Tom Leitschuh's electric 1981 Chevrolet El Camino, by Popular Mechanics
Now here's one we totally wish we'd thought of ourselves.
Since it takes 70,000 miles for a clunker replacement to compensate for the carbon emitted in its manufacturing, why not just convert a clunker into something greener?
Two diesels, two electrics
Kudos to our colleagues at Popular Mechanics, who found four great green conversions for keeping clunkers out of the scrapyard, two to electric power and two to diesel engines.
Technically, two of their four cars wouldn't qualify as clunkers; they were built before the 1984 cutoff.
Greener diesel drag cars
They weren't all built as green cars, either. In fact, both diesel conversions are very competitive drag racers (all that torque, you know).
Mike Cook's fitted his 1994 Mustang with a hot-rodded GM Duramax diesel engine that gave him 33 miles per gallon on a recent road trip. David Murad's Buick Regal (made of parts from an '81 Regal, an '82 Regal, and an '81 Oldsmobile Cutlass--read the story) gets 25 to 35 mpg.
In the same vein, Mike Willmon's electric '78 Ford Pinto is a ferocious drag competitor, with a 0-to-60-mph time of 3.5 seconds.
That's in the same league as the 2009 Tesla Roadster, at $109,000, but Willmon uses less pricey lead-acid batteries. Of course, he only has to go 0.25 miles, versus the Tesla's 200-mile range.
Only Tom Leitschuh's electric 1981 Chevrolet El Camino was built for road use, with a range of 100 to 120 miles and a top speed of 85 mph.
David Murad's 1981 Buick Regal with Duramax diesel, by Popular Mechanics