Classic American



Dear Classic American, Reading your editor’s Viewpoint article in the latest edition, he mentioned how prohibitiv­e petrol prices have become and the march of the electric cars. A few years ago, there was a big campaign promoting LPG for cars. At the time I ran a ’79 Mercury Marquis and had that converted to LPG. I never noticed any difference in performanc­e from when it was running on petrol and I got the same mileage from a tank of LPG as I did from a tank of petrol, but about half the price, and recovered the conversion costs in about one and a half years. Fast forward to today and I have ’49 Buick Woodie that I run totally on LPG. (No petrol tank.) I did the installati­on myself, after going on a oneday course, run by Tinley Tec, based near Cambridge. All the parts are readily available from them, as is a good technical back-up. The one-day course is advisable, to be up to date with the regulation­s. My installati­on was very easy, as my 351 Windsor is a carburetto­r engine, but kits are available for injected engines too. Once the installati­on is complete, you will need to get the installati­on certified by someone like Tinley, who, once they are satisfied with the install, will get it registered, so your insurance company can check its safety.

You will also have to change the details with DVLA. One of the main problems people encounter is where to mount the LPG tank. With the larger American cars, this isn’t much of a problem, as they make a tank that fits into the spare wheel space, in the trunk or, as in my case, I replaced my petrol tank, which was tucked up over the rear axle. The only other problem is, garages that sell LPG are starting to get a bit scarce, but that just means a bit more planning for fill-ups on long trips.

Mick Blackbourn Stowmarket, Suffolk

Yes, it did seem a few years ago that LPG was going to be the saviour of big-engined cars and some manufactur­ers were even offering dual fuel versions (Vauxhall, Saab, Proton and Volvo) from new. However, it never seemed to take off… Our editor ran an Eighties Lincoln Mark VII with Ford’s 5.0-litre V8 and trunk-mounted LPG for several years and found it half the cost to run, with virtually identical performanc­e as when run on petrol.

Why did LPG never really take off? Well, some point to the lack of lubricatio­n that LPG offers as a fuel and the hotter, dry heat it creates as a fuel, leading to burnt valves and valve seats – although that’s believed to only be an issue over many, many years and an issue that can be tackled by running a tank of petrol every so often, or the fitting of hardened valves and valve seats. Some modern vehicles don’t take kindly to having an LPG system bolted on either, with many showing ‘Check Engine’ lights and so on, as the different exhaust gases confuse the Lambda sensors in the exhaust system.

There are also a lot of people who don’t want to ruin the originalit­y of their vehicle with something as obtrusive as an LPG system and those who can’t stomach the initial outlay which can be two or three thousand pounds at least… especially if they only cover a few hundred miles a year in the vehicle. All that being said, if fuel prices continue to remain as high as they have been recently, maybe American vehicle owners (especially those that run modern vehicles, or ones that are used on a regular basis as daily drivers,) will re-evaluate LPG as a possible mitigation of high fuel costs?

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