I like carburetors, chiefly because I like mechanical things – which I like because you can see their workings and adjust/fix them, by hand. As opposed to electronic things – more specifically, computer controlled things – whose workings are opaque and which generally cannot be fixed but rather tossed and replaced.
Carburetors – which are mechanical fuel-delivery systems – are also self-contained things. Put another way, there are no peripheral things – other than a fuel pump (usually also mechanical).
Behold, as an example, the carburetor that feeds air and fuel to the 455 cubic inch (that’s about 7.5 liters for you Millennials and Gen Zs, who had the bad luck to be born after the metric system ruined what had been the much more personal and so interesting conveyance of engine displacement via size, which used to matter) V8 that lies under the hood of the Orange Barchetta, my ’76 Pontiac Trans-Am.
The carb perched on top of the 455 is the fuel system. Yes, there is also a gas tank and a fuel pump – but these merely store/deliver the fuel to the carburetor. The carburetor is a self-contained system.
It is also a serviceable and rebuildable system.
The one you see above has been mixing air and fuel since 1976 – almost half-a-century ago. Electronic fuel injection does a fine job of working without needing maintenance (or adjustment) for many years. But not for half-a-century. Let alone a full century – which is well within the service life of the basic castings that comprise an assembled carburetor. The “soft parts” – gaskets, rubber pieces and so on – do eventually wear and need to be replaced. But the lovely thing is they are replaceable.
The carb you see above can be removed from the engine in about five minutes with the most basic hand tools. It takes a bit more skill – and some specialized tools – to disassemble/rebuild the carb, but not so much that most people cannot rebuild one. People used to do so, routinely – chiefly because they could.
And even if they couldn’t, it wasn’t that big a deal to have someone else do it – without even necessarily taking the car in to a shop. One could – anyone could – remove the carburetor and take or send it to someone who knew carbs and have them rebuild/adjust it.
My Trans-Am is now almost 50 years old. Yet – if I needed to – I could buy a brand-new replacement carburetor today for about $500. That’s for everything. The works (except the fuel pump and gas tank, of course; the latter lasting essentially forever, the former costing maybe $50 to replace, held on by two bolts and replaced in 15 minutes using basic hand tools).
Whatever the merits of computer controlled fuel injection – and there are many, including usually quicker starts and always quicker warm-ups – this is not one of them. The EFI system is embedded as well as wired. It is connected to sensors and those to a computer, which controls the workings you cannot see. And while you may go for many years – even a decade or more – eventually, something will need to be replaced. Probably it will be a thing you do not understand or cannot get at, even if you did understand how it worked.
And there is the expense. $500 might buy you a few of the system’s components. The system, itself, would cost you probably three or four times that to replace everything and so set the odometer, as it were, to zero again. Assuming you can afford that, you are probably not going to be able to get that – the necessary parts, that is – half a century from now. You may not be able to get them in 20 years from now.
Ask anyone who’s been down this road already. Electronic stuff is proprietary stuff – designed to be specific and when the company that holds the rights no longer makes what you need and hasn’t sold the rights to another (aftermarket) party that might make what you need, you will be in need f another way to get air and fuel to your engine.
Like a carburetor, for instance!
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