Ethanol additive to petrol rears its head again. The AOC representative to the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs put out a timely warning that the ethanol percentage in petrol will rise from 1st September to 10%, totally unsuitable for our cars. We should seek Grade 97 E5 petrol minimum and in all events use E5 when standard unleaded is not available.
The search for ethanol free petrol showed up how few garages still stock the old leaded petrol. There is a list on the MG owners’ site showing garages still stocking lead equivalent petrol, mg-cars.org.u.k. Sadly nothing showing in Kent but those living near Billericay Essex can still find leaded. However with the last refining capacity in the world for leaded petrol just closed this maybe the very end for other than lead additives.
The other alternative is to look at higher Octane Fuels. They are required to show that they may have up to 5% Ethanol but actually the Companies such as Esso say there is almost none. Shared pipes on tankers prevent any statement of no ethanol. There is however a caveat that says the statement does not apply to Devon, Cornwall, North Wales, North England and Scotland.
The Article below is a synopsis of information available to gain an understanding of the pros and cons of modern petrol. There are plenty of expert articles that can be found on the internet.
Petrol is a very complex cocktail of petrochemical derivatives and compounds. In general has a shelf-life of approximately six months if stored in a sealed container at 20deg C or just three months if kept at 30deg C. In a car fuel tank which is not sealed this will be less. The more it’s exposed to heat, the more quickly it will go off. After several months storage at summer temperature petrol will start to form carboxylic acid and gums. This degradation will continue as the fuel ages and the carboxylic acid which forms will slowly attack any soft materials in the fuel system like rubber.
Similarly oxidation of the petrol can cause deposits to form with other impurities to clog up your engine.
How the petrol changes in the car fuel tank.
The lighter components evaporate first, these are the chemicals that provide valuable octane benefits on starting from cold. These are very volatile and compose most of the fuel/air mix during initial start-up, but when they are depleted by evaporation the mixture becomes lean, causing higher temperatures, detonation, pre-ignition and piston damage.
The fuel that remains once the volatile parts have gone has a higher density but as it is not as volatile, cold starting is impaired. Because carburettors meter fuel by volume the mixture now becomes richer because the fuel is denser. This richness will cause plug fouling and blocked exhaust ports due to carbon deposits, but the lack of volatile octane will suppress full revs.
So, in short, marginal fuel will result in hard starting and lack of top end revs and power, but the car will run once started.
Formation of Gums and Peroxides
After several months storage at summer temperature the petrol will start to form peroxides and gums. The degradation will continue as the fuel ages and the peroxides which form will slowly attack the soft materials in the fuel system. The first to suffer will be any rubber fuel hoses followed by pump/ carburettor diaphragms and even the aluminium of the carburettor.
The ‘gums’ or ‘varnish’ will in time solidify and line the inside of the carburettor, blocking jets etc.
Stale fuel is the number one cause of the stiff operation of pump and carburettors. Gums and varnish can even stick the piston rings of a running engine.
Effect of ethanol
Stale fuel long has always been an issue before the addition of ethanol, but today’s fuel turns foul much quicker than in the past, in fact, depending on temperature, light and humidity, the fuel can be unusable in as little as 30 days. Ethanol speeds up the process for two reasons, it is hygroscopic i.e. naturally absorbs water and it is oxygen rich which speeds up the oxidation process. So the more ethanol the petrol has the greater the issue. Ethanol also reduces mpg so it could well be worthwhile buying more expensive higher grade fuels for reduced ethanol content, improved mpg and greater fuel longevity.
Additives are available which claim to increase engine performance, reduce wear and stabilise ethanol petrol thereby prolonging its efficacy.
How to recognise stale petrol.
As petrol ages it will change noticeably in colour, smell, and viscosity. New petrol, fresh from the garage, will have a pleasant ‘tang’ and will be almost clear, with just a slight colour, but as it ages it will develop an unpleasant smell more akin paint or varnish which will linger on materials or skin for a good while, whilst the colour will deepen considerably. The old fuel will also become much thicker, more akin to very light oil or diesel fuel. Really old petrol will have a very heavy and unpleasant smell and can be very dark in colour and very thick.
Running a car designed to run on leaded petrol
Petrol infused with tetraethyllead was introduced in the early 1920s, having been found to reduce engine knocking. “It’s a convenient way of preventing pre-ignition,” one article explained, “or pinking – the metallic rattling sound from the engine when it is under load in a high gear. Pre-ignition doesn’t just sound nasty – if allowed to continue, it will burn out the pistons. Lead, too, has advantages; it lubricates the moving part of the upper cylinder. However, leaded petrol was discontinued because it was an environmental no no and highly detrimental to health.
Whilst unleaded petrol contains additives to ensure mainstream levels of octane are maintained the absence of lead can cause damage to valves and valve seats which the lead additive effectively ‘lubricated’. Fuel additives are available which can ameliorate the problem. Normally sufficient if the vehicle is used infrequently or driven at not too high revs. All additives will have one of the following four compounds as parts of its constituent – potassium, phosphorous, sodium or manganese. All these compounds have been advocated by various companies as being the most suitable substitute for lead petrol. The truth is that none of these compounds will totally replicate the unique properties of lead and certain engine types and driving conditions may be better suited to one formula than another. Even the most suitable additive will only delay the amount of wear unleaded fuel cause to an engine’s valve seats.
The biggest problem arising from using unleaded fuel on older engines is a condition known as valve seat recession (VSR). Without the protective lead coating (previously provided by leaded fuel) on the exhaust valve seats, the intense heat (650°C) and hammering effect of the valves opening and closing, causes iron deposits from the valve seat to become micro-welded to the valve edge. Left unchecked, this continual tearing away of metal particles will result in the exhaust valve digging a deeper and deeper hole for itself into the cylinder head. Eventually, and often within only a few thousand miles, the engine will breakdown completely and it will require an expensive overhaul. To combat this problem, modern petrol engines have special hardened valve seats which can withstand this harsh environment. Hardened valve and valve seats can often be retrofitted but at some cost.
‘Aunty May’ chassis 21830 has recently highlighted the effect poor petrol can have on our cars. She had been stored for a while following a house move and efforts to start her had been met with clouds of black smoke, much coughing and spluttering. Cleaning and gaping the plugs has been done and the old stale brown coloured fuel drained off. There are companies that specialise in taking old fuels legally and they can be found on the internet so the old fuel was safely and legally disposed of locally.
V power 99 octane was selected from the local Shell garage and 20 litres put in with a new Redex lead additive in case the old lead additive had a shelf life. Unbelievable difference, she started first time on the button and purred sweetly as she came up to temperature. Not a sign of any smoke from the exhaust. 3 circuits around the local roads were accomplished as she ran as smooth as silk. So for the future, look out for TA 14s congregating around the Vpower 99 pump for high performance cars.
There are times when you just can’t find one of the rare and iconic TB 14s for sale and then suddenly they pop up like busses and give potential owners a good choice.
3 are currently advertised on carandclassic.co.u.k. The latest one to become available has been the subject of an extensive restoration costing over £25k and has been returned to her original colour of black. She will be a feature car on the Alvis Stand at the NEC in November so available to tempt those with garage space.
The delicious powder blue TB 14 is still for sale in Australia and looks the height of 1950s colour scheme.
A red TB 14 is also on the market and all of these cars can be seen on the free website carandclassic.co.uk.
As always a selection of various Fourteens for sale on the Car and Classic website. The car below is new to the market following a full restoration and resides South Africa. Chassis No. 20674. Full details on carandclassic.
Shortly a restoration project will become available for those wanting to put their own stamp on a TB 14.
The car was an inheritance in 2013 but now, part disassembled will soon be offered for sale.
I can put any serious potential purchasers in touch with the owner.
When restoring a TB 14, many owners are unable to resist the installation of the famous Cocktail cabinet in the near side door. Shown in the prototype TB 14 at the 1948 London Motor Show it has been replicated quite a few times.
No one to date has gone for the other potential option of the hard top. This was fitted to chassis 23561 and was not a light weight piece of kit. Sadly a clearance of the commercial garage where it was stored failed to see the historical significance of the hardtop and it was lost.
Fourteens make deep impressions on people and prompt people to try and find the cars many many years after they left the family.
We are still hunting for HWF 732, chassis 23721 that is still shown on the DVLA website and may well be stored/living somewhere in the London area. She is now shown as Cream in colour.
Still searching for KLM 51, chassis 22408, a Tickford Dhc, she is still shown on the DVLA website coloured Black so must be tucked away somewhere?
Information required on this stylish Carbodies believed to reside in Portugal? Could it be another lost Carbodies JAL 709 Chassis 22135. Last colour scheme known green and cream – not on the DVLA website.
Lost cars on this site always has a list of cars being sought so can you help?
She was not the only KLM to be registered to a TA 14. We know of KLM 53,58,59,261,479,931,939, does anyone know of any others? Perhaps other plates have been swept up by the airline. KLM 1 is shown on a red BMW and is probably worth more than the car.
KLM 58 is a very nice example of a well cared for Mulliners Saloon and is about to come up for sale as the current owner has taken on another project. She is well known in the AOC and is a jump in and drive away example with excellent provenance.
Is anyone interested in a Woodie restoration project? Woodies once restored just ooze the unique style of the late 1940s and early 1950s. One is available for sale for restoration and I can put serious enquirers in touch with the owner.
Alvis Owner Club Bulletin 545, pages 58-71 has a fascinating and detailed Article about building a Woodie so that could provide inspiration. A reflection of the days of putting Woodie bodies upon TA 14 chassis is contained in the Article and brings a smile or a tear to the eye.
The author recalled, ‘I have personal experience of a TA 14 utility, where the centre door pillar was merely stood on the running boards and not connected to the chassis at all! Only two of the six Alvis mounting brackets were actually used to carry the body. The photo shows this car with the ‘Kennings’ body looking true because the doors are shut!’
Good news for us is that LED lights in the headlamps are now legal as long as they do not cause dazzle to oncoming vehicles. Providing the near side headlight is set correctly the majority of our cars with a droopy offside headlamp should not cause a problem. The LED lights are certainly much less of a drain on the battery. The days of deciding between headlight usage, windscreen wipers and or heating may become a fading memory. Memories of driving at night on sidelights in snow with the windscreen screen area viewing becoming smaller and smaller as the snow packed to either side of increasingly feeble wipers. The heater long turned off to save power, happy days? This unless cooling is needed on a hot day or in dense traffic whereupon heater on full blast cools the engine but not the occupants!
The 2020 census for Alvis cars run by the Alvis Owner Club has produced good returns for TA and TB14s and the records have been updated. A synopsis of the results will produced for 14s in due course but a good response and thank you to everyone who completed a form. I can email a form to any AOC Member who owns a Fourteen and who would still like to be included. Very good for paper trail and provenance for your car(s).
We still have not found the Mulliners Saloon chassis 21182 believed to have had a registration number starting with JJJ. This car was owned by Group Captain Sir Louis Leisler Greig
Naval Surgeon and friend to 3 kings of England, George V, Edward V111, George V1. Did the latter ever travel in her? No photos found to date.
Sadly one of our owners, Lambert Wilson passed away in June but not before he had the opportunity to celebrate with his Mulliners Saloon on his 90th birthday. This lovely photo sent in by his daughter is a wonderful illustration as to how much Fourteens are part of the family.
The car is staying with his daughter and has now successfully relocated to the Isle of Wight and having descended from the trailer was shown looking across to her new home from the entrance to the ferry. She was obviously looking forward to getting to her new home as she had no problems. Anyone on the Isle of Wight for the Classic Car Extravaganza on 11th/12th September will have the opportunity to see the car.
Now a new Section on the header strip. Move over eBay and now see Abay
This Section will show items that are for sale and wanted and compliment the AOC Lists and eBay.
Currently we are searching for Nave Plates (hub caps). 2 Carbodies rear window frames. Front bumper support for TB 14, Back bumper support for TA 14 Carbodies.
2 doors for Carbodies. Horn mesh for front horns. Headlamp Glass.
For the Mulliners sunroof, the two ‘lifters’ that raise the back of the panel as it locks – any chance anyone has a spare sunroof panel that is complete?
Good opportunity to see if you can make anymore space in the garage.
Finally a happy ending, this charming photo of GVB 143 shows her enjoying the sunshine on a jaunt out with other Alvis to a local hostelry.
Nothing special in that you might say but……
She was sold by the current owner’s father in 1975 but his young son never forgot the first car he was ever aware of and roll forward to 2009 he purchased the car at Auction and she returned back to same carport she had used in 1975.
Years of patient or not so patient restoration has taken place and with the colour restored to the original Maroon she is at last out and about again.
To read more of the story, go to AOC Bulletin 518 page 63-69 and Bulletin 584 pages 87-90.
These Fourteens do have a way of making a mark, the current owner recalled.
‘When I was a child we had a beautiful old Maroon car in which I recall making long journeys on a regular basis from our Midlands home to London…..All this was not without mishap: we used to stop for Dad to change a push rod, a change Dad had down to 30 minutes.’ They don’t make em like they used to!
As Aristotle said, ‘Give me the child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.’
So now we officially start the Autumn season but plenty of time still before the clocks change and the garage heater goes on!