So this is probably basic engine 101 knowledge, but I'm kinda slow on some things so here goes my question. If a model T engine hasn't been rebuilt and still has the original valves, pistons, etc., will it run on modern fuel or does it need to be rebuilt in order to use today's gasoline?
Leave the engine as it is. T's were designed to run on fuel far inferior to anything available now. Your model T will be perfectly happy on regular gas. Opinions will vary, as you will certainly learn on this forum.
Nope. Today's fuel is better than what it got in the old days.
I imagine you're concerned about the fact that gasoline today is "unleaded". No worries. When the T's were originally on the road lead had not yet been added to gasoline. It's what they ran on in the first place. Furthermore, as Erik says, the gas today is far better than what was available 80 or 90 years ago.
If it runs OK, then run it!!!
Fresh from the factory or nearly worn out, a Model T motor will be very happy with modern gas including that with low levels of alcohol. Nothing special is required. While I haven't tried it, the E-85 stuff would probably work OK too. I routinely run the 87 octane E-10 from whatever gas station happens to be handy when I need fuel.
A couple of years ago there was an ad in Hemmings for a T for sale. The ad said the car was "remachined to run on unleaded fuel". Somebody didn't know there was no leaded gas in the teens and early twenties. The car was designed to run on unleaded fuel because that's all there was.
Bill, Steve just echoed what Erik said about today's fuel, however, there are things to be considered. Make sure the valve heads and seats are in good condition; if not, grind them to seat. Last year, I pulled the head on an untouched 26 engine and the valve heads were so burnt; they had cracks in them. Any leakage and an engine will run like crap; if it will run at all. Also take into consideration that most, if not all, original factory T valves were two piece with the head pressed onto the stem. They have been known to separate and that is a No-No. To identify a non-original valve; look and see if the head looks like it was made in one piece with the stem. The difference with an original two piece is easily apparent. Also, I think all original valves had two small hole in the top of the head for the hand valve grinder to catch on.
The website in the link below has a strong anti-lead bias, but it does contain an interesting timeline on lead and specifically, tetraethyl lead. According to the website, tetraethyl lead's anti-knock properties were discovered in December, 1921 by Thomas Midgley at GM labs.
You may have to copy the text below and paste it into your browser line for the link to work.
By the way, my observation about the website's bias in no way implies that I am cavalier about the adverse public health impacts of lead.
The website (to my eyes) tries to paint a picture of conspiracy from the earliest days of tetraethyl lead usage, which in my opinion is too extreme a position.
Did the people involved in the introduction of tetraethyl lead set out with an intent to create a public health crisis? Of course not. They set out to solve an engineering problem (how to increase engine efficiency via increase compression ratio) and to make money, and they probably felt that any health risks could be managed.
Bill I don't believe in dumb questions! In a former life I used to play with bombs, missiles, rockets, bullets and things that go BOOM in the night. I would admonish new sailors that the only dumb question is the one you don't ask, because that is the one item that you're sure you know but you got it wrong and that hurts where bombs are concerned, so ask get a little red in the face if you feel like it but that is far preferable than missing fingers toes or damaging equipment. this may apply here!
By the way, the public health discussion about the implications of widespread manufacture, usage, and disposal of lithium ion batteries (for electric cars and other applications) is already starting:
Lol G.R. I grew up around the Marines Corps. If the ordinance guys are running you should be too!!
If it works, don't fix it. If you have a problem and need to pull the engine and transmission, fix everything which needs fixing at one time, so you won't need to pull it again. Same goes for the magneto, if it works, good. If everything else works but the magneto, use a distributor or run coils on 12 volt battery until such time as you need to pull the engine to fix something else, then fix the magneto at the same time.
I understand that some of these early engines ran on kerosene.
If you go to an antique farm show you'll see tractors from the thirties with a big tank and a little tank. Kerosene was cheaper then, but not combustible enough for starting. So you would start your tractor with gasoline from the little tank, then switch over to kerosene, the cheaper fuel, to run it. The last time I checked the price of kerosene, it was more than twice the price of gas.
By the way Bill the same goes for what kind of oil to use in your T. Todays oil is way better than what originally available when they were new.
You will see all kinds of ideas about what oil to use so get ready fir that one!
I use auto-zone 30W HD in my cars and it works fine.
And again that's my opinion but what do I know.