Fuel Fiasco Continues: Getting Our V8 to Start



Let’s pick up where we last left off — Andy and I diligently stuck to our fuel tank restoration … but after installing the tank and filling it with gasoline, we could not seem to get fuel to make the journey to our V8 engine.

If you haven’t read this fuel tank restoration saga (and it is a saga), take a moment to catch up …

Meanwhile, we are moving on with the telling of this fiasco tale, and I at least am asking myself Will our Cortez ever start again?

“This is b*******,” Andy announced before calling the day’s work done so that he could go home to investigate what mechanical ailment our steel beast now had.

Back at home, one website Andy clicked to was RetroRides

RetroRides is an online car community forum. The group touts it is “Pretty much the best modified classic car related forum on the internet.” For the record, Andy and I both agree. Here’s how this awesome group started: In February 2004, a number of people were discussing non-Volkswagen cars on a Volkswagen forum. One of those people was a fellow by the name of David Murphy. “I thought we really should have our own place for that,” he wrote me. We’ve messaged David a few times in regards to our Cortez, RetroRides merchandise, writing for group’s newsletter, and now the history of the forum. David said he started RetroRides in February 2004 — It technically began in Wales, though he lives in England now and through Andy I gather people view the forum as more English than Welsh. Long story short, the passion to share classic vehicle restorations spread so much that David’s once small online forum grew to have 55,000 users who discuss both classic and modern vehicles both online and in-person at gatherings.

Andy opened his RetroRides account in September 2008 when he first created a thread on his 1992 Citroen AX GTi. As his vehicle knowledge and purchases grew, so did his threads so that he now writes about our Clark Cortez overhaul. (I’m providing a link here, but you should be warned Andy unleashes his full Britishness on this very British forum — and what I mean by this is he cusses. A lot.) I should add here those on RetroRides are very active — They read each other’s posts, they “like” them, they comment, they answer questions, they offer help, and they provide encouragement. Andy wrote about our fuel tank day, and it was in this post he began to wonder if our carburetor was against us again. On page 15 he writes, “I’m a complete novice when it comes to carburetors and honestly I’m starting to get tired of them already! After I rebuilt it, the engine was running great. I’m a bit lost. Any advice?”

The Clark Cortez gets quite a bit of buzz when Andy posts because this all-American classic vehicle wasn’t in other countries so those in Europe — never-the-less England — find it pretty fascinating. Therefore, comments came rushing in, including two interesting posts back …

One was from a person who goes by the name of WildRover: “If you are planning to go efi in the future as you have previously mentioned would now be the time to consider something like a Holley Sniper (or similar) set up?”

Well, WildRover, we have two opposing thoughts on EFI: Andy certainly would have gone this way at first-Cortez glance; however, we are at an impasse because I certainly do not want it.

Another person, who goes by the name of PhilA, instructed Andy to do the one action Andy was most hoping to avoid: take the carburetor off and rebuild it. Again.

PhilA even later offered to send us his identical carburetor, though it was covered in insect corpses — which he adds, “The dead spiders only assist.”

Andy responded by asking a genuine question back: “Maybe the addition of some dead spiders would help things on ours?”

WildRover joins in on the chat and states, “I don’t think that will work, as far as I am aware those spiders are specific to the Fury [the vehicle PhilA pulled his carb from]… LAndy will need the uprated commercial spec dead spiders.”

“I’m going to assume commercial spiders are bigger?” Andy writes back. “In that case I’ll keep the crappy running carb!”

Jokes aside, Andy kept the carburetor at the back of his mind because when we went back to the Cortez the next day, he wanted to test a different idea …

If the electronic fuel pump was moved closer to the gas tank, it would have the shortest distance to pull fuel.

Further, once fuel was in the pump, the fuel would be pushed into our engine — which is great because electric pumps prefer to push fuel (versus pull).

The good news: Moving this pump to our tank worked immediately, and fuel came gushing forth from the fuel line and into the cup I was holding.

What is unfortunate is that this did not help our Cortez start. For the most part, our engine turned over and over and over again — no roar of life, no ignition.

“Were we in need of starter fluid?” we questioned before spraying a good dose in the carburetor … to no avail.

“Was it the choke?” we asked as a debate began about when the choke should be fully opened, halfway, or closed … and tried each without success.

By now, our steel beast sounded like a cartoon raging bull who was held back but also taunted with a waving red flag — The desire to run was more than present but something somewhere was keeping our beast at bay.

We were maxing out what we could do, too. Our problem was certainly beyond my knowledge, which is why we had switched places — I was draped over our steering wheel snoozing again, waking only when Andy told me to turn the key in the ignition.

Yet, what was troubling was that our problem also seemed beyond Andy’s knowledge … and that terrified me because a fear I have with our Cortez overhaul is that at some point we will max out what Andy knows.

“It’s got to be an issue with the carburetor then,” Andy said, “which is ridiculous as it squirts gas out fine.”

Sticking to this thought that surely haunted him since PhilA wrote, he began to slowly take the carburetor apart, which is when he found this: yellow gelatinous old fuel and debris where the fuel comes into the carb.

“I bet if we clean that out, it will fire up — straight away.” Confidence exuded from him.

After a bit of de-clogging and cleaning, we were ready to try once more: Key in ignition, turn to ‘On’ and the sound of our V8 roared … before it died less than 30 seconds later.

Immediately realizing the error, Andy moved to fix it: Carburetors need a suction to pull gasoline inside them while the engine is running. This means Andy covered the top of the carb with his hand, sealing the air flow so that the carb could solely focus on pulling in gasoline.

And what do you know — our engine started and ran perfectly.

Or well, I shouldn’t say ‘perfectly’ because moments later, we realized there was fuel leaking from the carburetor.

“I hate carburetors,” Andy huffed holding his forehead up with his hand. An exhausted smile faintly spread on his face because at this point our Cortez drama had turned humorous. After all, people do recommend laughter in the face of adversity.

“I’m ready to just go EFI,” Andy said and again those three letters found a way to creep into our conversation. “I’m so done with this carburetor — either a brand new carburetor or take the plunge and go EFI.” Here was our reaction to that …

Whether we made a vote for EFI or not, it still wouldn’t erase the fact that in this moment we had an engine that would not fire up. Our only option: Do as PhilA suggested and rebuild our carb.

Pulling off the mechanical device that plagues our existence for now the third (or who knows how many) time …

Andy found our carburetor’s accelerator pump was dry so it did not seal, which allowed gasoline to leak out.

I said it then but I’ll say it again: That point that we max out on Andy’s knowledge, it still hasn’t arrived. The man’s a gifted self-taught mechanic.

Yet, was this tiny pink accelerator pump the culprit of our problems?


After soaking the pump in oil, another turn of our key fired up our V8 (without any leaks) — and boy, was our engine sounding fierce and strong.

“Forward, march!” I shouted, pointing ahead after Andy and I switched seats to take our Cortez on a long awaited test drive.

There were smiles, horn honks, cheers, and high hopes as dreams of full-time travel rode with us, bumping along on the farm’s gravel path too.

PS–If you were looking forward to the post on what-could-be considered a sex education class for carburetors, don’t worry — It is coming, though I confused when Andy was writing on that lesson. It’s in our next two jobs so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it!

Author: L

Hi there! I am the impulsive do-er, the jumper, the one tugging to move past comfort zones to embrace a life of sheer surprise. I am a writer -- a pursuer of stories -- because I believe in the destination over the journey. I am a chaser of sunrises and sunsets and cherisher of the moments between. I have an overwhelming curiosity, an insatiable desire travel, and an obsessive yearn to turn dreams into realities. For all of these reasons, the word that best summarizes who I am is "seeker" -- I am forever a seeker.

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