28 April 2015

Losses and Lessons: Gas leak leaves 1970 ’Cuda burning more than rubber

VEHICLE COVERED: 1970 Plymouth ’Cuda with factory 426 Hemi V-8

WHAT WENT WRONG: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire; and that’s never a good thing when you’re driving a car – especially your treasured classic. The owner of a 1970 Plymouth ’Cuda (with factory 426-cid, 425-hp Hemi V-8) pulled up to a stop light, where another driver frantically alerted him that flames and smoke were spewing from the front wheel well on the passenger side of his car. The owner quickly pulled into a nearby convenience store, popped the hood and extinguished the flames.

DAMAGE/LOSS: While no one was injured, the fire – stemming from a gas leak, according to inspectors – caused extensive damage. The ’Cuda’s engine and transmission needed to be cleaned; fenders, hood, firewall and doors required refinishing; and the battery and cable kit, wire harness, alternator, wiring, gaskets and hoses were replaced. Hagerty paid the $19,149 repair bill.

LESSON: Since fuel with ethanol tends to break down rubber compounds more quickly, it’s important to check fuel lines and clamps regularly, and make sure the carburetor isn’t leaking – especially if the carbs are located over the exhaust manifold, like in MG, Triumph and other models with similar engine configurations. It’s especially important to check for leaks if your car has been sitting for a while. And always keep a Halon or Halatron fire extinguisher on hand.

35 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Chip Caldwell Blitchton, GA April 29, 2015 at 16:29
    Similar happened to me. The car is a 66 Plymouth Belvedere 426 / 425 hp. The fuel pump diaphragm developed a small hole allowing gasoline to accumulate on the top of the diaphragm. Carter fuel pumps for this application have a vent hole directly in the top of the housing that will vent the leaked fuel. Problem is gasoline squirts out the vent, hits the hood and showers down upon the hot engine. I modified the replacement fuel pump adding a shield that diverts any gasoline that may exit towards the ground.
  • 2
    Tom W Preston, CT April 29, 2015 at 16:45
    If you use ONLY steel fuel lines, fires like this will be less likely. If you own a classic car, why skimp on cheap rubber fuel hoses??
  • 3
    Michael B Illinois April 29, 2015 at 17:13
    Hagerty should be commended for being so very easy to work with.
  • 4
    Joe Central VA April 29, 2015 at 19:00
    I've been running non-eth gas in our two classics. Non in the mood for the anti-Ethanol rants, right now, but forewarned is forearmed. So glad the 'Cuda was not totaled.
  • 5
    Complo Anthony Hollywood, Florida April 29, 2015 at 19:41
    Had similar happened to me when I was in high school. Just finished my 1957 Chevy Bel Air and a fuel leak caused a fire under the hood. Next to getting turned down by Wendy Schmidt for the prom it was the worst day of my life! Always make sure fuel system is solid. That poor 'Cuda!
  • 6
    Royal V. Sefton Everson WA April 29, 2015 at 20:07
    Not only will it rot hoses, ethanol will damage carburetors, melting plastic floats etc., and gives lousy gas mileage!
  • 7
    Randy Rivers Vacaville April 29, 2015 at 20:08
    Maybe someone is working on rubber hose that can handle ethanol ?
  • 8
    Bill Owen Sound Ont. April 29, 2015 at 20:38
    Ethanol fuel causes huge problems.gums anything it comes in contact with .pour some in a clear container(and be sure labell it as gas ) and you can see the ethanol globs floating around in the feul after a few days....major small engine problems from this stuff .search the net for ethanol free stations in your area....and use them for your cars and small engines.use feul stabillizer all year long ...Briggs and Stratton works the best...AVOID THE PINK AND BLUE KNOCK OFF BRANDS . if you take your carb apart you can see why ...it will look like you ran pink or blue paint instead of gas
  • 9
    jm va April 29, 2015 at 20:45
    Yet the corn/ethanol lobby is pushing Congress to increase the amount of ethanol in gas, claiming that ethanol has no adverse impacts to cars and other motorized vehicles. I hope Hagerty and the insurance industry lobbies have and will lobby to oppose maintaining, let alone increasing, ethanol in gasoline and to prevent costly and potentially life threatening situations like this one.
  • 10
    Rich Washington state April 29, 2015 at 21:25
    The guy in the Hemi Cuda owes that guy big time!!
  • 11
    Rod Dahlgren Napa Ca. April 29, 2015 at 21:26
    I tell guys ALL the time to get RID of the old gas hose and use ONLY Hose rated for EFI and ALL FUELS. This gas we use now EATS UP regular gas hose! It also EATS UP the rubber in pressure regulators, fuel pumps and some of the older carburetor needle valve tips.
  • 12
    Gary ND April 29, 2015 at 21:28
    Older cars sometimes have several hoses which also soften and weaken over time and effects of ethanol gas. It's best to replace them especially if they seem soft .
  • 13
    Bill Camino San Diego April 29, 2015 at 21:28
    If that was MY Hemi Cuda, my tears would have extinguished those flames! Close Call! Whew!
  • 14
    Rick Canada April 29, 2015 at 21:40
    Something else was the cause. It takes a spark or flame to ignite gasoline. A hot exhaust manifold did not cause this fire. Not saying it isn't a good thing to check rubber fuel lines .
  • 15
    ErnieSC Boiling Springs, SC April 29, 2015 at 21:50
    This is the main reason I insured my two Classic Cars with Hagerty. Although my cars aren't as valuable as the Cuda, Hagerty took care of its' owner with no hassle. The other insurers would never have understood this cars value - economically or emotionally to its' owner!
  • 16
    Philippe California April 29, 2015 at 22:33
    What is the recommended size of Halon extinguisher? I have a small one, but I have doubts about how big a fire it could extinguish.
  • 17
    Henry Sikora Warrenville, IL April 30, 2015 at 01:32
    That's what happened to my wife's TriumphSpit. Gas line leak. Fortunately, my future wife called me and I spotted the problem. We. have been happily married now 10 years thanks to the Spit problem.
  • 18
    Lewis McDonough, Georgia April 30, 2015 at 14:37
    I have heard that the addition of Sta-bil fuel stabilizer reduces the breakdown of rubber parts due to the ethanol. Any truth to this?
  • 19
    Jack Long Maryland USA April 30, 2015 at 07:05
    Good point about ethanol gas. It ate the rubber jet hoses on my MGB and I was dripping raw gas on the exhaust manifold. Thankfully I smelled it before it burned. It now has all Vyton hoses. I hate ethanol.
  • 20
    Hubert Murray Nacogdoches, Tx. April 30, 2015 at 08:33
    You should always use hose designated for the new fuel injection systems. It is a bit more expensive, but is well worth the cost for the peace of mind that the ethanol will not damage the hose
  • 21
    Bob Gagne Michigan April 30, 2015 at 21:41
    Since i have been made aware of this issue a couple of years ago I have started using REC90 fuel in my older vehicles. It is difficult to find but contains no ethanol
  • 22
    Wayne Bennett Kingsville Ontario Canada April 30, 2015 at 10:18
    Hi....I had a scary thing happen while working on my 1965 T Bird some years back ....I had a slight gas leak that I didn't notice {I lost some of my sence of smell as a young man from working with harsh chemicals} The gas had leaked down the side of my big V-8 ...When I went to start it up she backfiredthrough the carb and burst into flames...lucky for me my trusty fire extigusher was close at hand....my point....ALWAYS keep an extinguisher in your garage. Wayne Bennett
  • 23
    Barry Bagus Southern California April 30, 2015 at 11:06
    Thank you for sharing this article and I am so sorry for the pain, agony, stress etc. the Cuda's owner experienced. In restoring my 1969 Road Runner, part of the restoration included all that needed to be replaced on the subject Cuda. Just recently I was so fortunate in discovering that there was a slight gas leak at the sending unit at the gas tank. I thought there was a leak in the differential causing the spotting. On further investigation by my mechanic, he discovered that it was fuel, when mixing with the undercoating, ended up looking like the differential was the problem when it was not. This could have been me. Thank you Hagerty for sharing this important alert.
  • 24
    Steven Indiana May 1, 2015 at 15:05
    In regards to the ethanol in gasoline they do make hoses that are better quality. I used these for two years on a 68 Dodge Coronet with much better results than the standard cheap rubber hose you can purchase. http://www.gates.com/products/automotive/fleet-and-heavy-duty/fleet-and-heavy-duty-fuel-system/barricade-carburetion-fuel-line-hose
  • 25
    mike perkins tabor ia. May 1, 2015 at 08:53
    This gas is CRAP! I go 30 miles to get premuim for my old rides and still add seafom or another54 additive plus a pint of atf for extra lube in the carb. It does make a differance.
  • 26
    Dan H Spokane, WA. May 1, 2015 at 09:52
    This is another reason to only use non-ethanol 92 octane.
  • 27
    Don Utah May 1, 2015 at 11:49
    That's one reason I refuse to use gasoline with ethanol in it, and there are no additives that counteract ethanol's deterioration of rubber parts. Additives only absorb moisture.
  • 28
    CJ United States May 3, 2015 at 11:28
    I had to replace bad OEM rubber fuel lines that connect to the fuel pump several times before there ever was alcohol in gas. But now it's always ethanol's fault. The anti-ethanol ranters don't even know the difference between bad alcohol (methanol) and the ethanol in gas which is the same alcohol in beer, wine, etc. Guess they better quit drinking, it's going to clog up their tummies! I wonder if they put gas line antifreeze in their car? (Read what's in it). True some plastic and rubber is softened by alcohol but there are alcohol tolerant products available now.
  • 29
    Greg Victoria B.C. May 4, 2015 at 15:36
    I have a couple of 60's Mopars that came from the U.S. and both had leaks from the rubber donuts that seal the filler tube going into the gas tank.When I filled the tank over half full,the gas started leaking out which could have been very dangerous as it ran down one side of the tank flange and was dripping down right next to the hot exhaust pipe.Luckily I didn't drive far after I filled up and the smell of gas after I parked got me looking underneath and I spotted the problem before it caused a major fire. I've never seen this happen on a Canadian car where we don't use ethanol so it's something to check on right away if you smell gas outside the car after a fill-up and you've been using ethanol gas.
  • 30
    MrMopar Clearwater County May 4, 2015 at 12:38
    The best answer is: don't use that crummy ethanol fuel. There may be new hoses that will tolerate ethanol, but I have five old hot rods and I don't want to have to replace all the fuel lines just to use that crappy fuel. I'm fortunate to have a gas station nearby that sells ethanol-free 92 octane gasoline. It's also the best fuel for my mower, chain saw, log splitter, etc. Some of the owner's manuals for those implements say you should NOT use ethanol gasoline. What does that tell you?
  • 31
    gerry California May 6, 2015 at 16:39
    That's good luck! I own a 70 'Cuda 340 and plan to check those hoses daily now!
  • 32
    Ed Rhode Island May 11, 2015 at 06:18
    Would love to avoid ethanol. here we're stuck with government requirements. All stations have to sell it. Typical left wing thinking, one size fits all. Wouldn't it be nice not to have an e.p.a.
  • 33
    kennyj Earth May 11, 2015 at 00:54
    sorry to hear about his loss and something that no one else has mentioned is the importance of carrying a fire extinguisher. that is what saved this from being a repair and a total loss.
  • 34
    Marlon Mesa Arizona June 12, 2015 at 01:16
    Dear Hagerty .. This is Marlon from Mesa Arizona a vintage car owner and club president a2zcruizers . We also have experience the same problems that some of you are facing today IF NOT WORST . Since We are one of five states using ETHANOL all year long . In addition to that flat tappers,flat cams,dry starts,fuel contaminants problems with E10-E85-also flex fuel " Which by any other name is ETHANOL !! that is just one of the problems you and I are facing today .. The motor oil we trusted has now change its formula viscosity value and properties some change as little as 6 months . Much different the we had few years back . the donut The A P I does not conform O.E.M compliance or even corrected its VISCOSITY a 5w30 can be as thick as 10w40 just to state a few facts about products being used and sold . Are we being deceived today ? We found the solution ! justice brothers has being around for 75 years doing research ,testing against all brands from top fuel and motor oils,Transmission additives even cooling system this guys are the pioneers of motor head Racing .Take it from me and many car owners when is time call on the best of the best .We paid top dollars to keep our rods looking good and sounding at is best.. Get your liquid tool treatment .. don't be part of the problem no more be part of the solution .. new hoses or metal lines wont help you at all , the fuel and oil is where is at ..call your local distributor of justice brother in your state this guys are very helpful all American family own and proudly Americas brand for quality. corp office 1-626-359-9174 sincerely Marlon .. keep on Rocking and Rolling and Cruizing
  • 35
    Marlon Taleno Mesa Arizona June 13, 2015 at 01:15
    Dear Hagerty clients .. Hey is Marlon from Mesa Arizona just follow up the the friend and his Mopar . and thank you Hagerty you always step up to the plate and take good care of all of us when is needed .And also a vintage car owner and a car club president . We been experiencing same problems here since now we have ethanol all year long . And addition to that bad oil flat tappers flat cams dry start . fuel contaminants problems with E10-E85-Flex fuel which is by name ETHANOL! The oil that we used and trusted has change its formulas is very different today then it was a few years ago and some products change formulas as little as 6 months . Just to state a few facts about products being used and sold . We have the solution ! justice brothers have being around for over 75 years . Doing research, testing against top quality names of fuel,motor oils, transmission additives even coolant system . When you need the best of the best you call on justice products. This liquid tools proof the reliability and study they said can do . Take it from me and many others car owners . We paid top dollars$$$ to keep our rides looking and sounding the best with justice brothers you will never go wrong . call your local distributor in your state . Don't be part of the problem no more be part of the solution http://www.a2zcruisers.com/ yours truly Marlon

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