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Converting to propane

By Glenn Wood

    With gas getting up near 2 bucks a gallon in some places, some folks may be looking for an alternative fuel. Coal and wood don't quite do it, so have you tried propane? Ahhhh, propane ...Eureka! Propane is cheaper to buy and burns cleaner, resulting in more money to spend on NOS parts, not engine rebuilds. And, here's the best part, it's not as hard as you might think. Here's Glenn to tell us about it:

Glenn's propane burnerWell, let's see if I can do this without getting too technical ...

    It isn't difficult switching from one fuel to another once the system is installed. There's a 3-position electrical switch attached to the bottom of the dash that controls the flow of fuels.

    In one position, the electric fuel pump is turned on and another solenoid in the fuel line is also turned on (open). At the same time, power to a solenoid in the propane regulator is turned off (closed).

    In the opposite position, the fuel pump is off and so is the inline solenoid, while the propane regulator is opened.

    So, you can switch from one fuel to another quite easily, but it's best to allow one fuel "in the line" to completely run out before switching to the other 'else the engine runs bad because it's flooded.

Needs a tank

    Most propane tanks are mounted in the bed up near the cab. Mine is an 85 gallon. I know of some farmers/ranchers that have installed a 150 gallon tank - these will partly obscure your rear view thru the back window.

    The fuel runs from the tank to the regulator thru a wire-wrapped rubber hose strictly from pressure in the tank - there is no 'pump' with propane. The regulator is plumbed into the heater water line. This helps vaporize the fuel and keeps the regulator from freezing shut. The vaporized propane is then piped to the top of the carburetor where it's drawn into the engine much like gasoline is.

Not as much ooomph as gasoline

    Propane is not quite as powerful as gasoline, it doesn't have the "oomph" that gasoline has, so I have installed an MSD Dual Curve Ignition Module. In the propane setting, the timing is electronically advanced a bit to extract a bit more power out of the engine. In the gasoline setting, it reverts to 'normal' timing.

    Here in west Texas, propane is 15 to 20 cents cheaper than gasoline and I can go about a month between fill ups. My grandfather was a farmer. He had tractors and his pickup fitted with propane systems. He always said that propane was 'good' for an engine - the valves, spark plugs and oil stayed cleaner longer with propane than with gasoline. The last pickup he bought was a '64 Chevy C-10, shortbed fleetside. As a teenager, I drove the wheels off that truck - I loved it. That was one of the reasons I bought my '66 - it is so much like the one that I grew up with, although the '64 had a 283 and a 4-speed .. that compound "granny" first gear.



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