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oil for older or clasic cars

Item I have just read about oil for older classic cars and why modern oil appears to be dangerous.

Situated on a site that you would not normally expect to find it on.

The author is writing about the good old US of A, but comments cover GB as well.


dadbif    on 9 November 2010

Excellent article, thanks.

SteveLee    on 9 November 2010

You could buy quality "classic" 20W/50 oil at Morris Lubricants in bulk (25L), support British industry - all for the equivalent of £2.68p per litre.

And no, I don't work for them!

colynn    on 10 November 2010

Thanks for the link to this site. It appears excellent.

Yes I agree totally Buy British whenever possible. Otherwise no wonder Blighty is close to bankrupt

SteveLee    on 10 November 2010

I use their classic oil in my Imp and their modern stuff in my bike - the bike's gearbox is sweet as a nut with Morris oil, gearboxes don't lie! Castrol, for instance, makes my bike's gearbox feel like a box of rusty spanners, Mobil 1 is the only other oil that seems to do the trick.

edlithgow    on 1 January 2023

Link is dead, but I had a look on the Morris website.

As is usual, I could see no information on the Zn content of the "Classic" oils being sold.

Since (from its preamble, and from the "word on the street"), that is the focus of the OP's article (though the reality and scale of this issue is controversial) that means there is no known reason to select or recommend the Miller oils in this context.

Halfords website currently shows "Millers Classic Pistoneeze", a 20W50 API SJ, which they state is "formulated with ZDDP", a step in the right direction, though they don't say how much. Halfords own brand "Classic" oil (a 20W50 SE) doesn't say how much either, but its probably the same as the Comma "Classic", fairly mediocre at 600-800ppm. Castrol "Classic", 3X as expensive, BS.

The BITOG discussion I link to comes up with US-made Valvoline VR1 at 1400ppm, probably quite expensive and hard to find, but perhaps the best bet in this context.

I used Mobil Delvac MX 15W40 HDEO ("Truck oil"), based on an old email from Mobil (no info on website or response to later queries) suggesting this had over 1000ppm Zn, though its quite possible they later changed the formulation, and probably impossible to find out.

Metropolis.    on 3 January 2023

Ed, Valvoline VR-1 20w50 mineral is very easy to find and is favoured by RPI (the rover v8 specialists) for its ZDDP rating.

You can even order it on Amazon, in the UK at least. Or places like Opie Oils etc.

I noticed on LR forums the Americans seem to like Shell Rotella diesel oils, and possibly a Lucas oil brand, but not sure how suited the former is to a classic given high detergent unless the engine is already sparkly clean.

The consensus seems to be that most other products, Halfords classic and Castrol GTX included, are no longer sufficiently high in ZDDP. Probably to protect cats.

edlithgow    on 6 October 2023

Thanks for the VR-1 info, though I doubt I'll be affording another car in the UK.

My initial reaction to your last line was "But classics dont HAVE cats" but perhaps that is no longer true.

In any case the lack of info from the sellers on this central point , and in particular the evasive marketing BS from Castrol, is even more unimpressive than ones expectations of them.

Roly93    on 10 November 2010

Very interesting I never knew all of this. I just assumed that newer oils were automatically super-good at lubricating and not breaking down. I knew that some oils had molybdenum in them but I didn't realise they used zinc to preserve the tappet surfaces.

My PD engined Audi needs the special 507 spec oil due to the extreme pressure the cam driven injectors give to the oil. How do they get around this issue without the Zinc ?

sandy56    on 11 November 2019

Common knowledge not to use modern oils in old cars.
Even Halford's advised me not to use modern oils in my 1950's engines, and the lad found the correct oil, but wasn't in stock!
I was surprised to read the article about old cars having problems, very strange, most classic car mechanics are well aware of this.

edlithgow    on 5 December 2020

Yon link is dead, but I noted that Halfords did a 20W50 "Classic" oil when I was last in the UK. It was SE IIRC, though, which is obsolete and probably unfortunate.. I can see why you wouldn't want to use a recent low-Zinc formulation (although this is doubtful since I've seen it stated that the limits don't apply to the higher viscosity grades like 20W50) I can't see any reason to go as far back as SE, apart from it perhaps being cheaper to manufacture. As is usual, the Halfords stuff didn't state the Zn content on the tin,.so how much you are getting is anybody's guess. As I understand it, the earlier specs had no mandatory limit, but that does not mean they necessarily contain a lot.

Discussed (inconclusively) a bit more here

Edited by edlithgow on 19/12/2022 at 08:10

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