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Thread: How the corn lobby is about to screw you - again

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    How the corn lobby is about to screw you - again

    If it was built before the 1980s, your vehicle was designed to burn gasoline - and nothing else.

    That's what was sold back then, so it's what the engineers assumed when they designed the engines. Gaskets and seals were made to handle gas, not alcohol. Air-fuel ratios, ignition timing and so on were set assuming the fuel that would be burned would be ... gasoline.

    But then the government - after being strong-armed by the politically powerful corn lobby - began mandating that gasoline be "oxygenated" (that is, adulterated) with up to 10 percent ethanol, which is alcohol made from corn.

    The theory put forward was that this would cut down vehicle exhaust emissions by "leaning out" the fuel mixture fed the engine. The actual result was it did no such thing. Chiefly, because most of the cars in service by the time the mandates began to go into effect in the 1980s were modern cars.

    And modern cars are built with computers and fuel injection. They have the capability to self-adjust their air-fuel mixture and so automatically compensated for the leaner (less gas, more alcohol) fuel. Their emissions didn't go down - but their mileage did. Alcohol, as a fuel, contains much less energy per unit of volume than gas, so the more of it there is in your tank, the shorter will be the distance you can go before it's time to fill up again. Drivers typically experienced a noticeable drop in fuel economy of about 5 percent when using "oxygenated," alcohol-laced fuels.

    Older cars on the other hand (mostly models built before the early 1980s) had mostly been retired from service as daily drivers by the time the ethanol mandates began to go into effect. Fewer than 5 percent of the cars in regular use by 1990 were older than model year 1975. As of today, it's unusual to see a car built before 1981 (the first year GM cars came equipped with an early engine computer) outside of a museum or a cruise night at the local drive-in. They are a non-factor as far as emissions/pollution issues are concerned - which means, there's no longer any legitimate to reason to introduce ethanol into the fuel supply (especially in large concentrations). The "renewable fuels" prop is just that - a prop. Yes, you can grow corn year after year, so in that sense corn-based alcohol fuel is "renewable." But it requires more energy input - including petroleum-based fertilizer to maximize crop yields - than you end up getting out of the stuff. Plus, we'd have to turn most of the country's agriculture production over to corn production - not for food, mind you. But for fuel.

    So we'd starve, too.

    Meanwhile, old cars.

    Because they don't have computers, they can't self-adjust for ethanol-laced fuels. So they run terribly on alcohol-laced fuels.

    They also develop potentially dangerous problems such as fuel leaks, because the rubber fuel lines and gaskets used in their systems were not made to handle alcohol, which is reactive and corrosive. Serious problems have been reported with older cars' carburetors when high-alcohol-content fuel is used in them.

    That was with 10 percent ethanol fuel.

    What will happen when the Feds mandate 15 percent ethanol fuel?

    Apparently, that's just what's about to happen. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue a regulatory decision this fall that will require a 15 percent ethanol concentration in all "gasoline" sold in the United States.

    Up to now, concentrations higher than 10 percent have actually been illegal - precisely because of the many known problems that high-alcohol-content fuels cause - including high exhaust temperatures, which in a late-model car can toast the catalytic converter. (Many new car warranties contain language that specifically states that coverage will be forfeit if the vehicle is fed "gas" with more than 10 percent ethanol content for precisely this reason.)

    What will happen to an older car fed this 15 percent alcohol concoction? If it's still got its original fuel lines/internals, major refitting will probably be necessary not just to keep it running properly but to avoid potentially catastrophic problems such as engine fires resulting from highly combustible alcohol fuels leaching through hoses and seals not designed to tolerate it.

    At minimum, it will be necessary to re-tune the engine and its fuel system to accommodate the high-alcohol-content fuel. The carburetor will likely need to be torn down and rebuilt with alcohol-compatible internal parts, including floats and accelerator pumps/power pistons; they'll need to be re-jetted and the mixture adjusted to compensate. All rubber fuel lines will need to be replaced with modern hoses rated to handle alcohol fuels. There could be problems with corrosion in hard steel fuel lines and gas tanks not designed to tolerate alcohol fuels, too.

    All for what? So that the politically powerful corn lobby gets to shove its pockets even deeper into the pockets of American drivers.

    And quite possibly, cost classic car owners a great deal of trouble on top of that.

    Here's a good video on the ethanol scam:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYxD9VIH4L8

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    At minimum, it will be necessary to re-tune the engine and its fuel system to accommodate the high-alcohol-content fuel. The carburetor will likely need to be torn down and rebuilt with alcohol-compatible internal parts, including floats and accelerator pumps/power pistons; they'll need to be re-jetted and the mixture adjusted to compensate. All rubber fuel lines will need to be replaced with modern hoses rated to handle alcohol fuels. There could be problems with corrosion in hard steel fuel lines and gas tanks not designed to tolerate alcohol fuels, too.
    That is assuming you could even find a retrofit kit for your particular car. For something popular, like a vintage Mustang or Camaro, shouldn't be a problem. What if though you owned something that's an odd ball, like say a '74 Dodge Monaco with a 440? Plus I don't like the idea that I HAVE TO modify my car to do that- I inherited a '72 Corvette and no, I don't want to change things over, plus I hopefully want to own a '69 Dodge Polara 440 (the "Police Package" one- it was clocked at an amazing 147 MPH in '69! Some say it actually went faster then that!) or a late '70s Lincoln Town Car with a 460... point is, it's a bunch of crap that I feel I'm being forced into, which I am... and I already HATE emission controls.

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mustang_Boy View Post
    That is assuming you could even find a retrofit kit for your particular car. For something popular, like a vintage Mustang or Camaro, shouldn't be a problem. What if though you owned something that's an odd ball, like say a '74 Dodge Monaco with a 440? Plus I don't like the idea that I HAVE TO modify my car to do that- I inherited a '72 Corvette and no, I don't want to change things over, plus I hopefully want to own a '69 Dodge Polara 440 (the "Police Package" one- it was clocked at an amazing 147 MPH in '69! Some say it actually went faster then that!) or a late '70s Lincoln Town Car with a 460... point is, it's a bunch of crap that I feel I'm being forced into, which I am... and I already HATE emission controls.
    Well, the "good news" is that carburetors from that era were fairly standard. GM, for example, mostly used Quadrajets or Dualjets on almost all its vehicles from the late late 1960s through the early 1980s. They share the same basic castings, with differences mainly coming down to things like jets and mixture settings, choke types, etc. But you can get the basic - necessary - parts, such as new gaskets, alcohol-tolerant floats and accelerator pump pistons, etc. In fact, most of the rebuild kits on the market have parts designed to deal with "modern" (ethanol-laced) fuels. However, the new 15 percent ethanol stuff wasn't anticipated, so who knows how that will go.

    Your Corvette came with either a Q-Jet or a Holley (if it's an LT-1), and you can get the stuff you need to update your Q-Jet's internals from Cliff Ruggles; this dude is the Quadrajet God. Check him out here:

    http://www.cliffshighperformance.com/

    Holley, of course, sells replacement parts for all its carbs, and the stuff they sell now is set up to deal with alcohol-laced fuels - so you're ok there, too.

    The Dodge probably has an AFB or similar Carter carb and like the Q-Jet, these are very popular in the hobby and so you ought to be able to find the parts you need, no problem.

    Replacing the rubber fuel lines with "modern" (alcohol compatible) lines is easy and cheap.

    It's the steel lines/tank that will cost you. I did mine ('76 Trans Am) with stainless lines from Fine Lines.

    Other possible issues with older/original cars like your 'Vette (I'm assuming the engine is factory built) may include degradation of seals and gaskets, like the intake manifold gasket.

    The thing that pisses me off most though isn't the hassle or the expense (as such). It's that this whole thing is a pointless hassle and expense... unless the point is to line the pockets of the corn lobby at our expense.

    And that's exactly what it's all about....

  4. #4
    Naw, the 'Vette I have isn't a LT-1, it's the standard issue 200hp 350 with the 3 speed auto, so it probably has the Quadrajet in it. I don't have the money to fix it yet, as it's been siting for longer then I've been alive, but at least it's complete and unmolested and in fairly decent shape. The nice thing is parts aren't too hard to come by and affordable since it doesn't have an exotic engine- just a nice cruiser. My '06 Mustang GT is my 'go fast/ daily driver. Still I'd love a vintage 4 door sleeper sedan like a Polara or Monaco as the 440 Magnum and the right packages can turn these cars into ferocious beasts, especially when equiped with the "A38" police package, that or a stately and regal Lincoln Town Car sounds great too.

    Still the Polara just looks so sinister, like it's ready to spring and attack. No wonder the CHP loved it.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mustang_Boy View Post
    Naw, the 'Vette I have isn't a LT-1, it's the standard issue 200hp 350 with the 3 speed auto, so it probably has the Quadrajet in it. I don't have the money to fix it yet, as it's been siting for longer then I've been alive, but at least it's complete and unmolested and in fairly decent shape. The nice thing is parts aren't too hard to come by and affordable since it doesn't have an exotic engine- just a nice cruiser. My '06 Mustang GT is my 'go fast/ daily driver. Still I'd love a vintage 4 door sleeper sedan like a Polara or Monaco as the 440 Magnum and the right packages can turn these cars into ferocious beasts, especially when equiped with the "A38" police package, that or a stately and regal Lincoln Town Car sounds great too.

    Still the Polara just looks so sinister, like it's ready to spring and attack. No wonder the CHP loved it.
    Your 'Vette sounds like a neat car!

    I personally prefer the L-82 versions (hydraulic cam, Q-jet) over the (solid lifter, Holley carb'd) LT-1. The L-82 was a much better street engine and much more drivable than the LT-1 but it had the "good stuff" (including good heads) and all it really needed was some mild tweaking to really move out.

    But even stone stock, a '70s-era L-82 Corvette is a quick (high 13 second/low 14 second) car.

    I like the Polara cop car, too. I have a great book - "The Encyclopedia of Cop Cars," I think the title is. Features the Chrysler/Dodge 440 powered cop cars and talks about their record 150 mph top speeds (not beaten until the 1990s and the cop car Camaros came online).

    Consider that. Those huge sedans - with no overdrive and the aerodynamic profile of a NYC taxi cab - had enough power to hit top speeds that would not be exceeded until a high-powered coupe with excellent aerodynamics and six-speed transmissions - came along....

    I've never driven a 440 sedan, but I have driven a '71 GTX 440 Magnum with Torquflite three-speed automatic. That fucker was scary. I raced - and easily beat - a late 1980s TPI Corvette in it.

    But it took commitment (and balls or stupidity) to drive that thing fast. The steering was all over the place. It rode on 14-inch Hurst mags. It was like trying to thread Titanic through the pylons. Floor it and the nose would immediately lift into the air as the power of that big block 440 surged to the rear; you'd then be countersteering like Gilligan on the Minnow's bridge as you tried to keep the thing pointed in a somewhat straight line.

    Hold it down for just a little while and all of a sudden you'd be at 130 or more.

    No exaggeration. It was a brutal car.

    My HS friend owned it. He had it for less than eight months before he lost it one night and got killed in the thing.

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