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Which Cars and Trucks Make Good Candidates for Conversion to Vegetable Oil?

The author knows a lot about cars and motorcycles, especially older and more affordable ones.

The 1st Generation Rabbit is a great candidate for WVO conversion.

The 1st Generation Rabbit is a great candidate for WVO conversion.

What Cars Can Run on Vegetable Oil?

With the recent interest in alternative fuels, especially waste vegetable oil, many people wonder which vehicles are suitable to be converted to run on these fuels. While many diesel-engine vehicles are available for sale in the U.S., not all of them are suitable for a conversion to run on waste vegetable oil.

Here are some car and truck models that are good candidates for conversion, some models that have features that could interfere with conversion, and a final list of further suggestions for models that may be converted.

The Volkswagon Vanagon makes for a great WVO conversion.

The Volkswagon Vanagon makes for a great WVO conversion.

Common and Easy-to-Convert Cars

These diesel cars common on the streets of the U.S are also the easiest to convert to vegetable oil fuel.


Volkswagen has a great reputation for reliability and longevity with their diesel engines. These are the Volkswagens that are recommended for WVO conversions throughout the industry. The earlier models can be found for very little money and will run for a very long time if they are looked after.

The Vanagon was only offered in the U.S. with a Diesel for the 1982 model year, which makes them somewhat hard to find and unusually expensive when in good condition. Dasher and Quantum models are not all that common, but they are out there; some parts on these two models are hard to find due to their relative obscurity.

These cars are workhorses and—with the exception of the turbo models—won't get you anywhere fast.

  • 1977–1984 Rabbit, Jetta, Vanagon, Dasher, Quantum
  • 1984–1992 Golf, Jetta, Quantum, Passat
  • 1996–1999.5 Golf, Jetta, Passat, New Beetle
  • 2002–2003 Golf, Jetta, Passat, New Beetle

Mercedes Benz

Mercedes Benz was also very well known for the robustness of their diesel engines and manufacturing quality. Their cars of this era are blessed by unusually cheap parts and wonderful parts availability.

As far as drivability goes, they are leaps and bounds above Volkswagen's offerings for the same time period.

  • 1965–1968 200D
  • 1968–1973 220D
  • 1973–1983 240D
  • 1975–1985 300D (TD, SD, and SDL)
Dodge Ram

Dodge Ram

Common and Easy-to-Convert Trucks

These are some common diesel trucks that are good candidates for conversions.


These trucks seem to be available everywhere and for very little money. But it can be very hard to find one in good condition; most of them were run into the ground as work trucks. These trucks are not very fast, and they are pretty loud.

  • 1983–1994 6.9L and 7.3L. Used in F250 and F350 trucks, Econoline Vans, and Light Commercial Trucks.


These trucks are great. The 5.9L Cummins motor is considered the best offered in the U.S. during this time period. They are known as 1,000,000-mile motors due to their longevity.

These trucks are incredibly strong. Many people bought these trucks for recreational purposes when they were new, which means that examples in great condition with four-wheel drive are fairly common. These generally fetch a higher price than the equivalent Fords from the same period.

  • 1989–1993 Cummins 5.9L 12 Valve 1st Gen VE Rotary Injection Pump
  • 1994–1998.5 Cummins 5.9L 12 Valve 2nd Gen P7100 Inline Injection Pump

These common vehicles are not recommended for WVO conversion because of these known issues.


  • 1994.5–1997 Powerstroke 7.3L (Reason: Stock fuel filter issues.)
  • 1999–2003 Powerstroke 7.3L (Reason: Fuel routing issues)

Chevy/ GMC

  • 1982–2000 6.2L/6.5L (Reason: Injection pumps famous for catastrophic failure when using WVO!)


  • 1999.5–2001 1.9L TDI (Reason: Known for hit-or-miss quality on early 4th generation models.)


  • 1998.5–2002 Cummins 5.9L 24 Valve (Reason: VP44 injection pump does not hold up to WVO.)
International Scout

International Scout

Other Candidates for WVO Conversion

Here are some other vehicles offered with diesel engines in this country. These are by no means all of them, just some that may pop up in your search. I have left larger commercial vehicles off the list.

  • International. Scout available from 1976 with SD-33 Nissan Diesel, 1980 With SD-33T Nissan Turbo Diesel
  • Toyota. A very few 40 and 60 Series Land Cruisers are around with diesels in them. Most are Grey Market. No 80 Series were imported to the U.S. with diesel engines, although some private owners have performed conversions. Pickups were available with 2L N/A diesel and 2LT turbo diesel engines; these optional engines were cancelled in the U.S. in 1985.
  • Isuzu. Isuzu "P'up" pickup trucks pop up from time to time with diesel engines. I have come across a few early Troopers with diesel engines; I'm not sure if these were official imports or grey market.
  • Peugeot. These cars are by no means common in this country. If you look hard enough, you can find a few 504s and 505s with diesels in them. I can't vouch for quality though.
  • Land Rover. Older series models only; newer models were only imported with gas engines. Numerous Discoverys, Defenders, and Range Rovers have had diesel conversions performed on them by owners using genuine LR parts, but these are generally considered emissions illegal.
  • Jeep. A few early-model XJ Cherokees were sold with the 2.1L Renault diesel engine. Definitely not known for quality, most of these died a slow painful death a long time ago. Some 2005-2006 Liberty models were sold with a 2.8L VM Motori diesel engines; these got good reviews. I have been told that they are not candidates for WVO but time will tell. Grand Cherokees were available for 2006-2007 with a Mercedes Benz OM642 3.0L V6. I have also been told that these are not good conversion candidates.
  • Mercedes Benz. Mercedes has offered a lot of diesel-powered vehicles in this country aside from the ones listed above.
  • Volvo. I have stumbled onto a few 240s with diesels and heard rumors of 760s but have yet to see one in the U.S.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2009 ttravis5446