SuperTruck: Clutch and the Milwaukee Electric Car Club

by Ben N on May 12, 2013

I was down at the Milwaukee Makerspace today, as the second Sunday of the month is Electric Car Club meeting today.

It was also Mother’s Day, so I woke up early to make from-scratch waffles for my wife, before sneaking off to play with cars and batteries.

Tom L. was there with his Electric El Camino, which I haven’t seen since he set up his new battery pack. All the lithium cells are under the hood now, along with some spiffy LED lighting. Also new to me was his redneck Air-Conditioning system. Instead of some complicated and expensive high-voltage car AC unit, he simply installed a home window air conditioning unit, by way of Sawzall. The hole he cut was nice and clean with the air conditioner sitting at the front of the bed, and the cold end poking into the cab. He has a very compact universal power inverter to run pack voltage (about 180VDC) to 120V AC.


IMG_0920IMG_0921Meanwhile, Tom G. was replacing his old lead-acid batteries in his Dodge Neon with a very affordably purchased new pack. The toughest part was reaching the batteries in the middle, which we pulled out with a cross-bar going to a battery lifter.

I also go to talk with Tom a bit about using a wall-powered AC Drive to test the AC motor in the flood-damaged Mitsubishi i-MIEV. I look forward to jacking up the back of that car and spinning the tires with wall power!


Kevin was also there, with his Paul&Sabrinas Open Revolt motor controller kit. He has the logic board assembled and plans to start work soon on the power section.

I headed into the other room to pull out my diesel engine and other parts to dive back into working on the SuperTruck project. I’ve been busy with other things and haven’t had a chance to do much on it lately. My components have been shrink-wrapped up and stowed since the Makerspace moved this winter.

I peeled back the plastic and re-familiarized myself with the parts. It’s a bit of a mix of Mercedes and Chevy S10 components, and frankly, they all look the same to me! I had to dig through the parts and see what things lined up to remember what I actually had there!

The engine is from a 1980’s Mercedes 240D. It was originally connected to an automatic transmission. Unfortunately, the flywheel between a manual and automatic transmission is different. So, I hunted down a used flywheel from a MANUAL transmission 240D.

I had also special ordered a clutch and matching cover plate from a racing supplier. I told them that I wanted a clutch that would fit inside the Mercedes flywheel, but the center hub needed to match the driven shaft of the Chevy S10 manual transmission.


I threaded on the manual flywheel to the engine with three flywheel bolts and then fit in the the clutch and cover plate. It all looked like it fit correctly. After that, I propped the S10 transmission up close to the engine. The flywheel fits inside the Chevy bell housing.

The driven shaft in the transmission may be just a tad short. The hole in the center of the engine crankshaft is both fairly large and deep, so maybe I can put a support bearing in there that’s spaced out just a bit?


Of course the main thing I have to do is build an adapter plate that fits the engine and transmission together. That’s not all that different from the mounting plate in my electric Geo Metro to mount the electric motor and transmission together.

Another issue is that the location of the starter is completely different between the two engines. I’m not sure if that will be a problem or not. I think that perhaps at the worst, it would just mean modifying the Chevy bell housing. Nothing a Sawzall can’t fix!

I was also thinking about the best way to attach the electric motor (which I don’t actually have yet. Tom G. is keeping an eye out for me at the salvage yards) to the transmission. One Electric Car Club member was looking it over and suggested using HALF the U-joint from the drive shaft to another half a U-joint to the motor tail-shaft. Apparently, using the u-joint to connect components from different brands is quite common.

I’d know that if I ever actually worked on cars.

The other thing that I’ve found out about working on custom car projects – hang out with old guys. OK, not actually that old, but at least guys who worked on traditional car systems when they were younger. They have good ideas about parts interchange and ways to do things that can be accomplished with some straight-forward garage technology and can-do attitude.

So, anyways, at least I feel like I’m a little further along on this project. Maybe next I’ll try giving Hot Rod Jim a call and see what it would take to make an adapter plate while centering the engine and tranny to each other.



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