What made engines stall in the 1930s?

I found a series of ads for Diamond NevrNox Ethyl brand gas from 1932 that talked about the “tragic moment” when your engine was “gas-locked” or “frozen” or “choked up” or “stalled” or “dead” leaving you stranded miles from nowhere because of inferior gasoline. I assume this problem must have been common or they wouldn’t have based a whole advertising campaign about going rid of it.

What made the gas of the time do this, and how could Diamond brand gas be an exception?

I know that Diamond used boron additives to prevent carbon build-up in the 1950s, but these were brand new features. If these additives weren’t around two decades earlier, what were? And why didn’t other brands have them? There was nothing special about Ethyl (leaded) gas in 1932; it had been around for a decade and every brand had it.

I’m guessing they’re referring to vapor locking. This wiki page very breifly covers some of the reasons, including issues with fuel.
In the 30’s, I’m guessing there was a much bigger difference between brands of gas than there are now.

Wiki also says the whole government octane rating didn’t come around until about then…so yeah, more differences between brands.

Yeah, they’re probably talking about vapor lock. It was a big problem with various mostly unregulated fuels back in the 30s, but it didn’t become a rare thing until cars moved to fuel injection. I remember it was still a big concern when I was growing up in the 80s, where someone shutting off their car while stopped for a bridge could mean that they wouldn’t be able to start again.

In the 1970s when car manufacturers were trying various antipollution approaches on old-fashioned carbureated engines, with unleaded gas that was lower octane than traditional leaded gas, engine performance sometimes felt like we were back in the 1930s. I remember my mother’s 1976 Chrysler Le Baron backfiring all the way up the street until the engine finally got synched with the choke.

A lot of cars back in the 30’s also relied on gravity to get gas from the fuel tank to the engine. Look for cars with the fuel filler on the cowl just forward of the windshield. Going around a corner too fast would cause gas to flow away from the fuel outlet. My father had a 28 Ford pickup that was notorious for stalling if you went around a corner too fast and the fuel tank was less than a quarter full.

Interesting. If I’m reading this right, Diamond was hyping its high-end fuel over “inferior” unleaded fuels, which would have included its own two unleaded fuels. Ethyl was three cents a gallon more at the time, so they must have thought that getting drivers to upgrade was worth the advertising money.

Or they were depending on fear to make people think it was common (although I suspect there were a lot more borderline suppliers back then).

We still have advertising (at the pump) aimed at convincing people that certain brands of gas are much superior because of engine cleaning capability and such. They generally don’t try to sell the idea of better mileage any more.

Messed up thing is they aren’t lying.

Apparently federal standards for gasoline don’t require enough detergent.

Gas is supposed to vaporize in your carburettor. If your gas is too volatile, it will vaporize at the fuel pump (and the pump won’t be able to pump) or before the carburettor, (and the carburettor won’t be able to suck enough fuel from the fuel bowl), or in the fuel line (and the fuel won’t syphon into a fuel bowl). This happens when the engine is hot, and the fuel line runs past the engine, and the fuel gets hot… So it depends on the layout of the engine bay, and the outside temperature. Volatility isn’t the same as octane rating, so even fuels with the same octane rating can be more or less volatile.

Geez, I mostly buy non-Top Tier gas (Speedway gets the bulk of my fill-ups) and never noticed “rough idle, acceleration hesitation, knocking/pinging, and reduced fuel economy”.

Evidently I am living in a fools’ paradise. :eek::frowning:

It’s valve deposits with non top tier gas. Might be the difference between failure at 150k and 250k. It’s absolutely a real problem, consumer reports did detailed testing and their results are duplicated elsewhere. There is a YouTube channel where a guy replicated similar results in an hour with a lawnmower engine. (More deposits with the cheap gas)

The Kroger near me will sell back to you (negating any savings with their cheap fuel) the additives they left out by buying generic gas with an additive dispenser on each gas pump.

My MGB has a problem in traffic. When it’s stop-and-go, the temperature gauge creeps up. Sometimes I’ll have to turn the heater and blower on – in Summer – to keep it from overheating. After a time, the engine will start running rough and then it stalls. I’d assumed it was the ignition coil or the electronic ignition module balking in the heat.

I wonder now, if I’m experiencing vapour lock. Though it has an electric fuel pump situated in the right-rear wheel well, the carburettors are right above the exhaust manifold.

tetraethyl lead did two things:

  1. relatively tiny amounts of it would boost the octane rating significantly, and

  2. it would leave a coating of lead on the combustion chamber and (especially) the valves and valve seats. That coating would prevent microwelds from forming between the valve and seat and stave off erosion which would otherwise lead to compression loss.

thankfully, we found other viable octane boosters and developed ways to harden valve seats so we didn’t have to poison everyone with airborne lead.

n.b. leaded gas does not “burn better” or anything like that.