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Vintage Oil

Editor_Reid

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So I recently acquired two cases of some apparently vintage Valvoline oil.

Vintage Oil.jpg



Labeled Valvoline Racing SAE 20W-50 Motor Oil, it looks like the same stuff that we know today as Valvoline VR-1 oil. And as you see, this stuff is in the familiar plastic bottles, so it's apparently not real, real old.


There was a price tag on the box that may help to date it. It was labeled "Schuck," presumably as in Shuck's Auto Supply, and the price was $14.99. Yes, for the case. So maybe that helps date it: when was quality motor oil last selling for a buck twenty-five a quart? 2000? 1990? 1980? Earlier?


So here's the deal, since these are new-condition bottles I'm going to assume that the oil is safe to use in a Healey's motor, and I wonder if it is old enough that it already has all of the good stuff we want in oil for our vintage cars. I'm thinking maybe this stuff is so old that it dates from before they started removing the chemicals we want for our old motors, and this is the right formula without needing any additives.


If you can confirm or correct that, your enlightenment is invited.
 
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REAL Vintage Oil was only used once!

Sealed, fine. Not going to evaporate. I have a case of Valvoline 20WT ND that I have no idea what to do with.
My buddy up the street was warned that if an OLD vehicle had not used detergent oil, rather ND, using detergent would break all the carp loose in the sump and destroy the engine.
I used to use this stuff all the time for break-in, until you couldn't find it any more.

I have a couple of cans you have to use the metal spot for (and have the spout....stored next to the 8-track) AND I have a BIG round metal can....I don't think it's five gallons....sits on it's side with a pour spout and handle...Pennzoil, I think.
Plus a couple of crank dispensers with one quart and four quart cans......
 
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Reid--

The grade of oil and not its date is the important factor. The API Service Grade symbol (doughnut) will tell you the oil's rating and then it is a simple thing to check the various levels for that rating and make your decision.
 
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Editor_Reid

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The grade of oil and not its date is the important factor. The API Service Grade symbol (doughnut) will tell you the oil's rating and then it is a simple thing to check the various levels for that rating and make your decision.

The data on the back label states, "API SERVICES SF, SE". There's tons and tons of info on the Internet related to that, but I don't find any that directly addresses my question about zinc/sulphur/ZDDP levels.

For example, I found, "An API service rating of "SF" means the oil meets all new car warranty requirements for 1981 and newer models. "SE" means the oil is usable in all 1972-1980 vehicles." Not really that helpful.

And this, "With regards to 'API SF,' The American Petroleum Institute (API) says: Status: 'Obsolete'. Service: For 1988 and older engines." OK, but nothing about chemical composition.

Mostly I was just curious. My bet is that this stuff is just fine for an old Austin engine, but I thought maybe some chemical engineer among us would have the bill of particulars.
 

John Turney

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The limits on ZDTP (actually the phosphorous portion of ZDTP) started with API SG oils. The use of ZDTP started about 1935. So, it's perfect for Austin engines.

The current 20W-50 VR-1 has sufficient ZDTP because of a sort-of loophole in the specifications. Oils with a viscosity of SAE 40 and above don't have the low phosphorus limits because catalyst-equipped cars don't use high-viscosity oils.
 
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Editor_Reid

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The limits on ZDTP (actually the phosphorous portion of ZDTP) started with API SG oils. The use of ZDTP started about 1935. So, it's perfect for Austin engines.

Good news, thanks! The Austin engine I have in mind is an A90 (in a BN2) and the previous owner modified the shape of the sump and the result is that this car takes 10 quarts to reach the FULL mark on the dipstick. So one case is needed for an oil change, leaving a couple of quarts to carry for topping up.
 
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Reid--

If you really care about the age of the oil I'd bet you can find online when the phosphorus, etc. contents of SE/SF grade oils were prohibited and superseded by whatever was the next grade which would give you its minimum age. I am guessing now but think the change point was around 2006 which is when people first started to notice shortened cam life. As said above, I lost a brand new cam in the Courier's MGA engine over the course of a weekend in 2007.

In any case, I concur with the others and think you will be just fine.
 
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Be sure to shake it well before pouring. I've noticed some sediment in oil I've had sitting on the shelf for a long time; I suspected and have been told by others it could be some of the additives dropping out.
 
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Be sure to shake it well before pouring. I've noticed some sediment in oil I've had sitting on the shelf for a long time; I suspected and have been told by others it could be some of the additives dropping out.

Good point! It's like all the flavoring settles to the bottom and the first few sips are awful. Yeah, who hasn't been there, done that!
 
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... unless, of course, the oil has been stored at 68degF and 78% RH on slanted shelves and rotated exactly 90deg anti-clockwise every 17 days.
 

roscoe

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Reading this thread reminds me of when I was a grad student in Eastern Canada (university will remain unnamed). During an extensive cleanup of the biology department many reagent bottles were found with vintage labels. Most were proprly disposed of but one hung around until the local RCMP folks could stop by. It was a large jar of cocaine. I think that in 1978 they were surprised that they even got a call. I'd prefer a find like yours. Also, many years ago when a new fuel farm was being put in at the local county airport here in CA, they found a buried pipe that was full of 115/145 octane aviation gasoline. They hadn't made that since the 1960s and this was discovered to be left over from the 1940s when the airfield was a "reliever, practice" strip for the Army Airforce. It looked and smelled pristine. They expected buried pipes so were careful excavating. Good thing.
 
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