/ Matt Maranian / 4 am Fri, Sep 19 2014
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  • Maker Mayhem: Low Moments in How-To History, Part 7

    Maker Mayhem: Low Moments in How-To History, Part 7

    Automobile-Sized Refrigerator: When a cooler just isn’t cool enough. By Matt Maranian

    You’ve spent every spare second of the past month sequestered in your garage hacking your old Frigidaire; entire weekends have been lost to the obsessive sawing, sanding, and welding, the labeling of wires and tubes, and the exacting dissection and reassembling of its motor, compressor, and evaporator. Itchy from fiberglass dust and delirious from the cloud of noxious fumes rising from the spray of refrigerator enamel, you work late into each night, long after everyone’s gone to bed. You haven’t sat down to dinner with your own family in weeks. The lawn needs mowing. Your wife keeps haranguing you about taking out the garbage. Everything in your life has taken second place to your tricked-out station wagon with the tailgate fridge. mm-2

    Your family might think you’re a moron, but there’s nothing like an Automobile- Sized Refrigerator hard-wired to the battery of your car and loaded with ice-cold Schlitz to impress your fishing buddies when you head to the lake this weekend! But consider this scenario: en route you pull into a turnout at river’s edge to enjoy a lunch of refrigerated cold cuts, meatloaf sandwiches and a few brewskis. You shoot the shit. The time flies. Twilight hits. It’s time to pack it in and get back on the road if you want to make your campsite before sundown. But the car won’t start. You notice a couple of shadowy figures lurking in the pines just uphill. They see you. They’re carrying shotguns. You pray they take kindly to flatlanders. Fearing a misstep you accept their invitation to a possum supper just to prove that you and your friends aren’t snobs, but pay for it later in the way of food borne pathogens rendering your intestines into a liquefied, tape-worm-riddled wreck, and all because you never bothered to read the essential last sentence of this How-To: “It is not advisable to run the refrigerator very long with the car motor shut off or it will drain the battery.” Try and explain that to a wife who already thought you were a douche bag for wasting all your time on that project to begin with. mm-3

    Any similarities to actual events and characters to real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental, but this worst-case-scenario illustrates an important point: what good is an automobile refrigerator that only works when the car is running? Are you dismembering teenage hitchhikers and storing them in your trunk at 38° until you can get home to cook them? If you’re a finicky cannibal who insists on freshness, this boondoggle of a project might serve some sick purpose. Or maybe you’re one of those maniacs who refuses to make stops on long car trips—the sort of parent who puts grown children in diapers to make better time—in which case a traveling icebox would eliminate the need to stop for meals and may cut as much as two hours from a full day’s drive for a motoring sadist. Perhaps you just want to keep a weekend’s worth of perishable groceries cold until you reach your vacation cottage. If so, you’d better travel light because this auto-fridge hogs every square inch of trunk space, leaving no room for beach umbrellas, boogie boards, or luggage. But be sure to make some space for jumper cables. mm4


    Notable Replies

    1. The author wouldn't recognize cool if fifty pounds of dry ice bit his ass.

    2. Growing up we had a Vanagon camper van and took a long trip with it every summer. It had a mini-fridge sized refrigerator that ran off the alternator while the car was running and off LP gas when we stopped. Priming and igniting the fridge with the little piezo pumper thing was an important ritual before hiking up to see the thing.

      Prior to that we had had an older-style VW camper with an icebox. The fridge was a huge improvement.

    3. Peaked says:

      Yeah, this is a low point for this series. This is a legitimately useful and practical project, as evidenced by the wide array of commercially available vehicles that come with fridges built in. It's a pretty big stretch to imagine that it will somehow lead to some kind of Deliverance scenario, rather than building extra power storage into the car or one of the other, non-electric options other commenters have pointed out.

      It's interesting to me in that fridge modifications are a big thing for homebrewers. I've been fantasizing about the ideal customized kegerator for some time. This seems to entail the kind of heavy modification to the fridge itself that is generally discouraged, due to the risk of damage to the most expensive piece of the project if you accidentally cut part of the cooling system.

    4. This series should get a reboot without the dismissive tone. This was an era when things were designed to be repaired rather than replaced and there were lots of people who had these kinds of skills.

      We have one of those old handyman encyclopedias and there was a project that used the differential of a car hooked to external drive shaft of a tractor to make a post hole digger. That impressed me. Many accomplished engineers got their start on the farm, putting together equipment from the hardware scrap pile.

    5. And why not? Popular Mechanics contains quite some gems.

    Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

    26 more replies