by Keat B. Drane
Fig 1-1 This is the test
car, a 1969 Dodge Dart
© 1980 by Keat B. Drane
Library of Congress Catalog Card No: 80-81750
Published by Love Street Books
Louisville, Kentucky 40258 USA
Out of print
Scanned by Stan Hartley
-- Alternative Fuel Source
The Test Vehicle
Chapter 2 -- Types of Alcohol Fuel
Chapter 3 -- Preparing Your Car for
Chapter 4 -- Modification of the Fuel
Chapter 5 -- The Carburetor
Types of Carburetors
How They Work
Chapter 6 -- Altering the Carburetor
Remove and Disassemble the Carburetor
Enlarging the Metering Jets
The Float -- Two Possible Alterations
Bending The Float Linkage
Adding Weight To The Float
Chapter 7 -- Altering the Ignition
Spark Plugs Can Make a Difference
Chapter 8 -- Firing Up the Engine
Chapter 9 -- Cold Weather Starting
How To Cure Them
Starting the Engine on Gasoline
Using Gasoline as a Primer
Preheating the Alcohol
Chapter 10 -- Vital Statistics
My Experience is in Your Ballpark
Are you as tired of the "gasoline
shortage" as I am? Long lines at the pump, shorter service station hours
and higher prices are here to stay. Rationing has affected various areas
of the nation. Unstable, international politics threaten our continued
dependence on foreign crude oil. Politicians and oil executives predict
the situation to worsen.
Faced with these grim facts, I began to search for an alternative energy
source. I wasn't looking for a solution to the entire country's energy
problems. I simple wanted to insure that my family and I would have the
fuel to power our vehicles when and where necessary, without
interference or restriction from Uncle Sam's energy "experts" or the
whims of a greedy oil sheik in the Middle East.
Alcohol fuel is the little man's best hope for relief from gas "pains".
The all-but-untapped, domestic resource has many advantages. The
following is a list of the ones I feel are most significant:
- Almost any gasoline-powered
engine can be made to run well on alcohol.
- Only minor and inexpensive
modifications to the engine are required.
- Anyone with reasonable,
mechanical skill and common handtools can make the modifications once
they've learned the procedure.
- Alcohol can be produced
from a variety of organic materials and is a natural substance.
Distilling can be done a
small scale by individuals or on a very large scale by local
- And profit generated by
production of domestic alcohol fuels will stay in America and will pay
With these thoughts in mind, I decided
to undertake a test project. The first goal was to successfully convert
a vehicle fuel rather than "gasohol". The vehicle was then to be driven
daily to determine was practical for use under normal everyday
The test vehicle was a 1969 Dodge Dart.
It had 80,000 miles on the motor at the time of conversion and was stock
in every aspect. The Dart was equipped with a 318 cubic inch engine,
automatic transmission, power brakes and steering and air conditioning.
The Dart was donated for testing purposes by friends who shared my
interest in finding a practical alternative to gasoline.
The conversion and test were a great success. I now feel secure in the
knowledge that I'll never have to park my car for lack of fuel. I want
to share my good fortune and results with you. The following pages
outline the theory, mechanics, cost and materials which you should
follow in converting your car.
Let me give you a word of caution. Please read this entire book before
starting to modify your car. There are several variations discussed, and
you will want to be sure which will reward you with success, You will
have achieved personal independence from the gas pump and freedom from
anxiety about shortages.
Good luck and happy motoring!
You probably have questions in your
mind about using alcohol as a motor fuel. We'll look briefly into the
history and types of alcohol fuels.
In the early days of automotive industry several manufacturers produced
motors designed to run on alcohol, instead of the relatively new and
scarce product called gasoline. The Ford Model T was originally designed
to burn alcohol, gasoline or a combination of both. However, Ford and
other manufactures soon bowed to the intense pressure exerted by the
emerging oil monopolies of the time and began designing motors with
gasoline as the only intended fuel.
Several makers of farm tractors have continued production of alcohol
engines. They are for export only, and you will probably never see a
factory-engineered alcohol tractor in this country in this country at
There are several different types of alcohol. Each type is derived by a
slightly different method or from a different raw material. We are
interested in two types - methanol and ethanol.
Methanol may be familiar to you as the fuel used in Indy-type racecars.
At one time, it was distilled from wood and commonly known as wood
alcohol. Petroleum is the source of most methanol today. It is very
toxic and poisoning can result from ingestion. Methanol is one possible
source for fuel for your car, although it yields less energy than
Ethanol is the best choice to run your car. It is formed by the
fermentation of sugars from a number of types of organic materials.
Wheat, corn, rice, beets and cane are examples of materials with a high
sugar content. They give a high yield when fermented and distilled. All
types of liquors contain ethyl alcohol also known as grain alcohol.
The most economical way to obtain
alcohol is to build a still and distill it yourself. You can legally
distill alcohol fuel (but not alcohol to drink) by obtaining a permit
from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms.
Homemade alcohol can be distilled for as low as 40¢ per gallon depending
on the size of the still, the fuel used to power it and the cost of the
grain. An increasing number of enterprising individuals, particularly
farmers, are cutting their fuel bills by distilling their homegrown
If distilling sounds attractive to you, there are several publications
available on the topic. A good, basic primer on distillation is
Forget The Gas Pumps -- Make Your Own Fuel written by Jim Wortham
and Barbara Whitener. It provides diagrams of small stills, step-by-step
directions on how to make alcohol and the information necessary to
obtain a permit. A model application is also
Industrial ethanol can be obtained from
a wholesale chemical supply company. The price per gallon varies widely
according to the quantity purchased, I purchased a 55-gallon drum of
200-proof ethanol for $124 or about $2.25 per gallon. Bulk quantities
are more economical, but you must have a tank or other provisions for
storage. Also, you must buy a large quantity to achieve the best price.
Check out all possible suppliers in your area, as there seems to be a
wide variation in price from company to company. Comparison shopping may
save you money.
Any alcohol you may purchase commercially has been denatured. Denaturing
is a process required by the government to render the alcohol unfit for
consumption. Treat denatured alcohol as you would gasoline or any
2-1 - Here's how I "fill 'er up" with alcohol. If my tank had not
been portable, a hose would have reached my car.
Let's assume you have decided to
convert "Old Betsy" to alcohol power. Maybe that old clunker in the
yard-the one that barely runs, is undependable and isn't worth trading
in. A second car not necessary for daily use is a dandy choice for
initial conversion. You won't be without transportation during the
workweek and working on an older car may ease those fears about how
alcohol may adversely affect the engine of your later model car.
Just keep this one fact in mind; if it won't run on gasoline you're
defeated before you started. Alcohol will not magically cure a sick
Take a realistic look at the condition of your engine. My test vehicle
required replacement of a bad starter, old spark plugs and cracked spark
plug wires. If you intend to keep to keep the car for any length of
time, the expense of major repairs will be justified.
When your car is running reasonable well on gasoline, it is ready to be
A decision will have to be made at this
point. Is the conversion going to be a permanent one; or do you want to
use gasoline when readily available to reserve your car's new capability
to burn alcohol for possible fuel shortages?
In a permanent conversion, the gasoline tank will become an alcohol
tank. This involves running the tank completely dry and replacing the
gasoline with alcohol. It is undesirable to mix alcohol with gasoline.
They will not mix unless the alcohol contains almost no water.
I decided to install a dual-fuel system since the car would be run
primarily on gasoline when returned to the owners.
The alcohol tank was constructed from a 5-gallon heavy-walled Nalgene
plastic container. This container was obtained from a laboratory at no
charge. Since it was small enough to be portable, I did not permanently
mount it. The level of liquid could be seen at a glance since the
plastic is translucent. A metal container would have served the purpose,
but would not have been quite as handy.
A larger alcohol tank could be mounted on the trunk or roof of the car.
The choice will depend on what you have to work with and you individual
preference. By all means, pick a container that is sturdy, leakproof and
Figure 4-1 - This is my
homemade 5-gallon fuel tank and pickup tube. Everything shown was
scrounged up at no cost whatsoever.
Install a pickup tube of the same outside diameter as you existing fuel
lines. The tube should reach to approximately 1/16" from the bottom of
the tank and protrude from the top approximately 1". Also install a vent
tube to allow air to replace the liquid as it is consumed. Without the
vent vacuum will collapse the tank. Make suitable holed in the tank for
the vent and fuel lines epoxy or braze them into place. I brazed my
pickup tube to a pipe plug. The exact method will depend on what
material you use.
Next, mount the tank in the selected location on your car. A large tank
should be fastened or strapped securely to prevent shifting or
overturning. My small tank was wedged in between the back seats and
could not move at all. I don't recommend that you mount the tank in an
enclosed space, however.
With the tank securely mounted, some provision must be made for
connecting into the existing fuel line. For this purpose, I used a "T"
valve. This device can be purchased at any recreational vehicle supply
house. The price will range from about $5 for a simple, manual valve to
$40 or more for an electric valve remotely controlled from the dash.
My "T" valve was donated by a neighbor who had removed it from his
truck. He had replaced it with a more costly electric valve. This
particular model had three inlets. Only two inlets were required, and I
plugged the third one.
I mounted the valve on the inner fender well, as close to the fuel pump
as was practical. It could also be mounted under the floorboard so the
handle could be operated from within the car. This arrangement would
eliminate the need to raise the hood in order to change from one fuel to
I used standard black fuel hose for all necessary rerouting of the fuel
lines. Standard barb fittings were used to connect the hose to the "T"
valve. Teflon tape was used on all threaded connections to prevent
Figure 4-2 - I mounted
my "T" valve on the inner fender. The line on top is the alcohol
inlet. The right is the gasoline inlet.
Here's how to install your "T" valve and change the fuel lines.
- Mount the "T" valve in the
location you prefer.
- Install barb fittings, if
- Connect the alcohol to one
inlet of the "T" valve using black fuel hose of the correct size.
- Locate the inlet side of
the fuel pump and remove the short piece of hose between the pump and
the metal, fuel line from the gasoline tank.
- Connect the metal fuel line
to the remaining inlet on the "T" valve with black, fuel hose.
- Connect the outlet of the
"T" valve to the inlet side of the fuel pump with a third length of
black fuel hose.
- Make certain the lines you
have added are secure, leakproof and do not interfere with any moving
You now have a dual-fuel system,
interchangeable at the flick of a valve.
Figure 4-3 - The above
diagram describes how I arranged the fuel line on the Dart.
The carburetor is to your car's engine
what your heart is to your body. Its job is to feed fuel and air to the
cylinders in the correct amounts.
Figure 5-1 is a simple diagram of a carburetor. It has one bore of
barrel for air and fuel to pass into the intake manifold and one main
metering jet to measure out fuel. This type works on engine with a
single bank of cylinders, such as a straight six-cylinder engine.
A"two-barrel" carburetor has two bored and two main metering jets. Each
barrel is responsible for the cylinders on one side of a V-type engine
such as a V-8. A better distribution of fuel is obtained with this
Large displacement engines require more fuel, under some conditions,
than a two-barrel carburetor can provide. If the "two-barrel" were large
enough to meet peak demand, it would waste fuel under a light load. The
"four-barrel" carburetor has two small primary and metering jets, plus
two additional secondary barrels and jets. The larger secondaries remain
closed until the engine needs the extra boost they provide.
Figure 5-1 - A simple
Whichever type your car may have, the
operation is similar.
Fuel is pumped through the line and enter the carburetor's float bowl. A
needle valve admits fuel to the bowl and closes off the flow when the
bowl is filled. The valve is opened and closed by a float which rises
and falls with the fuel level in the bowl. The fuel level is very
critical and must be kept within the close limits by the float and
Air enters the carburetor through the air horn. It is drawn down past
the venturi, where the passage narrows. This restriction causes an
increase in air velocity and results in the creation of a vacuum below
This vacuum sucks fuel from the bowl through the metering jets. The jets
are carefully sized to give the correct ratio of fuel to a given volume
of air. Metering rods may be used to partly close the main jets at idle.
The metered fuel passes into the venturi and is misted into the barrel.
Here it is mixed with air and distributed to the cylinders by the way of
the intake manifold.
A smaller idle passage is equipped with an adjustable jet. The smoothest
idle can be obtained by screwing the stem of this jet in or out.
A third fuel passage leads from the accelerator pump, located next to
the float bowl. This passage provides an extra shot of fuel only when
the accelerator pedal is pressed down. The extra fuel balances the
excess air which is sucked in as the throttle plate is suddenly opened
during acceleration. The accelerator pump is inactive at idle or when
the accelerator pedal is held at a steady position.
The choke valve is located in the air horn above the venturi. It's
purpose is to restrict the amount of air entering the carburetor while
the engine is cold. Fuel will not vaporize well in a cold engine and
less air flow is desirable. An automatic chock will open and admit more
air as the engine heats up. It is necessary to open a manual choke by
A gasoline engine runs best with an air/fuel ration of about 14/1. The
jets in the carburetor are sized to provide this ratio.
Alcohol burns most efficiently with a ration of around 9/1. The next
chapter will outline the procedure for removing, modifying and replacing
the carburetor to attain this ration.
You may want to obtain a second
carburetor to convert and keep your present one for gasoline use. I
obtained a used one for $10 from a salvage yard. Rebuilt carburetors are
available from your auto parts dealer. In either case, make sure the one
you purchase is compatible with the engine you plan to use it on. You
parts dealer will be helpful in determining the most efficient.
Next, get a carburetor overhaul kit. Be sure the kit is for your
particular model carburetor. The model will be cast into the body or on
a metal tag attached to it. The kit contains new gaskets, check valves,
an accelerator pump plunger and the necessary parts to make an old
carburetor perform like new. Best of all, it has detailed instructions
and an exploded view of all the parts. Each part is numbered and named
for reference. This will a real aid for reassembly.
Remove and Disassemble
Take a good look at you engine
before removing the carburetor. Notice how each linkage or hose is
attached. Remember - everything must go back on correctly, so be alert.
Unbolt the carburetor and put any small fasteners away where they won't
Figure 6-1 - This is the carburetor
with the air horn and float chamber cover removed. The jets are
lying just below the carburetor body.
Figure 6-2 - Here's the
carburetor disassembled a step further. The jets, metering rods and
float have been removed. Be sure you know where each part goes
before you remove it from your carburetor.
Enlarging the Metering
Try to find a clean, uncluttered table
or counter to work on. Use the exploded view as a guide and disassemble
the carburetor far enough to remove the main, metering jets. The jets
are more accessible in some models than others.
Carefully determine the hole size of the metering jets. This can be done
by actually measuring the jet or looking in a shop manual. If you have
no way of determining the hole size, take the jets to an automotive
machine shop. They have the tools to measure and enlarge the jets.
Determine the proper jet size by the following example. This is the
calculation I used from the Dodge.
|Original Jet Diameter
|Increase Jet Diameter
By 40% For Alcohol
|Correct Jet Diameter
NOTE: The 40% figure used here will assure a rich enough mixture to
prevent burning the valves due to an over-lean mixture.
After testing the car, you may find the jets are too large and the
mixture is very rich. If this is the case, install new jets enlarged 35%
or even smaller as your car requires. Just decrease the size in
increments of 5% over stock size to be safe.
Figure 6-3 - A standard machinist's
Next I looked up .0860 in a standard drill size chart. This chart can be
found in most auto repair manuals or machinists handbooks. The closest
drill size is a #44 which is .0860.
Once you have determined the proper drill size, use it to carefully
enlarge each jet. A drill press is best for this job, but a hand drill
can be used if caution is exercised. Do not attempt to
drill the jets without removing them from the carburetor. The shavings
will fall into tiny passages and create problems.
You may be able to avoid drilling. Auto parts dealers stock jets in
various sizes for many types of carburetors.
They are inexpensive and if you can find one in the proper size, it will
save time and labor.
I opted for the drilling method.
Figure 6-4 - This is a
typical set up to drill the jets on a small drill press. The "V"
block hold the jet parallel with the drill bit.
The Float -- Two
Alcohol is heavier and more dense than
gasoline. The float will ride higher in a given amount of alcohol than
in the same amount of gasoline. Since fuel flow is cut off when the
float rises to a specific point, the alcohol level will be lower than if
the float bowl were filled with gasoline. Some method must be used to
raise the fuel level to normal. Otherwise, the engine will cut out
during turns due to lack of sufficient fuel.
Bending The Float
One way is to simply bend the linkage
between the float and the inlet valve.
The exact amount to bend the linkage is subject to trial and error.
Several settings may be required to find the correct float height.
Adding Weight To The
A difficult but more accurate
method is to add weight to the float. Carefully weigh the whole float
assembly on a balance (a powder scale will do an excellent job). Weigh a
piece of solder or epoxy glue equal to 10% of the total weight of the
float assembly. Fasten this to the top of the float, distributing the
weight as evenly as possible.
Figure 6-5 - A powder scale is just
the thing for weighing the float. My float weighed 253 grains.
I tried both methods. The bending method was tedious and involved
disassemble of the carburetor several times before the correct setting
was found. Also, some float bowls don't have enough clearance above the
float to allow it to be bent enough to do any good.
The weight method worked just fine. It is preferable because you can set
the float just as the instructions in the overhaul kit call for.
Reassemble the carburetor. Follow the kit guidelines for reassembly and
Got any leftover parts? Hopefully, your answer will be no! Now replace
the carburetor on the engine and connect everything back up.
Altering the Ignition System
Once the fuel system mixes the proper
ration of air to fuel and delivers the mixture to the individual
cylinders, its function is completer.
The actual firing and production of usable power is controlled by the
ignition system. Its task is to ignites the fuel/air mixture at a
precise instant in relation to the movement of the piston. If the
mixture fires too early, pre-ignition pinging will occur and may damage
the engine. If the mixture ignites too late, power will be lost and fuel
A gasoline engine is timed to fire just as the piston reaches the top of
it's stroke or just an instant before. Gasoline ignites and burns so
rapidly that the result is more like an explosion than a burning.
Alcohol burns at a much more even rate. It is harder to ignite and
requires more time to completely vaporize and burn. To allow for this
extra time, it is necessary to "advance" (cause to fire earlier) the
timing of the engine. This is done by loosening the distributor and
turning it in the opposite direction from the direction the rotor in it
If you aren't sure which way the rotor in your engine turns, take the
distributor cap off and have an assistant crank the engine. Whichever
way the rotor turns, you must turn the distributor body the opposite way
to advance the timing.
A timing light will make this job a snap, if you have access to one. The
engine can be timed by ear, if you develop the knack for it.
Here's how to do it:
- Loosen the bolt at the base of the
distributor until the whole unit can be turned.
- Initially advance the timing by
turning the distributor about 1/16 of a turn. Snug the hold-down bolt
so the distributor won't turn itself (but you can still move it with a
- Start the engine and run any
gasoline remaining out of the fuel line. Now advance it still more
until you get a faster idle, but still a smooth idle.
- Check the timing by driving. If you
hear "pinging" in the engine during acceleration, the timing must be
"retarded". The correct setting will be just below the point where the
I initially time the Dart by ear and
made several changes in timing before I was completely satisfied. After
several days of driving, I checked the timing with a light. The original
setting had been 0º TDC (top dead center). After converting it to
alcohol, the optimum setting had become 24º BTDC (before top dead
Your car may not require exactly 24º of advancement.
This is a ballpark figure. The exact amount will depend on your
Spark Plugs Can Make a
Let's discuss spark plugs
briefly. As you may already know, each type of spark plug is made in
three or four heat ranges. The only difference between two plugs of the
same type but different heat ranges is
the rate at which they dissipate heat. The plug with the higher number
will hold heat longer and is referred to as a hotter
Figure 7-1 - Spark plug heat range
system. The lower number denotes a colder plug.
Alcohol fuels, as I mentioned before, don't ignite as easily or burn as
quickly as gasoline. To increase the temperature in the firing chamber,
it may be desirable to use a plug that is one or even two ranges hotter
than your engine has been using.
The Dart originally had Champion N-14-y spark plugs. After conversion,
the engine was prone to miss due to poor vaporization of the fuel. More
heat was needed to turn the alcohol into a combustible gas.
After installing a hotter set of N-16-y plugs (I had to go up two heat
ranges), I could tell a definite difference. The increased heat was
getting more fuel to completely vaporize and cutting the time it took
for the engine to warm up.
Be careful not to go to extremes and install a plug that is too hot. The
telltale sign will be a white or blistered-appearing electrode. Check
your plugs often for the first few miles until you are certain they are
Firing Up the Engine
At this point
you should be
ready to start up. The carburetor is modified and back in position.
Timing should be advance to the first tentative setting. Any necessary
fuel line changes have been completed.
Prime the carburetor with a few drops of gasoline, fill the alcohol tank
and crank the engine. You may have to "feather" the gas pedal to keep it
running once the alcohol begins to reach the engine. (The idle mixture
is still set for gasoline at this point.)
Let the engine warm up before you set the idle. Then slowly back the
idle adjusting screws out 1/4th turn at a time until a smooth idle is
obtained. If there are two idle screws, move both the same amount each
Get in the car and test drive it. Notice any symptoms which seem
irregular. The chart I have provided lists some symptoms I have
encountered the possible causes and alterations.
cuts out under acceleration
2. Accelerator pump not at a
float or add more weight
2. Adjust accelerator pump for a
dies when turning a corner
float or add more weight
under hard acceleration
timing until symptoms stop
2. Spark plugs incorrect heat
range: if wet - too cold, if
as advised in alcohol
kit and this text
2. Change plugs to proper heat
will not start when cold
the next chapter for
2. Proof of alcohol may be too low.
Use 160-proof or better.
Cold Weather Starting Problems
How To Cure Them
Alcohol does not readily vaporize below
about 70º F. Unless you live in a tropical climate, some provision will
have to be made for starting the engine in cold weather.
Starting the Engine on
If you installed the "T" valve type
fuel system, you can start the car on gasoline. I used this system on
the Dart and had no significant starting problems. Each time I parked
the car for an extended period, I would switch the "T" valve to gasoline
just a minute or so before shutting the engine off. The gasoline burned
very rich, but would burn. In the morning, I would start the car and
switch back to alcohol in a minute or so. A gallon of gas would last a
week or so with this type or starting method. (Mind you I said a gallon
of gas - not a tank.)
In practical use, the smaller tank could be one gallon or less in size
and alcohol could go directly into the regular tank. Alcohol will clean
any old gunk out of the regular tank. You may have to change the fuel
filter several times until the tank had been cleaned by the alcohol.
Using Gasoline as a
Gasoline is also used in another
method. This method involves installing a surplus windshield washer pump
and reservoir. The pump has a hose leading to a tube or spray nozzle
brazed into the air cleaner lid. The reservoir is then filled with
A few squirts of gasoline will fire up the cold engine. Once the engine
has generated a little heat, it will run well on alcohol.
Preheating the Alcohol
Several solutions involving preheating
of the fuel have been found. Most involve applying an external source of
heat to the carburetor or the fuel line. Any method of raising the fuel
temperature above 70º F will be most helpful.
Your ingenuity can get a workout in this area. Don't be afraid to
experiment with any ideas you may have which will hold in engine heat
and ease starting.
Another aid which I found helpful is
the good old-fashioned hand choke. These are available at auto parts
stores and will replace your automatic choke. The hand choke will allow
"pampering" of a "finicky" cold engine. It will also allow you to open
the choke wide to take advantage of the window-washer method of priming.
Materials and Cost of Dart
Manual Choke Kit
Eight (8) Feet of Fuel
"T" Valve (free)
Five (5) Gallon Tank
Three (3) Barb
Fittings for Fuel Hose
Eight (8) N-16-y
Champion Spark Plugs
One (1) Roll Teflon
Tape (for fittings)
Overhaul Kit for
Ky. 5% Sales Tax
Labor Supplied by
1969 Dodge Dart
time of conversion
318 C.I.D. V-8
Carter Model BBD 2BBL
Ethyl alcohol 150/200 proof
(Determined by test)
gallon - 180 proof
gallon - Gasoline
gallon - 200 proof
gallon - 180 proof (diluted)
of fuel cost for imported oil
My Experience is in
This guide is based on my own
experience with an older model car. I performed all modifications as
described in this text. Your results may be much improved over mine and
you might hit upon a better idea for easier starting and increasing
Many other gasoline-powered implements can be converted to alcohol. Some
of these include:
- Emergency Generators
- Farm Implements
I plan to continue to experiment, and
hopefully, convert these also as the opportunity comes about.
Drop me a note and let me know how your experiences with alcohol fuel
turn out. I will try to answer any questions you may have and will be
interested to hear of your successes in conversion to alcohol fuel.
Back to the
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