for quite a long time. Few people seem to be aware that the primary problem with those pumps was as simple as that phenolic thrust washer instead of a steel washer, and that simple choice cost General Motors the reputation of an otherwise exceptional engine.
I recently invented a rotary single stroke diesel IC engine geometry and had a proof of concept prototype fabricated in a local machine shop. According to a combustion engineering professor at the University of Tennessee, if this design could be produced, a 20" diameter, 12" long engine could produce over 700 hp and 1000 foot-pounds of torque - naturally aspirated. He also predicted a thermodynamic efficiency improvement of more than 40% better than any current diesel engine designs. Needless to say, it would require a great deal of engineering work to complete the design and produce a production engine, but the potential weight savings and fuel economy should make some investigation into this design worthwhile. (A brief discussion related to the design and an animation can be seen at legacyengine.com).
I recently purchased a VW Jetta Sportwagen DSG TDI and am loving it. I can't believe more people don't know the secret of the more complete combustion cycle and the fun of driving a vehicle with such great low-end torque. I've been getting 30-35 mpg on my 8-mile 30 minute commute and 46+ mpg on the highway - all this in a car that can blow the doors off just about every other car on the road when going up a hill or passing on the highway.
The difference in fuel cost is only about 10 percent, and that's pretty much all driven by subsidies usded to prop up the existing gasoline infrastructure that lines the pockets of our politicians' true constituents. Without the subsidy, diesel is actually less costly than gasoline. If the free market was ever permitted to dictate pricing, we'd see a lot more people opting for diesel vehicles.
I see the 80's Escort and Tempo/Topaz are mentioned, but don't forget the Ranger which used a couple different diesel engines depending on the year and the Lincoln Mark VII which used a BMW diesel engine.
I don't understand why anyone would want a diesel car today.In the 80's there was a distinct advantage, being the lower price per gallon for gas; but what's the attraction today-?21st century Oil companies have somehow managed to convince the American public that diesel fuel must cost more than its higher refined counterpart, high octane unleaded gasoline. I still can't believe the American people are accepting that.
@fdos – Yes you are correct repairing a Diesel engine is much more expensive than repairing a Gasoline engine. That's because these engines are more complex (specially the fuel, ignition and combustion). Repairing a gasoline engine might only take 40-50% of the cost of repairing a Diesel engine.
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