My Car Uses an Acetylene Engine

The author discusses his ongoing efforts to convert an old car to an acetylene engine so he could run it on acetylene gas.

  • 062 acetylene engine
    With some modifications, Leland Barber converted a gasoline engine to an acetylene engine.

  • 062 acetylene engine

With all the brouhaha about the price of gasoline these days — and the very real concern over its availability through the coming years — it seems senseless to waste time "beating a dead horse" when there are fuel alternatives just waiting to be uncovered or improved upon.

One such substitute, ethyl alcohol, has been used before and is now being "rediscovered." Another, hydrogen, is also quite feasible and is presently the object of several research programs being carried out by private industry.

But I'm convinced that I've come up with my own answer to the petroleum "pickle" we're presently in . . . and, since I'm a welder by trade, the solution has literally been at my fingertips for nearly 30 years: acetylene gas!

Of course, the details of my unique system weren't worked out overnight. In fact, the acetylene fuel project has taken over 1,000 hours of my spare time and set me back nearly $1,000 ... and I still haven't worked out all the bugs. I've come a long way since 1974 — when I first conceived the idea — though, and I've covered a lot of ground in just the past few months.

Now before I'm dismissed as some kind of cashew, I'd better explain a thing or two about acetylene. Basically, the gas is produced on a small scale by mixing calcium carbide — which is a product of limestone, coal, and heat — with water. The resulting vapor is, of course, highly flammable and has been used for illumination as well as welding. Actually, at the peak of the "acetylene age," gas-fired lamps were used to provide lighting for factories, schools, thoroughfares, and even private homes . . . and calcium carbide generators were a common sight. Even today, remote areas, such as mine shafts and marine shipping lanes, often utilize acetylene-powered torches in lieu of electric bulbs.

Naturally, any flammable gas is potentially dangerous, and acetylene is certainly no exception. But the violent nature that's been attributed to "welder's ether" has come about as a result of that substance's being compressed for convenient storage and transport. When the gas is merely allowed to form in a regulated fashion — and is then immediately drawn off for a specific use — it's not nearly as touchy as when under pressure .. . and the fact that acetylene generators were used by regular folks all over America and abroad is proof that the gas can be safe when handled with due caution.

oakee regged
9/9/2012 6:01:00 AM

Okay.... where is the followup. I'm a tinkerer and love this kind of stuff. I've made a hho generater, a gas vapor carburetor, and now I'm fooling around with acetylene. I've made a needle valve to controls flow but more information on the amount to get a good clean burn would be nice. I am going to start small and work my way up. Seems logical, don't y'all think? So if you can help, please do. Thanks.

curtis kelly
8/6/2011 4:56:21 AM

i tried the same thing years ago .......solve for pre ignition problem and backfire ,,, and heat... inject water at high rpm when i made my attempt the timothy Mcvey thing was in full swing, carbide could not be found good luck and hope the gov leaves you alone. due to detonation at 15 psi run a pop off valve at 10 to 12 psi

11/12/2008 10:51:32 AM

any email contact with him?

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