1950's engine oil consumption

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646
Location
PA
In the 1950's, what was the typical oil consumption for a properly broken family sedan? How much make up oil was needed between OCI? Today'snmodern engine spoil us to the point that the 20+ year olds at company are clueless towards automotive maintenance.
 
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8,859
Location
Texas
My folks old 54 New Yorker (331 Hemi) would use about a quart per 3k. Maybe a little more by the time they sold it.
 
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40,731
Location
Great Lakes
Originally Posted By: Patrick0525
for a properly broken family sedan?
What's the procedure to properly break something? I may have been breaking things improperly thus far. smile
 
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7,485
Location
S California
In the teens and 20's many manufacturers of upscale automobiles would have a machinist build an engine out of cast iron parts that were aged in the back lot for 6 months or more and run the completed engine in a stand for a half hour to an hour. Next step would be to tear down the engine and make sure the bearings were properly scraped in and fitted and that other parts were also properly fitted and any adjustments made. Then the engine was again carefully assembled and test driven in a bare chassis for a hundred miles or so and often torn down again to make sure everything was okay especially the seals, rings, slingers and scrappers. A water pump if there was one would have its packings reset along with the rear main bearing and front end seals. The carburetor would receive it's final adjustment along with the voltage regulator and the battery and radiator topped off and any adjustments to the vacuum tank for the fuel system if fitted. Oil consumption was usually not a problem because sumps were large sometimes 2 to 2.5 gallons, and oil change intervals were often around 500 miles. Sometimes after 2 or 3 oil changes the head was removed for carbon scraping and the pan was dropped for cleaning. At least these 2 operations were easy without anything in the way. If the car was put up for the winter the oil was drained and replaced with about gallon of caster oil along with a cup of caster oil in each cylinder thru the spark plug openings. With the spark plugs replaced the engine was turned over or started and run long enough to to make sure the oil has coated the bearing and circulated throughout the engine. As far as engine oil choices one had to really trust the brand name and was advised to only accept oil in its original container, advice that one could consider relevant today.
 
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8,598
Location
Florida
Originally Posted By: Chris142
By the 50's engines were getting pretty advanced. The SBC came about in 55 and stayed till the 90's.Buick had the Nailhead, Olds Rocket etc. Oil consumption wasnt a real big deal by then.
Sure, many 50s engines were OHV designs that continued for years, but there were also many dated engine designs in the 1950s. Pontiac and Ford still had flathead engines until about 1953, were those known oil burners?
 
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4,500
Location
Massachusetts
Originally Posted By: artificialist
Originally Posted By: Chris142
By the 50's engines were getting pretty advanced. The SBC came about in 55 and stayed till the 90's.Buick had the Nailhead, Olds Rocket etc. Oil consumption wasnt a real big deal by then.
Sure, many 50s engines were OHV designs that continued for years, but there were also many dated engine designs in the 1950s. Pontiac and Ford still had flathead engines until about 1953, were those known oil burners?
I rebuilt my old girl friends Dad's 1929 201CI four popper and it used less oil than some new engines my customers have.
 
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1,353
Location
PA
I've found oil consumption to be far worse on the 70's-80's cars than the 40's-50's. I've run a couple 292 Y-block fords/edsels, a 312 Y-block Fairlane, and a 48 packard flathead 8. None ever used more than a qt per 3k change. This isn't counting a few leakers I've had. wink
 

rvt

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62
Location
southern CA
I grew up with '50s and '60s cars. There were many engines which burned less than a quart per 3000 miles and quite a few burned less than a quart per 6000 miles. In general oil was changed more frequently then so minor amount of oil consumption could go unnoticed. I also think there was a bigger percentage of high consumption engines then-production tolerances (produced out of range), or materials such as valve guide seals. I have very good memories of the time. A worn smoky engine would burn quart less than a couple hundred miles, there were stable engines that would burn a quart per thousand (considered relatively high), a quart per 2,000 would be bottom of the average engine range, and there were quite a few which would only be half quart low at 3,000 or 4,000 miles. This would be for standard USA built iron block vehicles. Some high performance cars or high performance driving burned more than average oil. Certainly many of these old engines rebuilt today will exhibit low oil consumption along the lines of modern engines. I also think the old engines would exhibit much better life if equipped with fuel injection, used modern fuels and lubricants. Bore wash from maladjusted auto chokes wore out a lot of the old engines prematurely. One thing in favor of the newer engines is they are lighter and warm up faster.
 
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5,112
Location
Airlie Beach Australia
Hi, Patrick0525 - You've had some very good answers already Some of the engines of the 40s and 50s had no oil filters and operated on <>30psi oil pressure. Lubricants were fairly basic in structure but covered the 1500 - 2000 miles OCI ok. IME oil consumption was typically around 1qrt 1k miles Mobil's 10W-30 was a great forerunner about 1956 or so but must engines used SAE20W-20 or SAE30 For Ford Model "A's", "B's" and flat top V8s we used to assemble them using powered grahite etc. many engine bearings were hand finished when repoured and refitted The introduction of Duckhams Q2050 around 1958 changed the rules a bit! MB used mechanical FI during the 1950s. It was great and reliable and of course required knowledge and patience to get right! Later I assisted in the development of electronic fuel injection (EFI) via Bosch, MB and Volkswagen when living in Copenhagen in the mid 1960s. The first systems were basic and difficult to tune correctly. By 1970 things were getting much better. Yes, whilst Webers and Solex carbs were great the SU confounded many!
 
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Messages
4,942
Location
Kansas
Originally Posted By: Chris142
By the 50's engines were getting pretty advanced. The SBC came about in 55 and stayed till the 90's.Buick had the Nailhead, Olds Rocket etc. Oil consumption wasnt a real big deal by then.
Some engines had good oil control, some still had teething problems. Starting it's life in 1955, the small block Chevy did NOT have the best reputation for oil control for the first few years. If you want some interesting reading, Google the subject of Bon Ami in a 1955 small block Chevy. The unwritten policy from Chevy was to dump this mildly abrasive cleaner down the carb of this engine to seat the piston rings, verified by an old Chevy mechanic neighbor of mine who died less than a year ago. IIRC, the SBC had a bad enough reputation that Ford actually outsold Chevy in 1957. Gas stations still had quarts of oil for sale by the gas pumps well into the late 60s, but that was probably because engines needed rebuilding by 100K miles instead of the engine now that usually outlasts the car. In the 50s, the piston rings were chrome or still even cast iron instead of the moly-coated rings that are common today.
 
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28,123
Location
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Originally Posted By: Kruse
In the 50s, the piston rings were chrome or still even cast iron instead of the moly-coated rings that are common today.
You can say that again. The old time radio station on Sirius XM plays a vintage ad from the 1950s, selling piston rings, of all things. I don't think we could even imagine piston rings being advertised in any type of mass media these days.
 
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