carbs are back (sort of)

Three classics, three carb-related upgrades, and three alternative takes on getting the most from gasoline.

carbs are back (sort of)

Omnivorous content consumption is all about keeping informed on stuff that’s years from any measurable success, if ever. I’m not talking about “sustainable” fuels or crop fibers—today it is about mechanics tinkering with carburetors. Though not in the ways you may think.

These three examples are currently in very different in terms of progress, purpose, and practicality. And all are homegrown. Whereas some motorcycle and small engine owners have SmartCarb and Lectron kits that can eliminate almost every drawback of a non-fuel injected engine, car owners are mostly out of luck.

Unless, that is, you get a bit creative.

customized Ford Maverick by ThunderHead289 on mobile dyno
customized Ford Maverick by ThunderHead289

First up, a Ford Maverick muscle car—and its 302 Ford V8—with custom-coded electronics and parts to handle fuel metering on a lawnmower carburetor for “a pretty consistent 35-45 mpg on the Interstate” as its builder says.

Bull? Turns out no.

honda insight with cement mixer engine (not pictured) by Robot Cantina leaving on its 70mph run
honda insight with cement mixer engine (not pictured) by Robot Cantina

Next, Honda Insight owners who have done an engine swap, installing a 420cc carbureted engine from a cement mixer—then devising a custom supercharger, intercooler, and a custom EFI system to later replace the carb in search of more power.

It now does more than 70mph.

Nobuteru Taniguchi seeing the Toyota AE85 by Takuya “Tomitaku” Tomimatsu as garage door goes up
Nobuteru Taniguchi and a very special Toyota AE85 by Takuya “Tomitaku” Tomimatsu

The final boss: adapting a Suzuki Hayabusa cylinder head and carburetor onto a classic Toyota AE85 and onto its anemic 1.5-liter 3A-U engine. A legendary engineer and mechanic in Japan, Takuya “Tomitaku” Tomimatsu was able to significantly increase power, torque, and drivability without resorting to turbos or an engine swap.

I’m sharing these modern riffs on older or seemingly outdated or unloved technology to illustrate that there’s a long life yet for gasoline—as long as we’re willing to get more inventive in updating the classics that are regularly on our roads. The future doesn’t have to be all EVs and heated seat subscriptions.

If gets big enough, I’d one day love to devise an event that brings a few of these true oddities out to play. What do you think?

I chose this video specifically because it’s one of the most current, has a full explanation of the powertrain. Past the old school intro, it’s entertaining to watch Luke, aka ThunderHead289, hope to get the lowest measured horsepower at a dyno event. via ThunderHead289 on YouTube

What started as installing a $99, 212cc lawnmower engine into a Honda Insight has turned into 47 densely-packed episodes and counting. Not to worry: this is the best part. Hell, go here to start watching from the 70mph run. The channel’s next project, predictably, is adapting a lawnmower carb to a 1997 Saturn SC1. Robot Cantina on YouTube

I’m dropping you into the story up as the ’Busa-3A-U engine fires up, before Nobuteru Taniguchi takes it for a drive. I wonder how many other pokey economy cars are waiting to be woken up by an engine maestro like Tomitaku-san. Full sound at 12 minutes. via NOBチャンネル on YouTube

“Wow Michael, a video in Japanese with no English subtitles thx” To which I say: feed your YouTube algorithm something better.

Enjoy ;)