We are all aware of those unique individuals the rest of us sometimes have the privilege to meet while we are busy with our routine- someone who is an enigma to the “daily grind” type of existence; someone who inspires us, and in the very least, gives us a moment to pause and reflect on the choices that have led us to wherever we find ourselves. Sam Salwei is one of those unique individuals. Sam lives in the dreams he creates. More specifically, he lives in his car.
Maybe you’ve heard of the Peace Love Car, a 1988 Ford Festiva with it’s own Facebook page, fan stickers and t-shirts- even it’s own MOVIE. Having traveled over 510,000 miles, The PLC (as it is known to admirers) elicits smiles and happy human sounds everywhere it goes. Not only do people love to see it, they love to be seen with it. Photo opportunities abound and Sam indulges every one. A recent commenter on the PLC Facebook fan page, said, “Whenever i encounter that vehicle, my heart soars!”
Over all it’s years of travel and adventure, the PLC has become a public figure of sorts. It has developed a personality. It’s friends have as strong feelings toward this car as they might have for their beloved family pets. This fact alone brings sadness when we realize that the PLC cannot realistically continue to keep logging miles and in doing so, provide the stuff that dreams are made of. Sam and his trusty side kick, partner-in-grime, Raquel Hernandez- Cruz are now moving on to more reliable dirtbag digs- in the form of a glorified Ice Cream truck. I know that I am not the only one who is relieved to hear this news and know that the adventure will continue! If there is one thing that the Classic Peace Love Car has taught us, it is that the road never ends.
Intrigued, I availed myself of the opportunity to chat with Sam about his exciting new project. As the PLC2 is a dream set in motion, but yet to come to full fruition (Sam is a true idea man), there are many questions to be asked. I am beyond happy that Sam was willing to indulge my curiosity and give in-depth answers as to how, exactly, the spirit of the PLC1 will live on.
1) So, Sam, what we’re talking about is basically the Peace Love Car 2.0, right? Tell me about that.
After living out of the PLC (a 28 sq ft sub compact car) since 2009, I have learned a lot about what I need to survive and how vehicles are an extension of the energy you want to share with the world. The PLC1 has brought thousands of smiles and hundreds of conversations throughout the years. It was in 2013, while examining the subframe, that we noticed the axle to the unibody connection was starting to rust. This is a very dangerous place to have weakened by rust. We were saddened that our simple car, which had become- much more than just an object to people around the world- a symbol of freedom, was on it’s very last legs. So we launched an idea to immortalize the beloved PLC with the “RoadToWanderlustFilm.” Looking forward to the future, we are excited about the spirit a new vehicle will embody- combining the essence of the original PLC with what may come. Ben Fullerton of Caveman Collective, has been working and dreaming about this film since 2009 and after a successful kickstarter in 2015 the film is set to be finished in 2017. The PLC has set the bar pretty high but I think by our utilizing all the lessons we’ve learned over the years, by living in it, the next generation PLC will leave quite an impression!
2) The main characteristic of the PLC2 differentiating it from the PLC1 is- it’s a truck! Why did you choose it? When/where did you find it?
I found the truck in Missoula Montana, of all places, in 2014! I had been searching for the perfect body for our dream vehicle. It had to meet a long list of specific requirements. Because we are replacing the infamous PLC1, we needed something that was not only unique, but also spoke to us in a language we knew- possibility. We were looking for the smallest footprint so parking and off road mobility would be easy. We also wanted the largest internal space so we can fit all our gear (4 bikes, sup boards, packrafts, climbing gear, 15+ slacklines, longline rig, a veritable YogaSlackers “store’, kiteboard equipment, etc) and still have space for standing up, and a bed that was at least 5’9” long. Essentially we were looking for a really cool looking aluminum box that would act as a mobile garage! We wanted aluminum so we would not have to worry about rust this time. Plus, the lighter the base, the better MPG and the more gear we can fit in! It took over an entire year of searching the internet to find what we were looking for!
3) What is it – year and model?
The body will be a 1963 Chevrolet P-10 Grumman Olsonette and the frame will be a “bobbed” 1973 Chevrolet C60 Dump Truck.
4) It’s a rickety, bare bones thing at the moment! How much did it cost?
It cost us $4000 and one epic drive!
5) Of course! I know other people who chase after adventure but adventure seems to chase after YOU! Can you tell us the story?
After 18 months of searching it turned out that locating the truck was actually the easy part! When we found the PLC2 we were in the middle of our 47,000 mile, 49 state, North American teaching tour, “The Road to Wanderlust.” I contacted the seller to see if it was drivable… he had done some work to it and said it was ‘ok” to drive around town. I then contacted my long time friend and official PLC mechanic, Zack. After sending 50 or so text messages back and forth we formed a plan where he would get on a plane with a bag of tools in Sacramento and fly to Missoula, MT where the seller would pick him up at the airport and drive him to the PLC2 so he could examine it and then coax it into driving him the nearly 900 miles back home.
Once behind the wheel of the PLC2, Zach set off towards Grass Valley, CA at 8pm. After traveling less than 60 miles of open road, the bumps had kicked up some rust in the gas tank. With the fuel lines clogged, Zack limped the PLC2 to the nearest town and started brainstorming. After a night’s sleep and some leads from my extensive Facebook network , Zach procured a 55 gal drum that he then tied down behind the driver’s seat. After a few hours cleaning out the fuel lines he fired the beast up.
Back on the road with the doors wide open to keep the gas fumes at bay, he continued to inch across the map at only 45mph. I was happy to hear he had solved the problem and was back on track and that, better yet, he was enjoying the adventure! The next update was a little more disconcerting…. while driving through the night suddenly all the lights in the vehicle go out with a “BANG” and the wires under the dash, less the 2 feet from the 55 gallon drum of gasoline, to catch fire. With quick thinking Zach was able to pull the battery cables and beat the electrical fire into submission. Zach was now stranded on the side of US-95 with no lights, no power and a dying cell phone!
Alternator regulator went out, this was a part the seller had just replaced. I had basically cleaned out my Bank account to pay for the truck and then fly Zack in so we had no safety net of cash to bail us out. Knowing the alternator was new we just needed to get the receipt from the seller. I contacted the auto parts store near by where Zach broke down. They said they would replace the alternator with the info I provided them… which was incredible news! But they did not have the original alternator in stock!
There was a good reason I sent Zach on this mission. He took some measurements, went into the parts store, used the credit from the destroyed alternator, and found a newer, cheaper, model to replace it with. He salvaged some of the wiring and replaced the lights, too, as they had all exploded from the sudden spike in power! After a 40 hour adventure Zack finally rolled into his driveway in Grass Valley, CA ready for a much needed rest.
6) Can you give some history of your relationship with the PLC1?
I moved out of my apartment in May of 2003. I would spend my winters living on the floor of our climbing gym (Northern Heights Rock Gym) located in a decrepit mall while my summers were spent traveling to rock climbing destinations mostly around the US and Canada. I never intended to live in a car but the more I climbed, the less I worked. And the less I worked, the more I could travel. The PLC1 cost about .06 per mile to drive in 2006 so, to finance my lifestyle, I only needed to work for about 1 month for every 11 months of travel. I also was still in school and had discovered I could stay enrolled all year long taking online classes which allowed me to travel freely and utilize the university services to start our new lifestyle organization YogaSlackers. I finished my degree in Social Entrepreneurship in 2008 by creating a project utilizing every aspect of my schooling and passions “To Cross the Moon” 2XtM
7) How will the new truck upgrade your lifestyle?
The goal of this new vehicle is to create something that can keep up with us and respect the environment as we travel. We measured everything we owned and wanted to own, then set out with the help of some friends to design a compartment for everything we would need to play in every environment this earth has to offer. With the PLC1, I, with the help of the internet and amazing network of friends, have had to change the transmission 7 times (4 of those times were in parking lots), the engine twice, 20 brake jobs, complete transplant of the suspension system from a 96 Aspire, new steering rack, 3 new carburetors, and the list goes on. This truck will be designed not to fail or need major maintenance for over 250,000 miles
8) Has anything like this project been done before?
No. There are 4×4 overland vehicles that circumnavigate the globe frequently, but they rely heavily on oil. We love the environment and we love to play/work in nature as much as possible. We also love technology and its amazing ability to share information and create community. The goal is to create a vehicle mostly from reclaimed/ rebuilt parts (including the tools) that lives up to our values and currently there is no market for our values. So other than a few full electric 4×4 race trucks and series hybrid 4×4’s there is nothing like this in the world to my knowledge and the first 100 results on google. This is a close example of what we are looking at doing.
9) What is the crux of the build? Power, storage, engine, etc?
It might be easier to list the non crux aspects of this build! But here are a few of the things that keep me up at night.
- Finding a compromise with efficiency, parking and maneuverability
- What parts to use so spare parts can easily be sourced worldwide
- Creating a self reliant vehicle (all major systems having a backup, no complex computers, all necessary tools carried onboard)
- Life Support in terms of food (storage), water ( storage for potable and wastewater, capabilities to filter water), heating (insulation), waste (recycling, garbage, compost)
- EV power (motor, override control panel, battery bank) and charging (solar, wind, hydro), and ability to give back to the grid when parked “grid tied.”
- Safety (multiple exit points, emergency provisions)
- Security (property, vehicle, person)
10) You’re right! I can totally see how all that would keep you awake at night! So, what is your timeline for the build?
We should have a drivable phase 1 PLC2 running by the end of 2017.
11) Who designed the PLC2?
I’ve been dreaming this up for the last 5 years. Raquel is adding the practical input, helping to define exactly what we need. George Pare, a traditional blacksmith, helped with the initial measurements and drawings. Garrett Benisch built the 3d mock up. Zach Spalding is doing most of the physical work. Brock Winberg is helping us research and answer questions about the EV side of the build. Danny, an electrical engineer, is helping us define our electrical diagram. Anthony, a mechanical engineer, is keeping us on track with the 4×4 system and drive train. We are also working with a growing number of companies that fabricate and design the parts we are using in the build.
12) This is a massive undertaking, the first of it’s kind. How are you funding this dream?
Even with our mission of reusing and repurposing as much as possible our budget is substantial. We have invested about $38,000 into the phase 1 prototype so far. Our goal is to do as much work as we can on our own so we have invested $10,000 in shop tools such as air compressor, plasma torch, TIG/MIG welder, etc. The total cash investment is about $48,000 and over 1,000 hours of research and labor.
We have been working with stellar brands for over 15 years creating mutually beneficial relationships. With about $50,000 of our own capital we have called in every favor. Over the last 3 years we have been developing a list of materials needed, everything from bolts and wires to the (literal!) kitchen sink. At this point we are looking for discounts on key, typically, high priced items.
Fortunately, the PLC2 has a very small footprint so the construction material needed would be considered scrap for most larger building projects. The PLC1 lasted over 10 years and has become an icon to YogaSlackers fans worldwide it is also recognized in a number of other communities, from Ford Festiva fan clubs to adventure racing.
This “PLC2” will be used over the next 25 years to explore all seven continents. It will serve as the HQ for YogaSlackers traveling to Yoga Festivals, Trade Shows and expos. This is not some marketing gimmick that will sit idle, this will be our home and mode of transport forever!
13) Are you still interviewing companies and individuals for those mutually beneficial relationships you spoke of?
Always! If anyone out there is interested in a unique marketing opportunity, please send us your thoughts. We are being very selective on who we support with this project. We want our sponsors to be as unique as our project.