Marty Sederberg will drink your beer, tell you stupid stories, and pull your chain. And his company, NW Mitsubishi Diesel, promises you won’t find a lower level of service anywhere in the rural area. We love their style. Get to know someone doing engine swaps that you DON’T read about in the glossy magazines.
How would you introduce yourself to the global gearhead community?
What do you drive, why do you have it/them, and how do you use it/them?
Marty Sederberg, native Washingtonian born in the capital city of Olympia. Forty one years old, brought up on Olympia beer with occasional forays with Hamm’s, Pabst and Makers Mark. [I’m a] semi-retired contractor, home inspector, bus driver and vehicle junkie.
I was raised by a messed up family.
Namely, a Republican father and a Democrat mother. My father owned/owns an auto body repair facility, and was a car nut. Needless to say, this rubbed off. Between American iron, drag boats and airplanes, I got the itch early on. As any good, rebellious, liberal offspring should do, I revolted against my father (mom is so proud) and took up interest in things foreign and esoteric.
A desire for oddball cars has led me down the path of constant change.
Although I have had my share of domestic, high cubic inch rolling stock, foreign, small displacement vehicles are the socially responsible way to approach life. My first odd ball was a 1959 Mercedes 220, four on the column, straight six… what a dog. Next most memorable vehicle was a 1980 RHD/JDM Fairlady Z 2+2.
As I have issues with my fathers business practices, I sent the car into his shop for a complete re-paint under the name of Kaiser Sose. It ended badly… however the car turned out great. Got bored with that…
More recently, I started attending an event called Burningman. The arts group I belong to had a vehicle that was built upon a Montero chassis, it was a metal skull that you could drive around the desert and it was called MONSTERO! Very cool rig. Anyway, I took responsibility for the vehicle after it was lit on fire by drunkards (imagine that!) and that was how I fell in love with older Mitsubishi products.
The turbo diesel Starion
Since that time, I have owned, modified, imported, sold, wrecked, cut up, detsroyed, bought and forgotten more that twenty of them. Currently I have a 1990 RHD JDM turbo diesel Pajero, a 1992 RHD JDM turbo diesel Delica, two LHD turbo diesel converted Monteros with five speeds, two Starion/Conquests which will become one turbo diesel Sports car. Also I see a 1987 Mitsubishi Panel van in the yard, and I cannot remember the motivation for buying that.
Just now I remember buying my ex wife a Dodge Colt back a million years ago! Blue, she rolled it. And another friend had a Starion back in high school… ah the memories come flooding back. Anyway…
I drive my Pajero and the LHD Montero as daily drivers. I figure this is my Alzheimer prevention regimen, as the synapses have to keep up when you switch between LHD and RHD several times each day. The biggest issue to this is the windshield wipers and blinkers… Primarily the only driving I do is around town, freeway, and towing other cars home. The 2.3 liter turbo diesel with the bigger turbo and five speed work well for my towing needs. Rarely do I need a bigger rig, as we primarily deal with the smaller Mitsubushis.
This weekend I will be borrowing a Dodge Cummins truck to bring a four door RHD diesel down from Canada for a customer. We will be performing a swap with the larger displacement engine into his LHD four door, and it turns out to be cheaper to buy a wrecked car from Canada for the swap as opposed to fabricating parts to make the engine fit. This particular vehicle has disk brakes on the tail end, so it will be a nice upgrade for him.
Turbo Diesel Drop Top Monty
I love the oddball cars, and diesel engines are way cool in my opinion. One of these days (soon), I will cut the top off of the tow Montero and make a summer cruiser for myself, as no convertible Mitsubishi products were made in that era. Perhaps I will get bored and cut the top off of a Starion… sounds like work.
The Secret is in the Wheelbase!
[At this point, Marty took a break to, as he put it, “go drive a forty five foot bus arouns Seattle for a few hours.”] Remind me to tell you about drifting forty five foot MCI buses some time. It takes a knack, wide open snow and ice covered parking lots, and once you get them sideways, it is a serene experience compared to Starions and Monteros, the secret is in the wheel base!
How has the market for small displacement diesel conversions changed in recent years? Why do you think that is?
How difficult are these conversions, generally speaking? What should people know before striking out on this path?
Well, hmm… I dunno. The market for conversions is big and small. Most people (NW hippies and frugal rednecks) want the diesel engines either for economy or redneck/cool factor, however most don’t want to pay for or cannot pay for a decent set up. The conversions we have been doing used decent runner mid mileage engines, and we were selling them in the Montero chassis for forty five hundred bucks (US$4500). Some people thought that was a high price, but a rebuilt engine long block is US$2500. Labor for the conversion is US$1500. Chassis, fluids, miscellaneous conversion parts are another five to seven hundred dollars (US$500-$700). A decent, used runner [running, platform to receive the diesel – Ed.] is US$1000-$1300 in our area.
People are People
A US$4500 runner and driver is pretty rock bottom price. People want a pristine, low mileage or rebuilt rig that they can run WVO in, and they want to pay 1500 bucks for one. I dont really get people sometimes… but that’s the way it goes. A nice RHD diesel can be had in Canada for forty five hundred, but getting them licensed is a bit tricky. That price will get you a 115-195,000 KM vehicle ( 90-120,000 miles). They usually have maintenance needs, but for six grand you can get a cool factory rig in good shape with all proper and necessary updates.
The Coolest Part
The coolest part about the Mitsubishi product is that the older engines are a one wire engine – very simple – and the parts are relatively easy to get. You can hang bigger turbos on them, crank up the injection pumps, replace the exhaust, and they are quite fun… and you can run BIO/WVO in them easily.
Now, I think Small Displacement Diesels (SDD) have become more desirable due to the cost of fuel, the cost of war, and the interest in bio fuels and the environment. The down side is that they require a certain understanding and knack! I’m not gonna write what I want to say, but I will say that I have sold several of the converted rigs to members of the opposite sex, and let me just say, I wish I had never done that!
Once a diesel is running and warm, they are the best darn things ever. Getting them going, especially in the cold, can be an uncertain experience – even for those people that are knowledgeable. A factory diesel vehicle with automated glow plugs and fuel heaters is easier, but still needs a touch. Our conversions use a simple glow plug actuator, so you have to warm them up properly!
The Importance of OEM Equipment
If you choose to do a conversion, and specifically with a Mitsubishi, Toyota, or Nissan product, check your make and model! If it was made elsewhere in a different configuration (ie: RHD, Four door, coupe, etc…) in diesel, then you will want to get the correct parts from overseas or from a wrecked rig up north. As an example, I order the proper oil pick up tube, crank cap bolt and proper nut from over seas for our conversion. We modify an oil pan and put it all together for a factory fit and service durability.
Re-engineering something is a pain in the posterior… and not generally as durable as the correct part. If you can buy a low KM total loss from our brothers and sisters up north [Canada – Ed.], you can generally get it cheap, have all the proper mounts, brackets, and hardware for a swap. I would never recommend getting a “good deal” on an out of vehicle engine, because as I have witnessed (guys call me for an engine, I tell them what I want for a complete swap set up, they freak, find one elsewhere, and then end up calling me, begging for all the parts they need to do their project) those good deals cost more time and energy that just biting the bullet and getting the right stuff.
Not to beat a dead horse, but finding a guy or gal who knows his stuff and specifically the tricks for a particular make is SO IMPORTANT! There are so many little things that make all the difference in a project. Trying to drop a Cummins into a Mercedes is a STUPID idea (but darn cool if it ever gets completed). If you want a Toyota, stick with Toyota parts. As an example, we only deal with mid- to late-eighties Mitsubishi products.
The Best Approach
If I were to dabble in other makes, the only way I would even attempt it would be to select a make and model that was available from Canada for the reasons mentioned above. Buying a car here and deciding to make the swap would be backwards in my opinion. Finding the donor vehicle and parts first and then the domestic equivalent here with a blown engine would be a way better approach in my opinion. Once you have all the proper parts, then even an idiot like myself can perform a conversion with relative ease…
SDD cars are fun, unique, and great conversation starters. The parts are easy to get if you do some research, and they are fun to drive. Like I mentioned before, My next project will be a diesel sports car. Those particular cars (diesel Starions) get like 47 MPG! And how many Starions do you see around, much less diesel ones? And total cost for a weird car like that will be under five grand for a super nice one. How bizzare would a Starion WVO conversion car be? Or a Galant Estate wagon? The weirder the better in my opinion!
3 conversions: One you will never attempt again, one you would love to do more often, and one you dream about doing. Go.
Ok, well, the 1987 Ford Ranger was built using a Mitsubishi 2.3 liter turbo diesel, however in typical American arrogant engineering, Ford decided to make some changes to an otherwise fine power plant. The basics stayed the same, but all accessory systems were modified including alternator, drive pulleys, power steering set up, coolant routing, and the like.
I got a good deal on an out of vehicle engine, forty thousand miles on a re-manufactured Ford version engine. It took an extra ten hours to de-Ford the engine, and then we had to make brackets and re-Mitsubishi the engine to the best of our abilities. What a mess. The engine is in one of my Monteros – and runs and works fine – but it is now the odd duck in an otherwise consistent fleet.
I would not be motivated to go through that process again if I could help it. Another acquaintance converted a Mazda pick up truck that utilized the Mitsubishi 2.6 gas engine. He went from the 2.6 petrol to a 2.3 diesel, and had a heck of a time with mounts, pans, linkage and the like. He was a guy who wanted to buy an engine from me, and when told the price, went and found one elsewhere out of car. He has been to visit me countless times for misc. parts to make it work.
Conversions I want to do? Well, the dream project I have right now does not really involve doing an engine conversion, as we have those down already. What I really want to do is to aquire a 1988 JDM Mitsubishi Canter 2-ton stake bed truck (I know where this is parked, in my area, but the owner and I have a language barrier that is hindering the negotiations) and make a SDD motorhome out of it for my Burningman and camping excursions. It would be super cool to have a RHD diesel custom camper!
How long before your city bus gymkhana video goes viral on the YouTubes? (Tell me you’ve got pictures/video.)
I do not drive city busses (nose turned up in the air), I work for a private charter company, and we roll MCI (Motor Coach Industries) coaches that cost about 750 grand each. We recently hauled some presidential candidates to their NW events, so no low brow stuff for us, thank you very much!
Within the Motorcoach industry, we have what is called the Motorcoach Rodeo, which would be similar to the sport defined on Wikipedia as gymkhana. Drifting is not encouraged in that sanctioned event, and my coach drifting experiences in compact snow and ice covered parking lots was NOT VIDEO RECORDED! I will neither confirm nor deny I did such a thing, and any witnesses would have their credibility and sobriety called into question by my employment attorney during any court proceedings that may ensue due to publication of your article.
Where can people connect with you online beside NW Mitsubishi Diesel?
I enjoy 4x4wire.com, as it is a great forum for enthusiasts of different makes and models of off road capable vehicles. I have recently been enjoying an online magazine called gearboxmagazine.com, and I like the Delica Owners Club of Canada as well. You can of course see my pretty smiling face at urbandwelling.com, and you can enjoy more of my sarcastic humor at nwmitsubishidiesel.com. I’m always happy to shoot the breeze with people who need information that may be lodged in my head. If I don’t know the answer, I’m willing to make up an answer or even send people to the resources who may actually know the correct answer to the question.
- What do YOU think about small displacement turbo diesels?
- What makes/models do you wish you could get where you live with a diesel?