Car-exhaust oven, 1930

Decades before Manifold Destiny (the engine-block roadkill cookbook) Modern Mechanix published this guide to cooking with waste-heat from your car-exhaust while camping. Given that this was back in the era of leaded gasoline, I'm sure the car-exhaust imparted a magic flavor to the chow.
MEALS can literally be cooked on the run through the use of the automatic cooker shown in the photo above. The cooker is mounted on the rear bumper of the motor tourist’s car and an extension from the exhaust pipe connected up with it, as shown in the insert. The cooker contains a steam pressure kettle which is heated by the hot exhaust gases. An hour’s drive is quite sufficient to thoroughly cook meats and vegetables. Total weight of the unit is so slight that running qualities of the car remain quite unaffected. Motor tours are much more pleasant when one is assured of a well-prepared meal at the end of the trip.


  1. When I was in the army we used to wrap food in foil and wire it to the exhaust manifold while we moved between sites on exercises. There’s nothing like rolling in to a snow-covered German field in deepest winter and tucking into a hot meal within seconds!!

  2. “The cooker contains a steam pressure kettle…”

    The exhaust never touched the food. It was used to heat the sealed container that the food was in.

  3. My tale’s similar to #1’s except I was a paperboy in the late 1970s for the Herald Examiner here in Los Angeles and our supervisor would roll up in the afternoons to the drop point on Third street and Wilton Place, deliver us our bundles of that day’s edition and then crack open the hood of his old Ford pick-up where he’d remove a bundle of foil-wrapped hot dogs wired against the engine and set ’em up with a bag o’ buns and condiments on the tailgate. Those were the days.

  4. Move over, exhaust crock pot! My father cooked my baby formula on the radiator of our Jeep in the middle of Minnesota winter.

  5. Just last year I used my hot engine regularly to heat my lunch. While working on a remote construction project I would bring foil wrapped burritos and such, then set them on the hotest parts of my engine once I got to the construction site. I’d come back an hour later and have warm (not hot) burritos. No wiring of anything involved, not cooking, just warm lunch.

  6. @10: Dumping your poorly wrapped, sloppy food onto a high-voltage motor control unit. Bring insulated gloves and a fire extinguisher just in case.

  7. You might remember that the old Volkswagen Beetle used the exhausts heat surplus to warm the inside of the car. It had an air cooled motor, so no liquid coolant to do the job. A sleeve was wrapped around the exhaust pipe and cold air from inside the car was circulated in the sleeve and back in the car. Our Canadian winters (and over generous use of calcium on the roads) soon rusted then perforated the whole contraption, permitting the mix of stale inside air with fresh exhaust gazes. Mmmmh!? Of course, on really cold days, you could also count on the optional gas heather, that used gas from the tank, and brought your gas mileage to a few miles per gallon (and also shortened your life drastically…).

  8. @ RAWBEAR,

    Oh heck yeah, I remember that. Couldn’t use the heat because exhaust would fill the car. There were even some holes rusted through the floorboards and it got cold. Not quite as bad for a passenger, who could wrap their feet in layers of old blankets, but total hell on the driver.

    I remember a nighttime midwinter trip, when I was on the road for three hours. At my destination, I got out of the car and promptly hit the pavement. My feet were so numb from the cold that I couldn’t balance on them or walk.

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