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Need help after engine fire
Posted by: nphansen ()
Date: January 23, 2023 02:43PM

My 1961 Corvair Monza coupe was not running right, so I took it into a local shop which said they had Corvair experience. They replaced spark plugs, ignition coil and distributor, replaced engine oil and filter, rebuilt both carburetors, replaced the fuel pump, and replaced the valve lifters.

Two days after I got it out of the shop, there was an engine fire. Now the insurance company for the shop is refusing my claim for repairs. They laid the blame on the engine coil. They are denying the claim because they say that I was the one who supplied the coil.

At the time I took the car into the shop, the mechanic suggested that I update the ignition coil. As it happened, I had purchased a Pertronix unit from Mike' Corvair Parts back in 2013 and it had just been sitting around since I bought it.

I believe that the insurance company is looking for any excuse it can find in order to deny the claim.

So, do any of you have experience with a Corvair engine fire?
Can a Pertronix unit cause a fire?
Do you know of any investigators I could contact to look at the car to determine if the insurance company is correct?

Or, might anyone be interested in purchasing a 1961 Corvair Monza which has had an engine fire?

Thank you all for your help.

Norman Hansen
Brand New 1960 White and Red Monza Coupe 3spd then.
1961 White and Red Monza Coupe PG now.

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Re: Need help after engine fire
Posted by: Wills69 ()
Date: January 23, 2023 02:57PM

Norman,

Sorry to hear. I'm not a mechanic, but it sounds like there was gas leaking. If the carbs and/or fuel pump rebuilt /replaced is my initial thought. I suppose any ignition coil could "ignite" the gas fumes, regardless of the style.

Will
Grayslake, IL

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Re: Need help after engine fire
Posted by: vairmech ()
Date: January 23, 2023 03:14PM

I will say right off the bat that the insurance co. is looking for a way out. If what you say is correct their excuse is pretty cheesy.
You may just have to talk with someone local. Talk with your own insurance agent and see what they have to say about the other.

Ken Hand
Handy Car Care
248 613 8586

Vairmech@aol.com

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Re: Need help after engine fire
Posted by: nphansen ()
Date: January 23, 2023 03:15PM

The finding of their inpector was:

Analysis of the data gathered during the investigation, including the scene examination, determined that the first fuel ignited was likely fugitive oil that escaped the ignition coil.

Does a Pertronix unit have oil in it?

Norman Hansen
Brand New 1960 White and Red Monza Coupe 3spd then.
1961 White and Red Monza Coupe PG now.

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Re: Need help after engine fire
Posted by: Timothy Shortle ()
Date: January 23, 2023 03:21PM

That is not a good story Norman. I am in agreement with KH- sounds like a load of bull from the insurance guy. Ignition coils do have oil (tar?) in them. How many miles were driven since the "Corvair" shop worked on it? And how bad was the engine fire? I sure hope no one was injured.

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Re: Need help after engine fire
Posted by: MattNall ()
Date: January 23, 2023 03:26PM

Check with your local small claims court...famous for 50-50 split on claims like this.

Play their game....say the coil's INSTALL was faulty.

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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/23/2023 03:28PM by MattNall.

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Re: Need help after engine fire
Posted by: nphansen ()
Date: January 23, 2023 04:15PM

I have to correct one thing. Shows how little I know about engines.

The inspector blames the ignition coil. I equated that with the Pertronix system, which I now have found out has to do with the distributor, not the coil.

So, does an ignition coil have oil? Can it leak out and cause a fire?

Thanks again, everybody.

Norman Hansen
Brand New 1960 White and Red Monza Coupe 3spd then.
1961 White and Red Monza Coupe PG now.

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Re: Need help after engine fire
Posted by: Layton Curtis ()
Date: January 23, 2023 04:31PM

The Pertronix unit is not the same as the coil. Maybe the coil had a miniscule amount of oil but that wouldn't cause much fire without an accelerant. If it was a big time fire the accelerant must have been gas. Therefore, they didn't tighten the gas fittings on the carbs. If it was me, I wpuld get a lawyer. I see no way you can lose-and lawsuit winner is entitled to all his fees.

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Re: Need help after engine fire
Posted by: jfreez ()
Date: January 23, 2023 04:51PM

A letter from a lawyer will go a long way.

I had an insurance company try to low ball me on an accident my wife was in last year. Not her fault and they were trying to give quite a bit less then the car was worth, not to mention my time and the day of work she lost.

I had a letter written and sent to them by a lawyer and they came up %40 on their initial offer.

The letter even said that they were writing on my behalf but not actually representing me at that time.

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Re: Need help after engine fire
Posted by: corventure Dave ()
Date: January 23, 2023 06:02PM

I personally don't see how the oil in an overheated and ruptured ignition coil could start an engine fire. That's a reach in my opinion and I'm thinking that the insurance company keeps that excuse as a claim to use in order to not cover a liability.
I would personally look to see if the coil is even ruptured at this point. However it may be too far damaged if the fire was extensive, but perhaps not.
Seeing that the carburetors were removed and rebuilt, I would suspect fire from a fuel leak. That would-could indicate mechanics negligence.
I have a feeling that they are taking advantage of your limited mechanical knowledge and perhaps you personally.
Your auto insurance company may be able to help. Unless you only have minimal liability coverage.
Vintage car insurance from Hagerdy or another would step up if they represent.

Sorry to hear of your dalema.

Corventure Dave

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Re: Need help after engine fire
Posted by: wittsend ()
Date: January 23, 2023 07:27PM

If the coil is intact weight it and a new one. If they are the same it it debunks the "fugitive" oil theory.

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***'61 Lakewood, a "Freebie" in hibernation for 27 years - In the process of applying CPR.***

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Re: Need help after engine fire
Posted by: junkman ()
Date: January 23, 2023 11:20PM

I assume that the fire was extinguished by the local fire department. I would ask the fire department arson investigator to examine the engine compartment to determine the cause of the fire. DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING IN THE ENGINE COMPARTMENT, NOR CLEAN ANYTHING UNTIL THIS HAS BEEN FULLY INVESTIGATED! A good fire investigator will be able to quickly determine the origin of the fire and the cause. Most likely the fuel line or carburetor leaked gasoline, and a spark from the engine's ignition system could be the source of the ignition. An insurance adjuster is not a qualified fire inspector. You can also contact the state fire marshall's office or the State Police to see if they have an investigator that will take a look at the cause and give you a report. I assume that you have fire insurance on your car's insurance policy, and if you do, have your insurance company pay the claim and they can then subrogate the other insurance company on your behalf. How your insurance company will determine the cost of repairs will depend on how the shop that is going to do the repairs writes up the estimate. Be forewarned that the insurance company might call the car a total loss, and pay you the stated amount of the policy. You have the right to retain the vehicle and they will deduct the salvage amount from the total claim. Depending on the salvage amount that they will want you then have to decide if it is worth keeping the car or letting the insurance company take it. Some pictures of the car and a description of the car prior to the fire will be helpful for us to help you determine the value of the vehicle and a guestimate of what it is going to cost to do the repair. If the engine lid is scorched, then it should be replaced, since trying to get paint to adhere to burnt metal is extremely difficult. When I had my shop back in the late 1960's I did a lot of fire restoration, and almost always it required mostly new sheet metal when it comes to painting. The good news is that there are a lot of good used parts available for your car.

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Re: Need help after engine fire
Posted by: JimBrandberg ()
Date: January 24, 2023 05:27AM

Corvair mechanical fuel pumps these days are notorious for leaking. They're also notorious for too much pressure that can overwhelm a carburetor.

Pertronix is a brand name. It has incorrectly become synonymous with the module installed inside the distributor, I say that myself, but the Pertronix company makes ignition coils as well.

I don't think oil from a coil can cause a fire but I'm nobody and nothing. Anyone ever heard of this happening?

To play devils advocate you can install a fuel pump or work on carburetors and everything is fine. A problem can subsequently develop that's not your fault.
A person driving a 60 year old car should be lifting the hood regularly to check on things. It's not very often that a leak develops and immediately starts on fire but I suppose it can happen.

I reread the original post.
They replaced the distributor? Maybe just the distributor cap...?
They replaced the lifters? That's a pretty big job that's not often needed.
But I digress.

Jim Brandberg
Isanti, MN
CorvairRepair.com



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Re: Need help after engine fire
Posted by: azdave ()
Date: January 24, 2023 05:52AM

nphansen Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I believe that the insurance company is looking for any excuse it can find in order to deny the claim.

I'm 100% sure of that.

JimBrandberg Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> They replaced the distributor? Maybe just the distributor cap...?
> They replaced the lifters? That's a pretty big job that's not often needed.

Agree with Jim. Doubtful they replaced the whole distributor and I'll bet they only adjusted the lifters, not replaced them. Neither of those would cause an engine fire. I think it highly unlikely the coil would cause more than a little mess if any of the oil leaked out. There's not that much in them anyway.

Seems very suspect that the carb and fuel pump were worked on. Those are known to leak fuel which does easily cause engine fires. Were all the steel fuel lines in the engine compartment still the same or had a previous owner changed to rubber?

Any photos of the engine before and after?

Dave W. / Gilbert Arizona
65 Corsa 140/4
66 Corsa 140/4
66 Corsa 140/4 w/factory A/C
66 Corsa 455 Toro V8
65 Monza Convertible 110/4
66 Monza Convertible 140/4 A/C
65 Monza 4DR 140/PG w/factory A/C
65 Monza 4DR EJ20T/5



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Re: Need help after engine fire
Posted by: v8vair ()
Date: January 24, 2023 06:13AM

Why was there external gasoline on the engine to catch fire is what I would ask

1964 Bill Thomas Monza Replica Racer
1964 Spyder Street Car
1998 Honda Prelude Dirt track car
1967 Crown V8 under construction
Mike Levine
Cumming Georgia
North of Atlanta

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Re: Need help after engine fire
Posted by: Frank DuVal ()
Date: January 24, 2023 06:39AM

Quote
Jim
Corvair mechanical fuel pumps these days are notorious for leaking. They're also notorious for too much pressure that can overwhelm a carburetor.

This is what I'm thinking too, besides the popular tightening the fuel line into the carburetor without holding the big nut with a 1" wrench, so the steel line tensions like a spring, only to loosen the big nut several miles down the road.

Coil oil catching fire? No. Fuel pump spraying gasoline onto coil tower? Very possible.

Frank DuVal

Fredericksburg, VA

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