An electric fuel pump saved my Corvair (and probably my garage)


Starting an engine for the first time, whether after full rebuild or partial disassembly, is an exciting process. It is also one that should be approached with patience and careful attention to detail. One loose fitting can really ruin your day—and your bank account—if ignored.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/01/10/electric-fuel-pump-saves-corvair-carb-rebuild


I had a similar issue with my small block Nova last year. When changing jets in the carb, I missed tightening one of the fuel line fittings. The car started, was running lean, I was a little baffled since the jet change was 1 setting leaner and shouldn’t have caused misfire, then boom! Just as you described, the engine backfired through the carb and lit the engine compartment on fire. Fortunately the car was in my driveway and I had a fire extinguisher close. Another good thing was the car needed to be painted anyway. It burned the paint off the top of one fender, and inside the engine compartment.


Rebuild carb on my 47 flat head Missed putting gas line on and started engine. Gas pumped all over one spark fire :fire:. Garden hose put fire out. Burn wires. Repaired everything. Now it runs please slow down an double check your work. I was lucky.


I had the opposite problem, a fire caused (or at least aggravated) by an electric pump. Had an old Ford pickup that I had customized (bucket 280Z seats, new paint w/ go faster stripes, etc.) Along the way the mechanical fuel pump died…But sitting in the shop was a BIG Holley racing electric pump. 10 minutes some hose and wire and presto…Functional truck! Was fine for months, until one day when I started it the float stuck in the carb…and it backfired, igniting the gas pouring in from high volume pump. Took me a few seconds to realize what was happening…and turn off the key! Carburetor and air cleaner were total loss, and the new paint job on the hood was, well, crispy. got a ride back to the shop for another carburator (conveniently also sitting on the shelf), and drove it home!


@dfaughcl - You make a good point. I keep meaning to add an oil pressure (no oil pressure=no fuel) and inertia shutoff (sudden stop shuts the pump down, like an accident) to my electric pump, but neither of those would have stopped it in your situation.

I guess you just got lucky and it serves as a reminder that sometimes it is best to be good AND lucky.


I recently bought a 65 Turbo that had a wicked engine fire that was caused by ethanol laced fuel that ate through the mechanical fuel pump diaphragm. The previous owner tried to replace the fuel pump with a new one that pumps at something like 9 psi, so it floods and runs terrible. Soon I will be switching to an electric fuel pump with a relay to prevent flooding and will incorporate a fuel pressure regulator with a bypass. Last will come the Weber 45 DCOE, but that’s after I upgrade my brakes!


@jazzworkerbee - Good on you for saving a turbo car. The side draft Carter YH can be a bear to tune, even once the fuel pressure is ironed out. Best of luck, I hope to own a turbo one day and will certainly go straight to the Weber 45 DCOE.