Who says environmentally sensitive vehicles have to be plain? Gene Schudlich used traditional hot rod tricks of chopping and sectioning to reduce aerodynamic drag on his 1980 VW diesel truck. The flat-black paint probably wasn't squirted on to absorb police radar waves, but rather gives the truck a hint of menacing, do-it-yourself rat-rod appeal.

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Schudlich has experience improving fuel economy with backyard driveway engineering. With a 1991 Geo Metro he chopped six inches from the roof, added high-pressure tires, switched to synthetic oils and modified the air intake to provide warm air. Fuel economy improved from an average of 36 to 42 mpg up to 47 mpg with a high of 70 mpg. Believing that biodiesel was a better way to go, Schudlich found the aging VW truck and promptly hacked 12 inches out of the roofline. He also narrowed the front nose slightly and added a 5-speed manual transmission. When all the metal surgery was finished, the VW lost 750 pounds. Schudlich uses B20 fuel. He hasn't changed any fuel lines but says he's keeping a watchful eye for deterioration. He has a goal of 80 mpg. Schudlich's craftsmanship may be a little crude--he admits he's not a great bodyworker--but he has more environmental spirit than those who buy hybrids out of fashion. I hope to see this VW at the next Kustom Kulture gathering with all the other rat rods. All Schudlich needs are a few tattoos, blue jeans with rolled-up pant legs and a skull's head shifter.

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