Final Score - Ethanol $120,000 - '65 Cobra $0

Spring Has Sprung 
With March just around the corner, we are beginning to see Classics being brought out of hibernation, their owners anxious to get back on the road ASAP. We beg you to slow the process down and take all necessary steps to prevent this type of danger.

The Latest Victim
Is a 1965 Cobra with an estimated value of $120,000.00, now little more than a pile of crispy parts and memories.To make matters worse, it was only insured for $50,000. As in almost every case for which we receive details, the owner is woefully unprepared to address any similar calamity.
 No, that's not snow, it's fire retardant foam
As with past articles, the owner had no fire extinguisher in the car. His attempts to smother the flames with a t-shirt had no effect. The car was consumed by fire in a matter on moments. His appraisal of the $70,000 loss was,  

"I guess that happens to old cars." 

More factually, that's what happens to old cars when owners are lulled into believing they are driving a properly maintained and safe to drive Classic.  

Backfires and Afterfires
Both of these conditions are possible to occur when starting a Classic that has been in storage for a long time, especially those that were "fogged" as a part of the storage process. A rough running engine could cause either type. While you can't predict it will occur, it's common. So be prepared.

The owner of the above Classic said the car "backfired" then burst into flames. But as a backfire is an instantaneous and very short lived condition, there was something else going on.  

It is also very uncommon for a backfire to be so significant it causes additional mechanical damage leading to spilled fuel. For a long lasting fire to occur there had to be "fuel" source of some kind. The most common is gasoline spewing from a leaky connection, carburetor,  or bad fuel line.

An afterfire, also commonly referred to as a backfire, occurs after the combustion chamber within the exhaust system. The cause is an excessive amount of unburnt fuel collecting in the exhaust system, ignited by the heat from the exhaust. Should this occur, any loose and flammable material within an exhaust system could be ignited and blown out the tailpipe. 

Either of the above could become extremely dangerous. We've also noted the tendency for rodents to nest in the air cleaner and exhaust system. Their nesting material could become a fuel source for fire. 
We wrote about another gentleman who said his car backfired through the exhaust, spewing out the burning remains of a rodent nest. By the time he realized what happened, the storage building fire was out of control. He had purchased the car only a few days erlier and had yet to insure it.

The Short List

  1. Before anything, make sure your insurance is up to date and the coverage accurately reflects the replacement value of your Classic.
  2. Check your fire extinguisher. Get it serviced if needed. If you do not have one, go buy one. Place the extinguisher between you and the nearest exit.
  3. Reverse the procedure you followed to Winterize your car, such as removing any covers or mothballs, checking for rodent invasion and the re-installation of any parts removed for storage.
  4. If you did not check your fuel system before storing your Classic, check for unexpected leaks, fuel line deterioration and the integrity of connections. Any issues, fix them all before going any further. 
  5. If your car is parked over a floor cover, remove it and all all nearby flammable items.
  6. If the battery needs charging, remove it from the car and be sure the charger is connected to a surge protector.
Before Starting Your Car
  1. Have your cell phone handy.
  2. Let anyone else at home know what you are about to do.
  3. If no one else is home, consider alerting your neighbor or have a helper.
  4. Never leave your Classic unattended while it is running, especially a Classic equipped with an auxiliary electric fuel pump.
  5. Stay safe.
Here is a list of a few related articles for your convenience:

It Could never Happen to Me....Part 1
It Could Never Happen to Me...Part 2
It Happened to Me And I Was Very Lucky
Is Fuel Containing Ethanol Safe For My Classic
Fire Destroys Classic Cars Worth Millions
Please - Don't Tell Us of Another Fire! 
Jay Leno Discusses Ethanol
Please Inspect Your Fuel Lines
All About Fire Extinguishers
Winterizing Your Classic