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Lubricants Published: 26th Apr 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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How much thought do you give about the oils which you feed your pet project on? For reliability and peace of mind, make it a lot…

If you’re serious about caring for your finished project, you’ll protect it with proper classic oils. On the face of it, you’d rightly think that the newer, more advanced lube it is, then surely the better. Yet this is not so, because certain advanced specifications and formulations won’t protect your classic’s engine any better – in fact the opposite is possibly more true.

A classic engine oil strikes the perfect balance for classic car lovers, providing current standards of blend quality but twinned with traditionally refined formulations appropriate for the eras these oils were intended for. Don’t please confuse the issue with a cheap budget 20W/50; these are completely different and a waste of money due to their general low standards.

The classic oil scene is thriving because – in the case of engines particularly – the sheer cost of a proper overhaul – running into thousands or even five figures – means it’s false economy to ruin all that good work by using an inferior or an unsuitable modern oil. And with over 100 different blends, brands and brews on the market, it’s easy to get it wrong and sentence your unit to a slow, painful and not to say an expensive death.

While the topic is not half as complicated as the mainstream high street lubricants, you do need to speak to a classic oil specialist (Penrite, Millers Oils, Morris Lubricants, Valvoline, Castrol, and so on all have websites for advice) to see what is right both for you and your classic coupled with your type of motoring. Failing that, check out what your specialist repairer recommends.

Castrol’s famous GTX name, is over half a century old, yet still around and fairly popular – although it’s not the same brew naturally! Another well known old and very trusted name: Duckhams has also recently returned to the scene. An all British company, the group of British born entrepreneurs bought the brand and the company, Alexander Duckham and Co, from BP and the oil is blended, distributed and developed in the UK.

Initially the oil was only available direct from www. and with no distributor costs, Duckhams’ price of a 5L pack of Q20W-50 is highly competitive at £29.99 delivered. That’s cheap as you pay almost double this, depending on type and specification you specify. Q20W-50 plus a pair of SAE 30 and 40 monogrades (mainly for pre-1950 units), has been joined by a wider spread of classic and modern transmission oils and greases.

Another respected name, Fuchs, has recently relaunched a 12-strong range of engine and gear oils and gaining interest, as is Veedol, although Shell’s relaunched X100 is proving slow to catch on, says the trade who adds that the most popular selling classic oil is still the Halfords range, chiefly because of the easy availability more than their nominal performance specifications.

Even the carmakers can come to the rescue. For example, Porsche started to market its own line of classic engine oils (20W/50 and 10W/60) back in 2015 dedicated to classic Porsche engines, which up to the 1970s required a recommended special single-grade oil.

A high quality classic lubricant (either for the engine and transmission) doesn’t come cheap but given what’s protecting, it has to be regarded as cheap insurance as any reputable restoration or marque specialist will tell you.

What’s the best brews?

A case of pour quality?

With a wide range on offer, these are just right for the era of your engine but possess modern technology where it matters. Go for a well known name and don’t confuse the issue with cheap 20W/50 oils which are still on sale

Good way to oil the cogs

Since the ’80s there’s been a shift to ‘multigrade’ oil as well as a gradual switch to synthetics. A lighter or multigrade lube may yield a crisper gear change but noise levels may increase as a result. Speak to an oil expert for advice here

Are they a racing cert?

Classic motorsport oils are available in mineral and synthetic formulations. All boast higher specifications but for the average classic car owner will not provide any better protection over a normal classic oil. Again, see an oil expert for advice here

Five top tips

Synthetic sins

Synthetic oils benefit from being far more flexible and wide working ranges (viscosities) than the mineral type, but if you have a pre-1980 classic then you’re probably paying for features that are not required. Also, unless you opt for a classic type, these man-made lubes may not suit oldies, as they will be lighter and thinner in constitution, and this will probably lead to low oil pressure and probably excessive consumption

No smoke oil

This is a special engine oil specially formulated to combat worn and smoky engines and is marketed by No Smoke Oil. Using it requires an engine flush and two oil and filter changes. Not a cheap exercise but it works and could save you an engine rebuild

A case for cogs?

As engine oils have progressed, so have greases and transmission lubricants, although as with engine lubricants, advanced blends such as synthetic greases are largely unsuitable for the old school components

A little extra

Additives are very much a personal thing but it’s generally agreed that they are no substitute for a good oil. One we favour is Engine Restorer & Lubricant, marketed by Ametech. We tried it in a MGB and it did seem to run smoother and quieter for a period!

Lay up lubricant

If your classic is to be used sparsely or stored away for long periods, change the oil before to ensure that fresh lube is protecting it; old oils can give off acidic fumes and lead to damage. Or use a special additive


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