'50s-'60s owners manual oil recommendation links

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86
Location
kansas
My father in law always said he like to run 20 wt oil in all his vehicles. He did that forever. He had and old pontiac executive that would still peel out with 120,000 miles on it.
 
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948
Location
st. Louis
My FIL's '57 Willy's truck calls for: 30wt in summer (>80degF) 10 to 20wt at moderate temps 5wt or 10wt with up to 10% kerosene below 10degF. Oil changes every 2000mi. [ January 30, 2004, 12:18 AM: Message edited by: mormit ]
 

JHZR2

Staff member
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46,119
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New Jersey
very interesting... I guess that kind of destroys the thought that older engines typically needed heavier oils than what are used today. JMH
 

tpi

Thread starter
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200
Location
So. CA
My first used car came with a case of Shell SAE 20 in the trunk- a 1965 Chevy. As a kid growing up in the '50s my family had a 1956 Buick Special. This had a 322 nailhead engine and Dynaflow transmission. Frankly my family wasn't much on auto upkeep, but even as a kid I loved cars and enjoyed the occasional visit to the "garage." I suspect the Buick did not receive the scheduled 2000 mile oil changes, I can remember the orange rusty coolant, and most likely all those little maintenance details in the manual were not done. . I have memories of sludge in the oil filler but can't really place which car. Nevertheless I can remember long family vacations across the desert in the Buick with 80-90,000 miles. I used to watch the odometer. I know the engine never had rings or valve job; impressive what the old cars would do.
 
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8,937
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SC
Kinda makes you wonder what all the hoopla is over 5w20 oils in modern engines since 20w was recommended for these big old engines with their loose main and rod clearances even in HOT weather. [freaknout]
 
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43,667
Location
'Stralia
I would think that thinner oils would have worked OK in older designed engines with low power density and cylinder pressures. It wasn't so many years previously that engines were lubricated by splash, and oil drippers, pretty close to a boundary lubrication condition.
 

tpi

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200
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So. CA
quote:
Originally posted by Shannow: I would think that thinner oils would have worked OK in older designed engines with low power density and cylinder pressures. It wasn't so many years previously that engines were lubricated by splash, and oil drippers, pretty close to a boundary lubrication condition.
The 1956 had compression ratio of about 9 to 1. By the late '50s compression ratios of 10 to 1 were common on premium fuel engines. Several of these designs survived for many years, the small block Chevy for one, and the long running Buick V6. Like others have pointed out, automotive engine clearances have really not changed all that much. Probably more changes in materials, oil quality, and engine management (fuel and ignition) contribute to the long life expectancy of today's engines. Those old auto chokes with the black smoke at warmup did their share of damage. [ January 30, 2004, 08:47 AM: Message edited by: tpi ]
 

Kestas

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13,958
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The Motor City
You don't need high viscosity to lubricate an engine. 20W is fine. The only problem with 20W is that it can't stand up to heat of an engine. Below 30W, oil starts to vaporize and you get loss of oil from vaporization. That's why the modern 20W oil is formulated from synthetic stock. Back in the 50's and 60's, engines ran a lot cooler, so vaporization loss was not a big factor, plus oil loss for whatever reason was more acceptable. People checked their oil more frequently.
 

Kestas

Staff member
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13,958
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The Motor City
My 57 Chevy L6 had no oil filter, a road draft tube, required oil changes every 2000 miles, and you dialed in the octane at the distributor. I liked the "warm" sound that came from the tube radio.
 
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526
Location
Manitoba Canada
Yeah, those old motors may have been Sludge Monsters, but they rarely ran hot enough to vaporize an oil. When emissions controls first came along, my Uncle, a former mechanic from the Old School, would immediately change the +190 F thermostat back to a 160 F thermostat. I remember some old cars jetted so rich, or just ignored and never tuned, that black smoke came out at running temp. Especially folks who put on aftermarket Holley carbs For some reason, Holley aftermarket carbs are jetted +2 too rich. Maybe they were worried about burning valves or something, but cripes the plugs would turn black running that rich. When I put the Holley 390 4bbl in my 1984 Ford 302, same thing it was so rich my eyes watered. I put in a quick change primary and metering block secondary with quick change, and had to step down -3 primary and -2 secondary. To minimize HC emissions, things like EGR, hot running temps, and A.I.R. were introduced. That must have been murder on the old oils. Sure am glad we now have port fuel injection and all the comforts. Jerry
 
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310
Location
Northern California
As was eluded to by previous posters, prior to emissions equiptment, cars were run with 160- 180 degree thermostats (remember people running 195 degree thermostats in the winter so the heater would get hot?). When you look at the viscosity vs temp chart you find that for every 30 degrees increase in oil temp, the oil thins out one grade. So, take your 1955 Bel Air 283 with a oil temp of 180 and 20 weight oil, and todays 5.3 liter small block (or whatever they call it now) running a normal oil temp of 210 and guess what, same thicknes of oil at operating tempurature.
 

tpi

Thread starter
Messages
200
Location
So. CA
A couple more memories of the old stuff: The automatic choke used a bimetal spring to close the choke plate on cold engine. A vacuum operated diaphragm called a "vacuum break" or "choke pulloff" would immediately crack the choke open about 3/16 (or so) inch after engine started. Frequently these would fail, the choke wouldn't crack open, and the engine would run very rich trailing rolls of black smoke until it warmed up. This feature alone probably accounted for half the cylinder taper in these old engines. The lower temp. thermostats generally kept the engine cooler, but during high ambient temps and high loads the engines would run hot like current engines. The indicated coolant overheat point was as high as 270 degrees on some engines. This counted on the 15 lb. pressure cap plus the higher boiling point of the coolant mixture. I had several mid 60's GM cars with the "hot" indicator lamp calibrated to 250 degrees. Even on relatively cool running small block Chevies I can remember coolant temps of 230-240 degrees on long grades during summer. Now we live in the age of dummy temperature gauges such as the ones in my F250 and Camry, both of which have a 35 degree dead spot where the needle doesn't move. They look like they never break a sweat, but their temps bump up just like the oldies when they are hammered up some desert mountain in 120 degree weather.
 
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233
Location
Midwest
quote:
Originally posted by Kestas: Back in the 50's and 60's, engines ran a lot cooler, so vaporization loss was not a big factor, plus oil loss for whatever reason was more acceptable.
The stock thermostat in my Chevelle SS 454(LS6) is 175 and oil temps will not go over 200* unless I am cuising the higway while it's 90* outside. In contrast, my VW VR6 manual says oil tmeps up to 292* is "within operating range" and it runs 230-240* during the summer. [ January 30, 2004, 12:11 PM: Message edited by: dagmando ]
 
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2,533
Location
Pittsburgh, PA
[Cool] I liked the Mercury manual, oil change every 2k and chassis lube every 1k. [freaknout] Back in the day mpg and emissions were not much of a concern and clearances were pretty loose. Those big engines in the full-sizes (wasn't everything?) were usually turning pretty slow. I saw a spec book when I sold Caddys 20 years ago, an early 70's Caddy had a 472 or 500 cube engine and a 2.29 rear axle ratio.
 

tpi

Thread starter
Messages
200
Location
So. CA
I'm still enjoying those manuals little by little. I liked the instructions for setting push buttons on the tube radios. You are supposed to let the radio warm up for 15 minutes to "allow the circuitry to stabilize" (30 minutes in cold weather) prior to setting a station on a push button. I can remember the radios drifting as they warmed up.
 
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13,132
Location
By Detroit
Hey, there is some pretty weird stuff in 70s owners manuals too. I just bought a '77 Ford light truck owner's manual because my first pickup was a '77 300 I6. But I found several weird things in it: "It is normal for the [oil pressure] light to flicker with the engine at idle speed or during sudden stops." "It is normal for the oil to leak down from the hydraulic tappets in your engine during extended shut-down periods (overnight). As a result, these tappets may clatter for a few seconds after the engine starts until oil pressure builds up. This momentary start-up noise is normal and is not detrimental to engine operation." Under "Routine Service" it says to use a SE or SE/CC oil, but oils with these classifications that "also meet API Classification CD are not recommended unless: the oil supplier indicates they contain a minimum of 0.10 weight percent phosphorus as zinc dialkyldithiophosphate (alkyl zinc) or a high quality fully formulated zinc dialkyldithiophosphate oil conditioner..." It goes on to list a Ford part number for such conditioner and the quantity to use. Hmmmm, maybe this was to counteract the oil leak down problem? Also, aren't current SL oils down to about 0.10 phosphorus? I wonder if they tried lowering it back in '77 because of catalytic converters in use then? Also wonder if they still sell that engine oil conditioner? Oh yeah, it also has the warm up the radio before setting the pushbuttons.
 
Messages
526
Location
Manitoba Canada
I think some older cars/trucks had poor cooling systems, but if well maintained, they worked better. My 1984 Ford F-150 doesn't have emissions controls. It also doesn't have an A/C. Though I did have a custom 5-row rad made in 1987, and somehow managed to wrestle that huge thing in. Since all my gages quit in 1985, rather than fix the instrument cluster I plumbed in Stewart Warner mechanical gages. I have a temp bulb on the thermo housing and another one at the rear of the block, as the Edelbrock 289 intake has a threaded wet port at the rear. So I have two coolant temp gages In 1993 I drove down to St. George Utah and Lost Wages. In August of all times. Almost died without A/C. Anyhoo, running a 160 thermo, the long grades on I-80 in Wyoming and Utah were no problem. Keeping the speed at 75 MPH up the grade, my front temp gage would creep up to 185 F. The rear gage would creep up to 165 F. I did notice a lot of cars and trucks steaming going up those long grades. At the time I thought that my speedo was out of whack as I was blowing away traffic going up grades. Actually, my motor stayed cool enough to maintain power going up the grades. Oil pressure around 55 psi running Delvac 1 5W-40. My old Ford suggests an SF 10W-30, but the shop manual has a wide range of listing for temps over 50-60 F: 30, 40, 10W-40, 15W-40, 20W-40, 20W-50, etc. A 5W-30 was recommended for cold weather use, but NEVER in temps over +60 F. Jerry
 
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