1960 Mercedes-Benz Type 190Db
Ponton sedan with Webasto sunroof

The "Little Yellow Submarine" / Powered by B100 (biodiesel) fuel

former owner: Gail Levey / Capitola, California / gaillevey@yahoo.com

My 1960 Mercedes-Benz Type 190Db Ponton sedan with lemon yellow paint, bright tie-dye upholstery and white Webasto sunroof is easy to spot in the parking lot!

Not too long ago, on the International Ponton Owners Group (IPOG) forum, I began discussing the problems I was having starting my diesel on freezing cold mornings—like when it gets down to around 40° (F). Then someone who lived in the northeast US said that both he and his diesel consider 40° to be warm!

I will cheerfully admit to being a brat. My family has been in the Central Coast / San Francisco area of California for generations, so my blood is thin. When I was a teen, my mom bought the last coat I owned – a "Maxi", which looked oh-so-cool with my knee-high lace-up boots. I have one pair of heels, garden clogs, tennis shoes and three pairs of flip-flops – one with sparkly beads for those special occasions. If it rains or sinks below 49°, I whine and wear the tennis shoes. Lower than 45°, and the sweaters are retired in favor of the knee-length red cape.

Here is my (home grown?) solution for pre-glowing the Little Yellow Submarine's diesel engine. Dear readers, this was known as a "roach clip" when I was a kid.

As far as not being able to start the diesel in cold winter weather (about 40°) pumping the accelerator pedal like a maniac was my problem! Thanks for the advice on holding the pedal to the floor while cranking. 

The cold start method prescribed by Mercedes-Benz is here: Starting a Cold Mercedes-Benz Diesel Engine.

The glow plug coil on the dashboard had been replaced in the last couple of years by the friend who gave her to me, who is a very creative fellow, so the repairs on my Little Yellow Submarine have been pretty special. The photo above shows my "start clip." I have to clip the two wires together, then let the glow plug get hot enough to burn my thumb, then crank. After she fires, the clip is removed. We used to call them "roach clips" when I was a kid - an "alligator clip" is politically correct I suppose, but take a look at my new seat covers, and you will see why roach clip may be more appropriate. I have ordered a 40 amp toggle switch that looks as if all I need to do is attach the crimped spade lugs at the wire ends to the screws at the back of the switch. I figured I bloody well better find something more conventional than a "roach clip", just in case my Submarine manages to break 65 mph going downhill on Highway 1, and the California Highway Patrol pulls me over!

Part of the need for the "roach clip" is the non-conforming electrical system. The fuse box has been bypassed and the electrical system is number one on the list to be restored. I am going to drive her through the summer (2005) and begin the systems restoration this winter. While I very much enjoy the wacky interior, I want her to be mechanically correct, as much as possible anyway. I am going to teach myself how to be a "pontoon" mechanic.

The fuse box cover is missing, and there seems to be a quite a few open slots. The red fuses are probably rated for 16A.  They should all be white ceramic 8A fuses.  The black fuses in the left end of the box may be the older 8A fuses before they changed over to white. The brake fluid canister indicates that the fluid is low but the system has since been flushed and topped off.

Far out man! These are my new seat covers. Note the wide bench seat. This is before the green shag carpeting was installed.

No Astro Turf here, this is honest to goodness green shag carpeting. I may use pink shag for the headliner if I can't find another matching sheet of tie dye. I have the best time driving her around town and my diesel smoke smells like a BBQ! On the other hand, my son thinks the car is "too hard to drive."

No, honestly officer, that's the "diesel start clip."

When asked if the dome light was a black light I said, "A black light? What a GREAT idea! If only they made them that small!"

The Webasto roof is such a nice feature.

I am in Capitola, California so B100 (biodiesel) is easy to find. We have the soybean guy in Ben Lomond who imports it from the midwest and several home cooker co-ops around the county. Going 50-50 in the freezing winter weather (low 40s) is the way to go unless I install a pre-warmer. I may do just that. My repair and replace list is so long that one more thing will not make a big difference. The 190Db uses B100, not straight veggie oil, so the only conversion needed was swapping the natural rubber seals and hoses out for synthetic ones, and only those in direct contact with the fuel. Life is good with B100, my mileage is great - 35 to 40 MPG and I think within the next five years the availability will improve, driving the price down. In 2005, I paid $3.00 to $3.70 per gallon (USD).

Now that I can start my Little Yellow Submarine in the cool early mornings, I can fly it to work! Thanks again IPOGers - Cheers!


Created: July 8, 2005 / Jeff Miller
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