Max Prinzing has his dream: to claim gasoline independence on Independence Day by driving his sky-blue Packard-style car emblazoned with patriotic ensignia 1,600 miles from Howard Lake, Minn., to D.C. on alcohol and water fuel.
Prinzing and his Minnesota partners, Ron and Jeff Ellefson, designed the car to burn alcohol made from vegetation and distilled in a solar system at 13 cents a gallon.
The trio estimates that five gallons of alcohol can be produced from one bushel of corn, with the remaining waste pulp sold for $2 as cattle feed.
"The car burns clean, the engine runs cool, we get 85 percent the mileage as with gasline, and it's cheap." boasts Ron Ellefson, who was in town with Prinzing yesterday to discuss the car with Department of Energy officials and to apply for a patent on the carburetor.
The 2,7000-pound vehicle, which uses a 350-cubic-inch V-8 Chevrolet engine, was designed by Baron Industires, which Prinzing founded and for which the car is named.
The $14,900, handmade, self-styled roadster has classic styling, with running board, rumble seat, convertible top and a statuette of a nude flying woman on the hood. So far 39 have been manufactured.
Actually, Prinzing says that any car today can run on alcohol simply by adjusting the carburetor, which he estimates would sell commercially for about $3000.
Because the fuel burns clean, there is no carbon buildup to wear an engine and no need for a heavy catalytic converter, he claims.
But the biggest thrill for the patriotic entrepreneur is proved to Americans that today's cars run on an alternative fuel. "We have enough alcohol to produce enough fuel so that we don't need one drop of gas," Prinzing says.
"There's no reason we have to accept a lower standard of living" because of gasoline prices and shortages, he says. "A certain amount of freedom has been taken place from the people."
Prinzing is arguing not only for the droving public but also for farmers, nothing that the latter need to be able to produce the cheaper fuel for tractors and nothing that commodities prices would benefit from increased demand for corn and other agriculture products.
Alcohol can be distilled from almost anything -- corn, fruit, sawdust, potatoes, weeds and cactus.And for internal combustion engines, alcohol burns well with up to a 20 percent mix with water.
Other benefits include slower and quieter combustion, a reduced tendency to burn lubricating oil, no value jobs, and an odorless exhaust of carbon dioxide and water vapor.
And the tragedies of oil spills are eliminated "because the fish just get drunk, they don't die" on alcohol, as Prinzing likes to explain.
Although the partners made their own alcohol at a cost of 13 cents and estimate it can be produced at 40 to 80 cents, most government estimates put it in the range of 80 cents to $1.75.
And like any new invention that sounds good, theirs will be delayed by government regulations which will prevent the fuel from being available within the year.
The problems associated with the new car are "bigger than we had thought," said Ellefson. Problems with lecensing rights for distillation, converting gasoline distribution stations to alcohol, a possible tax and inevitable interference from the oil companies could drive up the price, said one DOE source who asked not to be identified.
"And there are 33 senators who own stock in oil companies," adds Prinzing.
But with 180 proof buning under his hood, Prinzing feels he has a good thing.
"We aren't for sale," he says. "This is going to the American people. I'm declaring my own war on gas." CAPTION: Picture, Ron Ellefson (left) and Max Prinzing here with their alcohol-burning classic-styled car after their trip from Minnesota. By Tom Allen -- The Washington Post