Wow, that's frightening. I can't believe there was enough vapor to keep the engine running with all the air currents under the hood and not ignite from another source.
I was coming home from a gig one night and the car could only just stay at highway speed when I held the pedal to the floor. I pulled over and saw that the mechanical fuel pump (remember those?) was belching fuel from its relief hole. It was late at night, and I still had to get my date home, so I simply continued driving, pulling over for gas every 20 miles or so. Of course, gas was about .50/gal back then. These days it would be cheaper to tow the car.
I had another mechanical-fuel-pump problem in my 1978 Chevette. I drove home one night with no problems, and the next day the car would not start. I finally figured out that the rubber hose that connected the steel line from the gas tank to the input of the fuel pump had about a 1/2-inch long longitudinal split. My theory was that it split while I was driving home, and the suction from the fuel pump kept it closed, but when I turned off the car it opened up, and the pump couldn't get any suction when I tried to start it again. (I guess it is also possible that it just decided to split during the night, but it seemed more likely that it would split while it was getting jostled around by the road bumps.)
This has got to be the scariest MbM I've read to date. Regarding tow fees, I'm not so sure about how cheap they'd be. The last time I got towed, about 8 years ago, I paid $100 for 10 miles. That was a shocker. Now I pay AAA less than that per year to give me free tows when traveling up to 100 miles away from my home.
Lynn, I feel your pain. My first vehicles were Austin Healeys, MGs and Triumph motorcycles. It was crazy. One car had a fuel pump problem. The fuel pump was behind the seats under the shelf. I found that if I hit it with something it would restart. So, going along I would put in the clutch and hit the fuel pump (really the bolt holding it) and it would start up again and I would just let the clutch go. This was done at speed. Quite a thrill. I had lots of other crazy things happen with those cars. It was good that they were so cheap and easy to work on. Lot's of fun to drive, though.
Lynn, I had faced a similar issue with my bike last month. One the way the fuel line got cut and petrol start leaking through the filter directly to the hot engine. I felt the petrol smell and later found that smoke is coming from engine, where the petrol leaked. I go a mechanic and repaired.
I once had a 1972 Fiat 128, which I bought because it was inexpensive and had front wheel drive (a novelty in those days). The only serious problem I ever had with the car was the fuel pump, which was electric and mounted to the underside of the body by the fuel tank. The pump was a small - the word "cute" comes to mind - rotary vane pump with the pump driven by a motor through a magnetic coupling (thus isolating the gasoline from the motor's brushes - this was pre-brushless DC motors). The pump was really an elegant design, and very well manufactured...except for one problem: the graphite vanes tended to chip and break and jam the pump. After paying for a couple of new pumps (plus labor), I asked the guys in the service department if they had any old junk fuel pumps they would give me. I left with a double handful of "dead" fuel pumps. From that point on, when the pump died, I would get out and under, remove the failed pump (plugging the hose from the fuel tank with a spare socket wrench extension bar) and set up shop on the car's hood to rebuild the pump using spare parts from the "junk" pumps. I did this a number of times before the car was junked, once at 1 AM under a street light ("Just rebuilding my fuel pump, officer."). Needless to say, this whole operation was done with gasoline-soaked hands... More recent cars may have had their problems, but at least the fuel pumps have been reliable.
If I was not fixing the gril friends Midget I was pushing it cause I would forget the head lights. What a bonding. I rebult the engine and had problems with the bolts strattling the intake and exhaust manifolds. As a result they leaked air. The very best it ever ran.
There was pan under the carb. Perhaps as a heat shield but aslo as a drip pan for gas which leaked from a plug on the botton of the bowl. Peratex fixed that. Then later when the pan broke it did matter.
The wife change oil and add oil based on the oil pressure. I had to explane the real purpose of the oil pressure gauage. Put it on reguar maintenance.
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