Extreme DIY car mods: Volvo with a wood-burning stove for heat

Wood burns in a stove as Pascal Prokop drives his totally baller 1990 Volvo 240 station wagon during cold winter weather on a road near the town of Mettmenstetten, some 25 kilometres south of Zurich, on February 9, 2012. Prokob built in the stove by himself and got an operating permit by the Swiss technical inspection authority. As I publish this blog post, it is 15ºF in the town where he lives and drives.

Pros: S'mores while driving are possible. Cons: the stove occupies the spot where one's significant other might be seated. Oh, and, you know: fire?

(REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)


  1. I just thought of another Con: Accidentally being engulfed in flames while you’re driving down the road. 

    That kind of thing could lead to a serious accident.  

    1. Pros: mentioned on Boing Boing. 

      Cons: carbon monoxide poisoning; carcinogen inhalation; contributing to climate change; car accident danger; and much more!

        1.  Maybe so, but there’s nothing lamer than going to a hair salon to get a trendy mohawk, or some derivative. 

      1. You don’t contribute to climate change by using a wood-burning stove, that’s illiterate !
        Try to learn the difference between fossil and non-fossil fuels.
        Heating with wood from controlled forests has a positive impact on the carbon footprint of humanity.

        1. Heating with wood from controlled forests has a positive impact on the carbon footprint of humanity.

          I’m sure that’s exactly what’s happening here. He’s probably got that thing rigged with a trilithium carbon recapture filter, too.

          1.  From what I understand, most forestry in Europe is managed: we don’t have the vast tracts of unused virgin forested land that the Americas have. Those trees you see through the window look like managed plantations, which is as you’d expect near the largest city in Swizerland.

            So: yes. That *is* exactly what’s happening here.

        2. Yeah, cause CO2 from dinosaurs is the “dirty” version; CO2 released from trees is “green.”
          (That being said, it looks like a very cool contraption.)

          1.  Yes, actually. One is recaptured carbon. Growing the trees for it sequesters the carbon into the ground in their roots. Result: net reduction in CO2.

  2. I lived in pup tent with a wood floor for awhile. The volume of my tent easily exceeded the volume of a car’s interior. This tent had a wood stove much, much smaller than the one in this picture and even with a small amount of wood in it, you were easily sweating through your shirt, unless it was a very cold night. I don’t understand how the side of this guy’s face isn’t red and blistered. Does look a little pink, I guess…

    Plus, you know, carbon monoxide. It doesn’t look like it has an external air supply…

    But I guess one problem solves the other. Too hot? Roll down the window!

  3. He got approval. Clearly, a rational risk/reward assessment has been made. I could prefer he keep the door shut and have proper pyrolisys of the wood, because there is a bunch of bad NO and other crap coming out, but that aside, I see nothing here but pragmatic, viable alternatives.

    Do I want this on the bus to work in Brisbane? No. 

    1. It was probably only opened for the picture. Be a pretty dull shot if you couldn’t see any actual fire.
      He should rig up some kind of steam system to run a generator and help power his car. Germans built a wood fueled bug in WWII when fossil fules were running short, doing something similar seems right up this guy’s alley.

  4. Mid – 70’s…  Directly across from Santa Fe NM Station… Snow flurries… Old Chevy panel van… Chimney out the roof, smoking…
    Sorta miss my home, sweet  mobile home. Moved into a VW Bug that spring, lived in it till the holidays, San Diego to Port Townsend WA.

  5. ’62 VW Beetle, with the “gas heater” option; anyone remember those? The heater was a combustion chamber in the leg well under the glove box. The “gas” was gasoline, tapped via rubber hose from the tank. IIRC, it operated from a two-position switch…perhaps Prime and Ignite? The only clear memories I have of the thing that were that you held your breath, flipped to position 1 for a moment, then flipped to position 2. Five seconds after the massive fump!-wooosh — in which time the interior temp easily rose to 80°F — you shut that sucker down and gave brief thanks that you were still alive to smell the afterburn.

    Burning wood seems like a step up.

    1. Skydiving is fun and safe. Driving in a car with a wood stove isn’t nearly as fun and ten times more dangerous.

  6. Ok commentards, how does he get any CO in the car? As long as it has a reasonably sealed chimney as soon as the vehicle moves there will be a suction that will draw all the smoke out the chimney. The vehicle will actually have quite a bit of ventilation, they all do hidden away in the boot and exiting under the bumper.
    Most of the time it should run with the door shut so the air inlet valve to the burner is probably only about 3″ diameter.

    1. I agree that vehicles aren’t exactly the tightest structures in the world. There’s probably quite a bit of leakage. I suppose the best way to check would be for you to run a hose from your exhaust into the interior of your car.  

  7. There’s a guy in Whitehorse, Yukon who lives in a big Chevy van who has a woodstove in it. I’ll dig up a pic of the chimney puffing away out the roof! :D

  8. This is an impressive mod, but is 15ºF supposed to impress us? That would have been typical for Chicago winters when I had a Volvo 850 sedan back in the 1990s. Although it had a flaky electrical system, the heating system ( + seat heaters) worked just fine.

    1. This is just weird.  I have a 1997 Volvo 960 wagon that was originally sold in the San Francisco Bay Area, so it has zero window tinting (except for the sun roof).  Because it’s a wagon, the eight large windows and two small ones make for one big greenhouse on hot sunny days, and the air conditioning seems to have been designed for the mildest of Stockholm summers, since it only blows a tepid cool breeze out the dash vents, and then only when the outside air is under 95 degrees F.

      But the heater works like a sonofabitch, and even the seats and rearview mirrors are heated.  It’s currently for sale ($2200–cheap!), but I expect I’ll have a tougher time unloading it in toasty LA than I would somewhere where it occasionally snows or something.

      1. I wish that they made cars with cooling packages instead of heating packages for sale here on Arrakis. A solar roof fan and a setting that would start the A/C when you hit the keyless entry would be a good start.

        1. That “Vader kid” Volkswagen with the remote start would certainly be a help.  The AC needs the engine running to operate, so any AC-equipped vehicle with a remote start should meet your needs… just leave the AC controls on when you shut off the car and they’ll fire right back up when the car starts.

          Heck, dealer-installed remote start systems have been around for years, but some automakers are starting to include the system from the factory.  Ford started doing this last year.

      2. You need to get someone to drive it to the midwest.  Volvos work great in Chicago, for example, and it’s worth a lot more than $2,200 around here.

  9. Now if this was also the engine combustion he would have a winner. I seem to remember reading that there are quite a few wood burning trucks used in North Korea due to the lack of fuel. E voila! http://www.flickr.com/photos/mytripsmypics/5104063999/

  10. >Cons: the stove occupies the spot where one’s significant other might be seated.

    If your SO is anything like mine when you’re driving, that isn’t a con.

  11. I spent a pretty significant part of my childhood in a VW bus heated by a kerosene heater.  Roughly half my parents “hilarious” stories about my childhood involve me nearly freezing to death in the middle of nowhere, driving all up and down the Rockies.  

      1. What is that? It made me think of Sister Ann, what with the white suit and evangelical style. But I didn’t get it or the connection – ‘splain me? (I should probably watch it again to see if i can figure it out myself, but it scared me a little…)

  12. I install stoves for a living.
    This guy made the beginner mistake : the flue pipes are upside-down ! All the soot condensate will drip from the junctions and stain the stove.
    Also, to work properly, that stove needs at least two meters and a half of flue pipes above to generate enough depression. This and a cold air intake.
    The output must be pretty shitty when he drives.

    1. I’m quite certain, given the short clearance in the car, that might  be double-wall stovepipe.  

      I had noticed (for probably the tenth time) just last week, that the stovepipe on my wood stove looked like it had been installed upside down for the last six years.  Then I remembered that I have double-wall pipe.

      In any case, as a Canadian citizen, at this point I’m obligated by federal law to say: “-10degC?  Pfft!  It barely cold enough to bother zipping up your jacket.”

  13. I met a guy in Seattle a number of years back that had a truck with a wood burning furnace in it that somehow powered the engine. I seem to recall the smoke was piped into the engine and becomes combustible under pressure, but I’m not the most mechanically inclined person in the world so I may have the details wrong.

    1. there was a caller on a recent airing of the npr show “car-talk” who recounted a story about seeing a similar rig in post-war europe, but the hosts could not seem to figure out how it could have worked.

  14. Yo dawg, I heard you like internal combustion machines, so I put an internal combustion machine inside your car, so you can, uh, internally combust while driving your internal combustion machine.(?)

  15. well he’s set if he gets stuck in a snow storm.  just forage for wood to burn for heat until the rescue team shows up.

  16. ^tl;dr comments section: 

    If he gets into a serious accident, he might have a serious accident.
    His haircut is funny.
    The fire isn’t hot enough. 
    The wood he burns is contributing too much to global warming.
    He should just wear gloves and a hat to keep warm.
    He should have just made his car run on wood.
    He needs to get off of my lawn with his loud music and his low pants.

  17. I see this turning into a modder/ricer scene:

    – poorly-built chinese wood stoves in civics
    – stovepipe exhausts used as stovepipe exhausts
    – neon lights on the stove and/or above the car to illuminate the smoke at night

Comments are closed.