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John Deere Tractors Discussion Forum
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1940's fuels

Author  [Modern View]

01-12-2014 21:53:03

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Hello all,
I was reading a 40's era JD advert that mentioned the advantages of the low cost fuels that the 2Cyls could burn. In particular, the add mentioned Gasoline, Distillate, Tractor fuel, and Power fuel.
Would one of you wise old owls fill in the blanks for this young ( punk 58 YO ) pup?
I think tractor fuel is Kerosene, right? and the Power fuel? is that akin to bunker oil?

I just want to understand the reasoning behind the engineering and design of these machines. Their history is fascinating.
Thanks so much!

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01-15-2014 19:30:20

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 Re: 1940's fuels in reply to 41B-boy, 01-12-2014 21:53:03  
From the operators manual for my 420c the all fuel is designed to burn gasoline , power fuel, tractor fuel or kerosene . Now if we could just go back in time and find out what power fuel was.

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David from Kansas

01-14-2014 09:21:35

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 Re: 1940's fuels in reply to 41B-boy, 01-12-2014 21:53:03  
We burned "power fuel" in our D's and A until it was no longer available. We used one of the D's until into the mid 60's, but it was limited use at that time so we just used regular gas and added about 10% diesel because we had both available as Dad had traded the oldest (1937) D off for a new 730 diesel. Been a long time ago but IIRC we started them on gas but would change over to power fuel right after starting and didn't wait for a warm-up. I definitely remember tho that it was called "power fuel". Couldn't burn it in a gasoline engine.

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01-13-2014 16:42:11

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 Re: 1940's fuels in reply to 41B-boy, 01-12-2014 21:53:03  
40's? We used kerosene in our 41 B and 38 D clear into the 60's.

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01-13-2014 13:59:13

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 Re: 1940's fuels in reply to 41B-boy, 01-12-2014 21:53:03  
Don't waste your time via mixing gasoline an diesel fuel. It isn't the same stuff. You are looking for Kerosene used in torpedo heaters, lanterns and jet aircraft engines. Burns with a faintly pleasant smell. Have the coolant temps up to 195F plus and the engine under load before switching form gasoline to "fuel". Go back to gasoline before engine shutdown. Or run the carb completely dry.

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01-13-2014 15:42:18

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 Re: 1940's fuels in reply to buickanddeere, 01-13-2014 13:59:13  
My B sn 114144 is an all fuel and I've restored it as such, all proper fuel system hardware is in place, though I don't plan to burn anything other than good ( no alcohol ) gas. I've read some comment re: adding this or that to the gas... I'm asking b/c I'm mostly just curious.
Since we're discussing fuel, what is the effect on the missing lead... is that still an issue or have they resolved that with the better quality gas?
I learn a lot from you guys!
Thanks, Bob

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01-13-2014 16:03:50

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 Re: 1940's fuels in reply to 41B-boy, 01-13-2014 15:42:18  
Quoting Removed, click Modern View to see

Tetraethyllead (common name tetraethyl lead), abbreviated TEL, was commonly used to increase octane rating in automobile gasoline (still used in some applications). It was added beginning in the 1920s as an inexpensive octane booster that allowed engine compression to be raised substantially, which in turn increased vehicle performance and/or fuel economy. TEL was phased out starting in the US in the mid-1970s because of its neurotoxicity.

Tetraethyl lead can work as a buffer against microwelds forming between hot exhaust valves and their seats. Once these valves reopen, the microwelds can pull apart and leave the valves with a rough surface that could abrade seats, leading to valve recession after long intervals. When lead began to be phased out of motor fuel, the automotive industry began specifying hardened valve seats and upgraded exhaust valve materials to prevent valve recession without lead.

There really was never a problem with the fuel; rather the "valve" concerns were related to the materials used in the valves and/or seats.

I'd think that just about any modern available automobile gasoline is arguably a far superior product than what was available, for example, back in the first half of the last century. We've been without lead now for, what, 40 years and seem to have managed to get by. For at least a decade (around where I live in Colorado) ethanol has been a component of gasoline sold.
I don't believe that for use in a relatively low compression and low speed tractor engine, there would be any measurable difference in performance or longevity that could be attributed to presence or absence of lead or ethanol in the fuel.

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01-13-2014 12:36:22

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 Re: 1940's fuels in reply to 41B-boy, 01-12-2014 21:53:03  
Don't be mislead about the term "power Fuel"..

Remember, you were running an engine with around 4:1 compression at that time.. Nothing was going to make it a Stump-Puller..!!


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Geoff Mathews

01-13-2014 14:02:57

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 Re: 1940's fuels in reply to BushogPapa, 01-13-2014 12:36:22  
I am from Wales UK. Gas or petrol as we call it was allways heavily taxed - so we rarely used gas tractors - spark ignition was TVO. The same Ferguson engine set up to burn gas, or TVO would be 40hp or 28hp respectively. With Fergusons there was also an option for Lamp oil - which I think dropped the HP to the low 20s. This was during the 50s and 60s. So I guess the message is nothing pulls like gas!

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Geoff Mathews

01-13-2014 14:15:30

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 Re: 1940's fuels in reply to Geoff Mathews, 01-13-2014 14:02:57  
Another thought - although drifting away from the theme. The TVO engines available to us were often converted car engines. For example the Ferguson engine was out of a TR4 sports car. We once had a delivery of diesel into our TVO tank which was still quarter full. So we had a mixture of TVO and diesel. The supplier would not take it back. The MF 35 with a TVO engine did not like it even with copious amounts of gas added. The 38 B ran on it all day with no problem. The conclusion is that those 2 cylinder all fuel engines were heads and shoulders above the rest.

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Kent Petersen

01-13-2014 03:21:09

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 Re: 1940's fuels in reply to 41B-boy, 01-12-2014 21:53:03  
Power Fuel was a mix of distillate and gas i don,t know the mix ratio

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Mike Aylward

01-13-2014 13:44:28

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 Re: 1940's fuels in reply to Kent Petersen, 01-13-2014 03:21:09  
I believe Standard Oil had Power Fuel. It was a mixture of fuel oil and gasoline. It allowed a slightly higher compression ratio which allowed more power. I have been told it was a very popular fuel as it was priced right and didn't come with as many problems as straight fuel oil or other distillates. Mike

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01-13-2014 15:20:55

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 Re: 1940's fuels in reply to Mike Aylward, 01-13-2014 13:44:28  
Mike, in addition to your comments, the late Duane Larson said that if he remembered correctly, another advantage to Power Fuel was that you could start your tractor from cold with it. You didn't have to start on gasoline, warm up, then switch over. And as you mentioned, it was cheaper than straight gasoline.

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01-12-2014 22:09:34

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 Re: 1940's fuels in reply to 41B-boy, 01-12-2014 21:53:03  
Quote from Tractor Data

Known as tractor vapourising oil or distillate, this once-cheap fuel was commonly used in farm tractors until World War II. Many manufacturers built low-compression "all fuel" engines designed to burn tractor-fuel, gasoline, or kerosene. The engine was started on gasoline from a small tank, and switch to tractor-fuel once it was warm.

Tractor-fuel was a low grade fuel produced between gasoline and diesel in the traditional distillation of crude oil. The refining techniques developed during World War II made it possible to convert this into more useful fuels, and it began to disappear.

A tractor-fuel engine can be run on modern gasoline. The lowest grade of gasoline available today is often better than the highest grade available when these engines were built."

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01-12-2014 22:42:12

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 Re: 1940's fuels in reply to Bob, 01-12-2014 22:09:34  
Thank You, Bob!

Any idea as to the reference to "POWER FUEL" mentioned in the early 40's ad?

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