Mechanical Genius Proves GM Wrong with Diesel Engines for Hummers

DN Staff

November 19, 2007

4 Min Read
Mechanical Genius Proves GM Wrong with Diesel Engines for Hummers

Reading Chuck Murray's Oct. 22 blog post about a Princeton Review Survey about how bad engineering professors are got me thinking: What is the value of a college or engineering education? Does it lead to happiness, success and great engineering? I am paying to put two kids through private colleges, so I wonder. What's more, I was bored most of the time in a college classroom.

I won't attempt to answer the question how certified engineers can bypass college level math and science. It's absurd to think they can. But then you come across a mechanical genius like Johnathan Goodwin who swaps H1 and H2 Hummer engines for diesels, something GM reportedly said could not be done. His conversions use GM's Duramax diesel and claim to more than double the mpg and, in some cases, the horsepower over the Hummer's standard guzzler of a gas engine. What's more, his conversions run on biodiesel and can burn vegetable oil from your local Chinese restaurant's frialator.

We were trying to track him down at the last minute, but were told he was traveling to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Birgit Von Schondorf, who says she is Goodwin's business partner, claims he has a seventh-grade education, is part Native American, the product of a large single-parent and poor family and is so brilliant that his work on cars is but the "tip of the iceberg." He's a great story and his fame is growing. Goodwin is associated with, where it shows him with Von Schondorf and musician Neil Young. At this writing, a Nov. 8 stop at "Good Morning America" was planned, according to Von Schondorf.

"I'm not a chemist. I'm not a scientist or an electrical engineer," Goodwin says on H-Line Conversions' website. "I'm just one of those people who will take something that I'm interested in and will push it to the highest edge." Fast Company magazine just did a cover story on Goodwin and we hope to do more with him.

Goodwin appears to be an exceptional engineer even if he doesn't think he is - much like TV craftsman Norm Abram, who never finished college. Goodwin is a great expression of the self-made individual for whom I have always had abiding respect. In my town, I am friends with three highly successful people who never set foot in college. These people are living proof that when your professional life is tallied up, it's the deeds that count, not where you went to college or how much time you spent there. I was always struck when covering the life sciences that you can't get anywhere unless Ph.D. is stamped on your forehead.

Here in the Northeast, there's an obsession with attending Ivy League and top name schools. And indeed, these schools graduate many students destined for glory, money and achievement. But when you get into the South, Midwest and West (Goodwin is an Alabama native who now lives in Wichita, KS), where you went to college matters not a wit. I chuckle when I hear kids who grew up in California say they've never heard of many prestigious and expensive New England colleges.

As for crummy engineering instructors, one explanation is that schools tend to cater to the professors, not the students. A new progressive engineering school that's tackling many of these problems is the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, MA. Ironically, its board has members from several established engineering schools suggesting the need to change is widely recognized.

And how about that Johnathan Goodwin?

Write me at [email protected] or comment at my blog, Design Engineering at Large.

Johnathan Goodwin swaps H1 and H2 Hummer engines for diesels.

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