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I have owned a Fish carburettor for over 30 years, and have used it on 3 different cars. I have acquired a lot of documentation over the years, and thought it would be good to preserve the documents electronically, and make them available for others who may be interested. This was partly inspired by my son Richard, who drove the most recent car fitted with the fish for a year or so, and would also like to see the documentation. As he is currently in the UK, and I am in New Zealand, this is a handy way of getting it to him!
For those who don't know, the Fish carburettor was designed in the USA, by a chap called Fish (funny that). There is a lot of information on the history of the Fish available at FireballRoberts.com, but the story I heard is that they came about because of a restriction on the number of carburettors and barrels that Indy racing cars could use during a brief part of the history of that race. Fish was an expert on air flow and the like, and designed a single choke carburettor (about 3" diameter!) that would cope with the rather large racing engines used at that time. The carburettor was also marketed for road cars, and there are various conspiracy type stories around about the large car manufacturers and oil companies suppressing the manufacture and marketting of the carburetttor, as it would 'revolutionize' the car world, with talk of up to 200 mpg.
Some of the following information (in italics) was sourced from the FireballRoberts.com site mentioned above, but it appears it is possibly incorrect. I have received an email (on 30/05/2014) from Ian Roberts, the son-in-law of the co-owner of Leonard Reece and co, who says: "With reference to your article regarding Fish carburettors. I worked for Leonard Reece and my father in law owned Leonard Reece and co. some of the info in your article is not quite true with regards to patents etc. Len Reece and my uncle in law went to the states and met with the original designer and bought the English patent , not Bob Henderson, this eventually ended up in court and Len Reece won ." Both Ian and his father-in-law now live in New Zealand!
However, eventually, the UK rights,and after a while, the world wide rights to manuafacture and market the carburettors was sold to Bob Henderson, an engineer based in Scotland. Bob Henderson redesigned the carburettor for use in small cars, and named it the Minnow Fish, and started to market it world wide for use on VW Beetles, Minis, Anglias, and other small cars of the sixties. Very soon after, Leonard Reece brought out his own version of the carburettor, called the Reece Fish, which appears to have been sold for several years. I did hear that he was in breach of the patent which Bob Henderson owned, and was later forced to stop making them.
Bob Henderson appears to have continued to manufacture them until quite recently, but there is no sign of them any where on the web now, so I assume they are no longer manufactured. Surely by now the patent has run out, shouldn't someone start making them again?
They were very popular in Mini racing a few decades ago, with Clive Trickey praising them and writing tuning guides for them in some of his books.
Between 1973 and 1976 I worked in the motor trade, including a stint as manager of a motor accessory shop, which was part of the Longlife Accessories chain, owned by Smiths Industries. I also, over the same time period, competed in various motor sport activities, including rallying, as a co-driver for my brother Jim Glover, and in Autotests (timed runs around cones in a carpark). In 1973 I had built myself a kit car, a Mini Scamp Mk1, using my written off 1963 Mini Cooper as a donor. This started with an 1100cc engine on the Cooper gearbox, and ended up as an 850cc on a standard gear box. Somewhere along the way, it lost its disk brakes, and got some nice drums, which worked a lot better than the 997 Cooper 7" disks!
Not being a natural mechanic, I never had much joy getting SU carburettors to work on my various minis and engines, particularly the twin 1.25" SUs that came with the Cooper, and started looking round for alternatives. I didn't want the expense or complexity of a Weber or similar, and a Reece Fish advert caught my eye. So, at the end of 1974 I wrote to Leonard Reece, and Bob Henderson requesting information about their products.
I recieved response from Leonard Reece with a brochure, a price list and some picures of an A series and B Series installation, and some articles from some magazines (VW Magazine July 1971, April/May 1972, and another article from April 1972).
I also received a similar package from Bob Henderson, containing a note, a price list, a small brochure, and some articles from VW magazine.
Reece must have impressed me more, because I sent my order off to them. To put the price in perspective, the carburettor cost about 40UKP all up, and I earned 28UKP per week at that time. Any way, it duly arrived with an advice note and a set of instructions. I now have 3 sets of instructions for setting up the carburettor, as follows.
1. The ones that came with the carburettor. For those wanting a useable copy of these I have scanned them into a word format.
2. A similar set from 1969, gleaned from off the web somewhere. Very similar, with some extra pictures. These also came with a review from Motor magazine dated March 1 1969, and a 1969 price list.
3. And finally, a British car magazine did a review and some instructions (based on a Minnow Fish) in 1976. I've also scanned these instructions and made them into a word document.
All these documents can be accessed through the menu to the left.
The carburettor was fitted to my Mini Scamp, and was wonderful, the car was easy to drive, economical, easy to tune and stayed in tune. To a 21 year old, this was heaven! I teamed it up with a Mobelec Electronic ignition system, and they played together superbly! No photgraphs of the Scamp survive (at least that I can find at the moment), but I loved that car! However, in 1978, after just a few brief months back on the road after my two years in college, it got written off in an accident involving alcohol, a dog, a gate post and a brick wall!
A couple of years later, when starting to settle down, my wife to be and I bought an Austin 1300 automatic, which was a lovely car, but one day on a drive to Yorkshire, it blew one set of rings (no 3 cylinder) apart. Not having the garage or tools to work on the engine, I replaced the whole engine gearbox unit with an MG 1100 unit, from a 50 UKP car we picked up. The carbs were knackered on it, so I put the Fish and the Mobelec on it, again with wonderful results, until the ignition system packed up! After a couple of years, suffering from icing up carburettors in freezing fog (the most embarrassing being as we entered the Mersy tunnel one day), we started moving our way up through the car hierarchy, with a rather nice Austin 1800 MkIII, then a brand new Metro, followed by an MG Metro and a 1976 Mini 1000. I don't remember if I put the fish on this mini, it was just a bit of a shopping cart for my wife and kids, so I probably didn't. The MG Metro was a company car, as was the Austin Montego 1600 that followed it. Just before we came to NZ in 1987, we owned an Austin Maxi 1750 HL, which was also an excellent car, with twin 1 3/4 SUs.
On arrival in New Zealand in 1988 we had a succession of Japanese vehicles as you do, and eventually in 2002, my daughter bought our current Mini for $350 NZ. The poor girl drove it for 12 months with an engine which would seize quite regularly, but carry on quite happily 10 minutes later, making finding the fault almost impossible. When she went overseas, she sold it to her brother, and at that time I got a replacement engine for it for $600, and spent another $400 or so fitting it. The carburettor that came with the car was not really good enough for the new engine, so I dug out the fish, probably 20 years after it was last used. It was a bit grubby, but a quick check over revealed all was in reasonable order, with two exceptions. Firstly, the outer throttle slide tube was missing. Fortunately, it is a standard size stainless steel tube, so I spent a few days finding a supplier, and bought a metre of it. A quick bit of work with a saw, file and bits and pieces, saw the throttle working again. Secondly, the air filter and elbow was missing! So I decided to bring it into the 21st century, and fitted a K&N cone filter, almost directly to the carburettor. However, due to a mishap with the petrol feed pipe adaptor, I had to replace the adaptor with a slightly different fitting, which stuck out a bit further, interfering with the new filter. A 5ml plate of aluminium between the carb and filter pulled it all together. A local mini breakers supplied an early 850cc mini manifold, which has the correct stud pattern for the carburettor. So we now had a Fish carburettor on the mini, which along with a Dick Smith electronic ignition system, made it run very smoothly.
My son Richard bought a mini of his own and acquired a couple fish carburettors off e-bay in the UK, one or other of which he has installed. He has also found me a "Reece" inlet manifold. This turned out to probably be a Maniflow tubular manifold, which I am teamed up with a Maniflow Freeflow manifold and a stainless steel RC40 exhaust. I have had the cylinder head reconditioned and I replaced the old worn dizzy with a much better one.
As well as the manifold, Richard supplied a 1.5 inch Reece Fish that fits on to it perfectly, but unfortunately I have not been able ti get it working. After trying several times, I am resigned the fact that it is probably too worn out to tune. It is one of the first generation Reece carbs with the metering tapered groove on the back of the float chambder, rather than on the bottom. and whatever I do I can not get it to run anything but very rich. It's a bit of a shame, as it has a lovely air trumpet on it, whch would probably improve the airflow and sound good too! The 1.25 inch fish fits on the manifold just fine, and is more than adequate. I have updated the photos to the new setup
In 2011 I replaced the old Dick Smith Electronics electronic ignition with an Aldon Automotice Ignitor system, which fits entirely inside the distributor, which has both simplified the engine bay further, and improved the performance of the vehicle quite dramatically.
The vehicle is now the company car used to drive me to computer jobs several times week. For a few months it was my daily drive to work 20km away. It starts first turn everytime (unless it hasn't been started for a couple of weeks), ticks over cold at about 600 revs, and warm about 750-800 rpm. It drives very smoothly when warm, but is still easy to drive even when cold. The fish does not have a choke, but in NZ this is not a problem. Surprisingly, carburettor icing can be an issue, especially on the damp cold days we get in the Wellington region. Vapourising fuel chills the inside of the carb, specifically the butterfly spindle where the petrol is vapourised, and the moisture in the air condenses and freezes on the butterfly, eventually blocking the holes the petrol comes out of. Switching off, and opening the throttle fully soon melts the ice if this happens.
Richard also supplied some manifold heaters used on VW air cooled engines. These are like electric blankets, 300mm long by 60mm wide, which are wrapped round the carb and manifold, and wired into the electical system (the fusebox is 150mm away - very convenient). These help a lot and the engine has not iced up since I have been using them. They are a bit ugly, so I take them off in the summer!
Jan Wulf is another keen Fish person, and has created his own page dedicated to the fish, with some excellent links on it too. It hasn't been updated in a while, but he does have lots more documentation, as well as mine, layed out in a much more readable form!
More pictures of the current installation (click to see full size images)
Finally, a picture from "Tuning The Mini, Third Edition" by Clive Trickey, published in 1968, entitled "A neat bit of manifolding." (between pages 64 and 65). Compare with the view from the right above!