Q&A with Kit Foster: November 22, 2012

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Q. On the statement by large collection managers that they use leaded alcohol-free gas (Q&A Oct. 11), I am under the impression that it is illegal under federal statutes to use leaded gas in motor vehicles that are used on the road. From Wikipedia: “From 1 January 1996, the Clean Air Act banned the sale of leaded fuel for use in on-road vehicles. Possession and use of leaded gasoline in a regular on-road vehicle now carries a maximum $10,000 fine in the U.S. However, fuel containing lead may continue to be sold for off-road uses, including aircraft, racing cars, farm equipment, and marine engines.”

Now we come to the interesting part. A car sitting in a collection can have leaded gas as long as it is not driven on the road. If the car is in long-term storage, such as the Continental Mark II we just recommissioned since storing it in 1984, then it should be drained. We put in five gallons of E-10 to get it prepared for an auction. Leaded gas is needed in old cars if they are put to heavy use such as lots of rapid acceleration or towing of a heavy trailer. We have no plans, nor do most collectors, of drag racing their 1957 Mark IIs from a stoplight or towing an Airstream with it.

High-compression engines of the 1950s and ’60s will tend to knock under hard use, but how many 1960-72 Corvettes do you hear about that blow holes in the pistons from using unleaded? We drive ’55-56 Packards with 8.5-9.5 to 1 compression ratios with no problems. We sell engine parts for all U.S. cars 1935-1980 and have no requests for lower-compression pistons to cure a knocking problem. To me it’s a non-issue.

— Fred Kanter, Kanter Auto Products, Boonton, N.J.

A. My understanding is that the leaded fuel used by the large collections I mentioned is not consumed on the road. Certainly most of the cars I saw were unregistered and I was told they use racing fuel. My point was that most of us do not have the resources to buy and store special fuel at home, so we have to do the best we can with the pump gas we have available. Like you, I have concluded that the presence or absence of lead is a very minor issue.


Q. Can you give me any idea how to find someone that sells gas without ethanol? In most cases the people that work the stations have no idea. Is there some kind of a test I can do to the fuel? I am very tired of having to rebuild fuel systems and fuel lines on all of my off-road equipment.

— Ray Williams, Toledo, Ohio

A. In Connecticut, where I live, the pumps are required to be labeled with the ethanol content. I am told, however, that this is not mandated in all states for content of 10 percent or less, let alone federally. The American Coalition for Ethanol, claiming to be the “grassroots voice of the ethanol industry” but which looks more like an industry organization, promises a page on their website, ethanol.org, devoted to “ethanol stats and laws,” but all I find is “under construction.” I found another site, fuel-testers.com, that lists state-by-state requirements. Some 23 states require labeling for ethanol levels above one percent. Unfortunately, neither your state of Ohio nor nearby Michigan requires it. Another website, pure-gas.org, has listings of non-ethanol fuel stations. As I write they show 29 in Ohio, many of them at marinas. Alas, New England comes up short. Only Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont show “pure gas” stations, and not many of those. Not surprisingly, fuel-testers.com offers a testing kit. I have neither used nor tested “fuel-testers,” so I cannot make any recommendation.


Q. On domestic-built cars and light-duty trucks, (roughly) when did it become the industry norm to have an inside lock mechanism release to the engine hood? It seems my 1968 Pontiac Catalina did not have an inside release, just external, so there was no true engine access security. I’m thinking it was similar on my ’75 Olds Cutlass, though I’m bit foggy there.

— Ed Thompson, Milwaukee, Wis.

A. I’m operating from memory here, but Ford adopted an inside hood release after World War II – pre-war cars had the release located in plain sight on the hood itself, although somewhat camouflaged by the hood trim or ornament. By about 1955 it had been moved into the grille, accessible from the outside except on Thunderbirds. The T-Bird and 1957-’59 Ford hoods opened from the rear, so it made engineering sense to put the release mechanism entirely within the cowl, activated from below the dashboard. My 1970 Chevy Impala had an outside release, but that was my newest domestic passenger car, so I don’t know when the more secure inside release returned for good. Readers, what’s the newest U.S. car with an exterior hood release that you know of?

To submit questions to this column: E-mail angelo.vanbogart@fwmedia.com or mail to: Q&A, c/o Angelo Van Bogart, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001.

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