15 April 2010

Losses and Lessons: Rear-engine fire in a Ghia too late to stop

VEHICLE COVERED:  1964 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

WHAT WENT WRONG: The engine stalled just after filling up at a gas station. The owner unsuccessfully attempted to start the engine several times, then checked under the hood of the rear-engined car. Smoke and flames suddenly billowed out, and it was already too late to stop the fire that heavily damaged his engine and hood.

DAMAGE: Severe fire damage to engine, including melted carburetor and electrics. Hood destroyed.

CAUSE: Worn wiring and a leaking fuel line.

TIP: Schedule an annual check-up to avoid costly and dangerous fires in your classic. Just replacing $5 worth of wiring and tightening a clamp can save thousands in engine repairs.

HAGERTY TO THE RESCUE: A claim with Hagerty enabled the owner to have the car’s underhood, electrical and fuel systems replaced as necessary, and the engine hood repaired and repainted.


3 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Tim Bock Kent, WA November 26, 2014 at 22:12
    Everyone should carry a small fire extinguisher with them, especially in a collector car. I worked for the fire department and it was amazing how many cars were destroyed by an electrical or carburetor problem. All car fires start out small. Our craziest was a milk truck fire. The driver had the standard little neighborhood delivery truck. He had some recent engine work done. While on his route the truck wouldn't restart. He thought it was a carburetor issue, so he opened the engine compartment (located inside the truck), removed the air cleaner and turned it over to see if it was getting gas. The carb backfired on him. He garbbed his jacket to try and smother the fire but the jacket caught fire instead. He got out of the truck after rescuing his paperwork and called 911. By the time we got there, the fire was rolling out of both side doors. Now remember, this is a milk delivery truck with probably at least 100 gallons of milk (white water) on board. After we got the fire out I asked the driver why he didn't just grab a gallon of milk and dump it in the carb? Or after getting out, why he didn't start throwing gallons of milk at the opened engine compartment. He said, he just didn't think of it. Since most of us drive regular vehicles, fire extinguishers are a better option than milk, and they're cheap. Just be sure they are properly secured in case of a crash.
  • 2
    Robert Jenson Phoenix AZ December 2, 2014 at 22:09
    Many years ago, I had a 1968 type II Volkswagen Bus which almost got me in a hot situation. On our way out of town, about 40 miles from the next town, I started smelling raw gas. Stopped the bus (turned off the engine too) and checked the engine to see what was amiss. Turned out that the brass nipple imbedded in the pot metal carburetor had come loose, and had come out enough to let raw gas pass into the engine compartment. I unscrewed the hose clamp holding the fuel line onto the nipple and pounded the nipple back in hard, reinstalled the hose and clamp, and let the engine compartment air out before starting up again. Needless to say, the nipple was replaced with a threaded one when we returned home. It was a close call!! After that incident, I noticed other Volkswagens with toasted paint on the bus engine lids and the beetle "hoods", so it seems to have been not just my carburetor. FYI.
  • 3
    Dawn Ward Seminole, FL. May 12, 2017 at 19:18
    My 56 Ford Fairlane caught fire after driving slow in a parade. It had overheated and melted the plastic gas filter. Gas poured down on the engine and carburetor. Luckily my mechanic was with me and he had a fire extinguisher. It could have been a lot worse!

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