So I heard a car backfire today


#1

I was at kroger today and a mid 70’s grand marquis was there, it was in great shape for its age and was being driven by a guy in his 40’s. Its a shame because it was nice looking and it was out in the salt and muck… Anyway, I was admiring the car from afar and he was getting ready to leave and he was cranking it and it was trying to fire and all of the sudden KABLOOM!! Backfire… I immediately started laughing hysterically because when an internal combustion engine backfires I find great humor in it, just thinking of the matter now has me cracking up and I almost spit my egg nog out. The sound of the engine cranking told me it was probably a 351 windsor, I had a similar car, an LTD. Anywho… He finally got the car cranked over and motored out of the lot, I imagine it had those plastic timing gears and it was out of time.

It just made me think, I could hardly remember the last time I heard a car backfire in public, I remember 30 years ago it was very common. My father used to have an old dodge and I remember him fighting to start it at times cranking it over, playing with the gas and cussing like a sailor on a three day bender, occasional the car would backfire and Us kids would start laughing and my father would start screaming at us to pipe down because it wasn’t funny.
Sometimes he would put a screwdriver down the carburetor to hold the butterfly open and help the car to start, occasionally the car would backfire and flames would shoot out of the carb, the reaction of my father yelling, my sister running away from the car crying, and my mother screaming that the car was on fire always caused me to laugh hysterically, This naturally enraged my father and he would chase me around the yard yelling at me while the carburetor flaming out.

I remember the time the car was running really bad one day and we were driving to town for ice cream, the car was going up a hill, chugging and backfiring missing, the whole bit. Well after the third or fourth backfire the engine got really loud and my father was screaming that the muffler blew apart and we were laughing hysterically. Needless to say the old dodge got turned around and we headed home with no ice cream that night.

With fuel injection and precise timing, backfires are more for lawnmowers these days. It just used to be a common occurrence that many of us fondly remember and now those days are gone.

Just a thought…


#2

You would really get a kick out of an old Harley then; especially if the bike has drag pipes or shorty mufflers. They normally run a bit rich with the old Linkert carburetors and a backfire can be intentional.

If they have the stock controls the throttle is on the right hand grip and the left hand grip has a control cable to retard the distributor for easier kick starting. That left hand grip rotates forward, not rearwards like the right hand throttle grip.

At 60 MPH it’s fun to back off the throttle quickly and then rotate the distributor to the retarded position at the same time. A loud bang and sheet of blue/white flame is kind of fun to watch… :slight_smile:


#3

We used to have a Datsun 510 that would backfire under certain conditions. We lovingly called it the green grenade. But that car was gone by 1991. Every once in a while I hear a car backfire but not as much as you might have 20 years ago.

On our former lawn tractor I once shut the engine off without reducing the throttle first and a backfire came out of the exhaust on the side of the engine, a few feet ahead of my left leg. A nice roughly foot long flame came out which made me thankful that it wasn’t pointed at the shrubbery.


#4

Years ago my family had a black Packard, 1940 something model, and every time it was driven uphill it would backfire. Really loud. There were benefits to this, me being a teenager at the time . Living at the top of a steep hill, I had no problem telling when somebody was on their way home in the Packard. Bang. Bang… Bang … Oops, somebody is coming, better put the empty beer cans out in the trash! :wink:


#5

Finish your egg nog then off to bed with you.


#6

Do you remember the move “Uncle Buck”? That was an old 1970’s Lincoln or other Ford product and it wasn’t in good shape. He would pull up at school to pickup his niece and it would blast out a massive backfire that sounded like a gunshot. There was tons of smoke and people would be diving for cover. Doing something like this in today’s times would likely get the Department of Homeland Security called, added scrutiny by the NSA, and your name added to the terrorist watch list.

I don’t know which engine this car had but would expect a V8 302 or 351. I always thought this was just for a movie until I had a 1978 Jeep CJ7 that had been converted to a 302. The backfires were phenomenal and I sometimes felt it was required to wear earplugs while driving it. People told me it sounded like a 10 gage shotgun. It remains on the farm as it has too many problems to make it a roadworthy Jeep. I am sure all the repairs would be more than it is worth.


#7

My first car, a 70’s Cadillac with a 500cid V8 and a rather poor exhaust system, used to backfire loud enough to be practically heard in the next county. It became a form of entertainment for my 16-year old semi-delinquent self and friends.

One memorable occurrence was after I’d just floored it and let off the gas under a viaduct. There was a delay of about 5 seconds as we coasted up next to some poor guy an a little car, I think it was a Honda CVCC. Then the mother of all backfires occurred, big enough that you could clearly see the flash under the car reflected off the wet road and concrete walls of the viaduct. It was loud enough that it startled me and my friend, and we were used to it. The guy in the CVCC swerved all over the road and back again. I really think the poor guy may have soiled himself. He was pale white with a death grip on the steering wheel. I actually felt kind of bad about that one :slight_smile:


#8

Thanks for the memories. I can’t remember the last time I heard a car backfire.

I was recently behind an old, late '50’s or early '60’s vintage car (I think it was a Rambler, not certain) and smelled that sweet gas/oil/exhaust smell from it. The smell used to be common, but I haven’t smelled it in a very long time.


#9

“The backfires were phenomenal and I sometimes felt it was required to wear earplugs while driving it. People told me it sounded like a 10 gage shotgun. It remains on the farm as it has too many problems to make it a roadworthy Jeep. I am sure all the repairs would be more than it is worth.”

How can you put a price on fun like that?


#10

When I was about 20 I bought a 1965 Oldsmobile for next to nothing because it “needed a transmission.” Turned out the exhaust was plugged, meaning low engine vacuum, no vacuum to the trans modulator. Cut the muffler off and hung a $20 cherry bomb (anyone else remember those) under there. With that big old engine you could drive down the street, turn the key off, pump the gas rapidly and turn the key back on and if the points sparked at just the right time you’d have a bang that would shoot flames out the exhaust and rattle windows. Of course after being pulled over and accused of throwing illegal fireworks out of the car I had to explain to the officer that my poor old car was just backfiring and needed a tune-up.


#11

I am so glad other people have such fond memories and great stories about backfires. Its a shame they are so uncommon, I think it helped people lighten up, The only thing funnier than a car backfiring is a car dieseling. My uncle once had an 84 caravan with a carburetor 2.6l Mitsubishi engine, it could diesel with the best of them, if you didn’t intervene it could go on for over a minute. It never backfired though.

I had several old cars that would diesel after I shut them off, One old dodge I had would diesel had I shut it off and when It finally shut off smoke would chooch out of the carb and come out under the hood. I always found this amusing… Believe it or not it would sometimes continue to after run for several minutes if you left it alone. The exhaust was always smokey and foul when it did this.


#12

@ Bing

I swear my Nog was Kroger brand vanilla eggnog, nothing added. I was so giddy that night I wondered if they mixed something in as a joke… Lol…


#13

I never seen uncle buck, I was able to track down a copy and break out the VHS player, My signifigant other could not understand how a grown man would find that car so hilarious. The thing that gets me was the car in the movie was similar to the one I seen at the store. It didn’t smoke like the movie car, but it backfired just as loud.


#14

Funny thing about that movie Uncle Buck. I’m a big guy, about 250lbs. I’ve always driven big Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles, Lincolns, etc., some nice, some real stinkpots. I enjoy a nice cigar. And as luck would have it my name is Buck. My brother’s kids call me Uncle Buck on purpose just to hear me say “Uncle Buck is a fat guy with a cigar that drives a big car. Oh wait…”


#15

Back in the early '70s dieseling was common. To comply with the newly implemented Clean Air and Waters act, automotive manufacturers leaned out the fuel mix, which caused cylinder temps t rise (sort of like using a bellows on a fire), and raised engine operating temperatures. With carburators, if the cylinder temps are hot enough (usually due to hot spots, sometimes from carbon buildup) and the cylinders are still able to draw air in, the cylinders can continue drawing fuel from the carb until the bowl drains, and the cylinders will ignite the fuel/air mix and keep turning the crank…which can continue the process until the bowl drains. The primary way manufacturers solved the problem was by adding an “idle stop solenoid”. When energized, it kept the throttle at its idle position, and when deenergized it sealed the carburetor intake and choked the engine. That whole cycle of firing from the heat of the compression combined with the heat retained in the cylinder was what “coined” the term “dieseling”. That’s exactly how a diesel operates.

“Backfiring” has an interesting history too. The whole purpose of PCV valves is to allow the area under the valvetrain to vent into the engine intake yet prevent a backfire from igniting volatile fumes under the valvecover. Were it not for backfires, PCV valves would be useless.


#16

It wouldn’t have been a WIndsor if it was the factory engine, it would’ve been the maligned 351M.


#17

Had an 80 model Pinto,it would backfire to the point the muffler would split,if you loaded the engine with gas on a hard pull.I think it had a bad divertor valve or some such nonsense.(I hate the way old cars and motorcycles stink,when they run a bit rich)-Kevin


#18

Ok, I seen the car again, at the same place, It didn’t backfire this time but I did find out its a 1978 model with the 351. Unrestored, belongs to a guy in his 70’s ( I originally though the guy was in his 40’s but I wasn’t close). Bought it new, removed the wheel skirts due to fear of theft (remember the days you had to worry about your wheel skirts getting stolen!).

It wasn’t running when I talked to him about it, but I imagine it must run poorly, or at least have some other problem that causes it to backfire.

He drives it once or twice a week now, I am surprised I haven’t seen it before. The car is in great shape for an original Indiana car. I cringe at the fact it was in the salt last week but its his car.

My caprice stays out of the salt, but He might as well enjoy it.


#19

A guy I work with has an all original 1976 Monte Carlo in great condition. He has a Harley he rides when the weather is nice enough and drives the Monte in the winter or when he has to visit a customer. He’s had it for maybe 2 years and I think this is the first actual salt it’s seen. I cringe when I see it covered with salt. I imagine I can actually hear the poor thing rusting.