Is there an advantage to using synthetic oil in the older engines from the ’40s and ’50s? Please mention both rebuilt and original engines. I have a ’53 Olds Super 88
I have a ’41 (or ’42?) Ford Flathead V-8, and I have heard different things about what oil to run in it. The Flathead has been bored 0.30 over with a ¾ Isky cam, Edelbrock 65cc heads, and intake 2 super 7 carbs. What oil do you recommend?
It’s a bit ironic that not only did we speak to Shell’s petroleum gurus about this, but their advice applies to both vehicles. Read the full article on Hagerty.com:
I use a conventional oil of my preference in my 69 Grand Prix and add Lucas TB Zinc-Plus to the oil. My local NAPA carries it on the shelf, and since it is a Lucas product, it is likely very easy to come by at any average parts store, so it may be a more accessible option for some.
For anyone curious, here is a table of Zinc content that they post for average oils and what mix ratios will get you.
All cj-4 and ck-4 diesel oils have a high level of detergent. I recently ran into an issue where a customer started using Rotella T-4 and after 500 miles lost oil pressure. This is a 60 year old original flathead. When I pulled the pan I found the oil pick up packed full of small chunks of sludge. It's not definitive that the oil is at fault but I'm sure it didn't help. So just be careful with original engines, it really depends on how well it was maintained.
I have had quite a few pre-1980 vehicles and I use MoS2 Anti-Friction Engine Treatment from LIQUI MOLY instead of a zinc additive. As directed by their tech staff, I add it at 15% by volume to either conventional or synthetic oil. I only use it with synthetic oils after a fresh rebuild as, everybody knows, an older engine will leak through seals and gaskets with synthetic.
As for using VR-1 or any other racing oil be advised that they are formulated to be run hard and changed often. They do not contain many of the additives for cleaning and anti-sludge buildup that most oils do. Not good for seasonal cruising.
LIQUI MOLY also sells jugs of 10W-40 semi-synthetic oil premixed with the proper amount of MoS2 Anti-Friction Engine Treatment
My experience with using diesel oil in a gasoline engine was less than satisfying. A 402-inch big block Chevy with a solid lifter cam (nothing radical) with a little over 70,000 miles on it, sparingly driven and treated with respect. When zinc started disappearing from the name-brand oil that I always use, I tried a refill using a name-brand diesel 15W40. After about six months, I noticed that the oil pressure was dropping a bit when it was idling. A preemptive yank was in order, and we found some pretty gnarly pitting in both the cam and main bearings, particularly on the bottom of both. We deduced that when the engine sat for a few days or weeks, the acid byproducts from combustion were aggravated by something in the oil. We freshened it up and used Valvoline VR 1. A sample sent in for analysis after 1,000 miles in six months showed no bearing material in the oil. Your results may vary from ours.
Many restored Model A Ford drivers swear by Rotella T, sighting the increased zinc content to protect the cam. While I had my 29 Tudor, I felt that the low rpm flathead 4 didn't benefit from increased zinc, and used a good multi-grade detergent dyno oil instead.
Our default motor oil is Rotella T6 5w-40. We've run it in everything from a 2014 WRX to a 1941 Oldsmobile Straight 8 (and even in a diesel truck). I went back to Mobil 1 on the WRX when T6 got 'de-rated' for petrol cars, just as a wait and see, and my old Triumph I'm using a 20w-50 specifically recommended for that motor; but those are exceptions.
Engine shop that did my 69 Mustang 302 rebuild 7 years ago insisted it run a 20W-40 diesel oil.
I have had older mechanics note this and say "yep" while younger ones question it.
My '64 Avanti R1 (stock 240HP 289, 10¼:1 Comp.) Factory shop manual called for SAE 30 for use above 32° but lists SAE 10-30 & 20-40 as "acceptable alternatives". Since it only comes out in the warm months and doesn't go too far per trip, I use conventional SAE 30 with original STP additive, just like it came from the factory. Snake oil to add the STP, despite the valve cover sticker to do so? Possibly, since Studebaker owned STP at the time, but it's inexpensive for one oil change every late Fall when it goes to hibernate. It's got just over 100K on it, so it seems to be a good plan.
What do you recommend for older engines that I had understood needed the zinc for lubrication, but that are new enough to have catalytic converters (ie. 1970s-early 1980s)? Thanks again for the great information.