Oxygenated Gasoline Problems

By: Eli Mishuck

I wish to inform FCA/FOC of recent problem I have encountered with the new oxygenated gasoline in my Dino (?72) and Daytona (?73) Ferraris. As you may be aware, these gasolines contain 15% MTBE (Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether) and are mandated for use in California and certain regions in other states (New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, etc.)/

Dino Problem - During a Sunday drive in San Diego, my wife said she smelled gasoline. "Don?t tell me all Ferraris with multiple carburetors smell of gasoline," Evelyn said. I pulled over to the side of the road, stopped the car, opened the hood, and there it was. Gasoline dripping all over the engine and in standing pools around the spark plugs. Wow!

I got in touch with my mechanic friend. He came out and replaced, with new rubber, the older Ferrari Standard fuel line which the gasoline had penetrated. We drove home relieved over not having been burned alive. (I promise to pay more attention to Evelyn?s comments from now on!)

All rubber hoses in contact with gasoline have been replaced and will be monitored on a regular basis and inspected for integrity.

Daytona Problem - Driving north on I-5 we noticed the car losing power and starting to slow down. Hesitation increased on acceleration. The car had major service recently: Webers, timing, plugs, filters, etc. I pulled over to the side, stopped and the engine died. On restart, the accelerator pedal felt like fuel starvation was occurring.

I called my mechanic again. Yes, it was Sunday! We barely made it to his garage, He found the fuel filters, fuel passages, etc., packed with plastic or paint fragments. These were suspected and later confirmed to be the polymer coating on the interior of the aluminum fuel tanks which had disintegrated. The tanks had been coated about two years ago. Presumably, the new gasoline had chemically broken down the liner coating.

As an aside--the coating/lining had been applied by a supposedly knowledgeable restoration shop to prevent fuel leaks at the tanks weld joints. I question the wisdom of coating the inside of aluminum tanks. It would have been better to have fixed the welds. It cost mucho dollars to have the tanks removed, opened up, cleaned out, rewelded and recoated on the outside only. Yes, they were pressure tested. Moreover, the entire fuel supply system, Webers and all, had to be recleaned and reset. Also, all rubber hoses have now been replaced and will be monitored regularly.

Other Experience - I was searching for other relevant experience with older cars and oxygenated fuels when Joe Drummond of Drummond Coach and Paint, El Cajon, found a report by Hemmings, p. 793-795, January 1997.

This reference is well written and documented and implies that MTBE is a potent solvent for rubbers and many plastics, unlike hydrocarbons like iso-octane. This reference reveals similar experiences to mine with many makes of automobiles as well as motorcycles. Mysterious fires with classic cars have been reported.

it also questions the validity of government mandates on use of oxygenated gasolines from environmental, health and safety standpoints.


Conclusions - Could this be a plot to rid the nation, and in particular California of older classic cars, motorcycles and perhaps the people who love and drive them? Are there adequate data to support the mandated use of oxygenated gasoline in Ferraris and other cars?

Finally, let me raise some questions. Do we have the same problems with Ferraris that the Hemmings reference describes for other makes of older cars and oxygenated fuels? Are the problems I described with my Ferraris in line with Hemmings message or are they due to other causes?

If Hemmings? message is correct, what can we as Ferrari clubs do? Shall we approach Ferrari North America? Do we play Russian roulette and wait