I've been reading on the site for a while and finally have a specific question/created an account. Our expedition vehicle of choice is a 1991 F250 7.3l IDI. It's going to have a custom flatbed and permanently mounted home-built camper for some summer, primarily winter adventuring. Part of the allure of this truck was the ability to run veggie oil and/or biodiesel for free/cheap fuel while on-the-go. The main pitfall of this engine however is its reluctance to start in the cold without some kind of warmer in the engine block. Plugging in is the obvious and easy solution, but we're hoping to do some extending winter ski trips where we may not have access to an outlet for several days or more at a time, in potentially quite cold temperatures (zero deg. F or colder). Using a plug in + generator is another option, but is also heavy and space-consuming. I have a third idea and wanted to run it through here to see what folks thought.
Our camper will be a bit different from most commercial models as we're going to emphasize space inside rather than conveniences. No plumbing, fridge, or toilet but we will have a small woodstove for heat and optimal drying of wet snowy gear. In researching winter heating solutions for these types of engines it seemed as though an Espar heater was the ideal solution (http://www.polarmobility.com/fuel+fi...t+heaters.html - main Espar webpage seems to be down at the moment). These units, however, are more expensive than our budget really permits as this is a highly DIY project with a much smaller budget than many of the rigs featured on this website!
My thought was to use the woodstove to heat a coolant coil, and then have a secondary water pump that could be used to circulate the hot coolant through the engine to pre-warm it before starting on very cold days. Same principle as the Espar but using wood rather than diesel. The coolant loop through the camper could be sealed from the main coolant system for normal operation of the truck, opened with a cold engine and woodstove on to heat the engine block, opened with the engine running and woodstove cold to provide some radiant heat to the camper from the engine while driving, or closed and circulating with the woodstove on to provide radiant heat (floors?) in the camper. The last two options may not be realistic because too much heat would be lost into the camper to properly heat the engine block if it were designed to act as a radiant heat source, but was just an idea to consider.
What do folks on here think about this idea? Worth pursuing? Worthless? I would greatly appreciate any input you might have, especially information from someone who has set something like this up or considered but rejected it.
Thanks for the advice.