Solved on Sunday: Would you put ethanol fuel into a Ferrari V12?

(Editor’s note: In conjunction with Road Ready Inspections, we offer this space each week so you can ask questions about your classic car or about the hobby in general. Submit your questions in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer them!)


I have read lots of articles on ethanol and how it can damage my classic car. Am I hurting my classic car by using fuel that contains ethanol? —Alfred B.


ethanol-fuelYour classic car has a drinking problem. Since 2007 the EPA has mandated the use of ethanol be mixed into the fuel that you and I put in our cars as filling stations, including  classic cars. Ethanol is essentially the same alcohol used in alcoholic beverages, so basically your classic car has a drinking problem. More so, ethanol is also a solvent and cleanser.

Actually, your classic car has undergone changes to its fuel before. Your classic  was likely originally intended to utilize leaded fuels. However, leaded fuels were discontinued in the U.S. in the 1970s. Since that time, your classic car has utilized unleaded fuels, lately those infused with around 10 percent ethanol content.

There are two dominant mixes of ethanol called E10 and E15, named, respectively, for the percentage of ethanol included in each gallon of gas. Since 2007 the auto industry has argued that ethanol corrodes pumps, fuel lines and injectors in fuel systems not equipped to handle this alcohol. (New cars are equipped with components designed to resist such corrosion.)

The core issue with ethanol is its tendency to absorb water which then creates a host of issues including:

  • Reduced octane
  • Reduced fuel efficiency and mileage
  • Corroded fuel pumps and fuel control valves
  • Increased engine wear
  • Reduced life of stored fuel (such as in your tank stored over the winter)

Other issues created by the solvent and cleanser properties of ethanol include:

  • Fuel permeation through rubber fuel lines
  • Clogging fuel filters
  • Clogging carburetors
  • Premature damage to pistons, rings, valves and other internal engine components

Not surprisingly, the EPA insists that ethanol is harmless to your vehicle’s fuel system. Just to make sure, it can’t hurt to add a fuel additive and fuel octane booster to help reduce the ill effects of ethanol.

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I have a 12-cylinder fuel-injected 1982 Ferrari 400i. It is low mileage in fine condition but does not seem to be worth very much. Does anyone make a line of fiberglass bodies that might be suitable to turn this into a more desirable exotic? —Bob K.


Ferrari Kit CarAs Ferrari values go, the 1982 400i has certainly not enjoyed the same success of some other Ferraris, though for that time period has held its value fairly well. Let’s just say the early ’80s were not the heyday years for Ferrari, generally speaking. Yes, there are a few models during that span that are quite valuable. Even Tom Cruise’s ride in the movie “Rain Man”could not drive the values of the 400i up.

In considering a rebuild to a kit in hopes of improving the value of the car, sometimes the opposite happens and the car is actually worth far less, plus you spent a ton of money converting it. That would be fun! As a rule, kit cars are far less desirable in the marketplace for resale. You could actually find yourself having invested more for a less valuable car.

To answer your question, yes, there are a number of companies that offer fiberglass bodies that will work for a conversion. The fact that you would start with a Ferrari front engine V12 is an interesting idea. Here is a link that will give you a big list of companies that make Ferrari kits and kits of all types.

I am guessing you don’t want to convert it to a station wagon or a pickup so I am pointing you toward Ferrari kits. After all, real Ferraris have V12 engines, and real Ferraris are red. You have the best half covered already. Let us know how it works out.

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