Performance & Hotrod Business May '14

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 81 of 115

HOTROD TruTh AbouT oil T his article could be entitled "New Oil is not for Old Cars" or "The History of Motor Oil" or "Why Did They Take the Zinc Out?" or "Which Oil is Right for You?" or "Is it High Tech or Snake Oil?" or maybe even "Why Did My Cam Lose a Lobe?" But none of these titles would garner much interest, except for a few curious or serious old car buffs. It will attempt to explain what has happened over the years that caused the oil specs to constantly change and how to understand the specifications as rated by the American Petroleum Institute (API). It is intended to dispel some of the rumors, advertising claims, and miscon- ceptions about motor oil and explain the facts, with a bit of trivia. There is way too much information to condense it into a single magazine editorial so this will be part one (of three). In The Beginning The first oil well drilled in the Unit- ed States was in Titusville, Pa. Previous wells were dug by hand and produced very little oil. Edwin Drake used a mod- ern (?) steam drill and in 1859 struck oil at 69-1/2 feet. The industrial revolution was in its in- fancy and the new machinery needed lu- bricants. Most oils before then were vege- table oils, whale oil, or animal fats. These worked well when used for lamps or cooking, but had limited success as lubri- cants for machinery and failed miserably in internal combustion engines—not to mention the strange exhaust smells. Pe- troleum-based oil was the answer. Most automobile engines in the pre-1920s era had an average life of just 100 miles. So, now it is 1859 and oil is gushing from the ground at an amazing rate of 20 gallons per day and a second oil well was drilled in nearby West Virginia. So what did they do with it? There were no pipelines, tanker trucks, or storage facil- ities. The only available storage was in— yes, you guessed it—whiskey barrels. The Old English standard measurement for wine and whiskey barrels was 42 gal- lons. When you read about today's price of crude oil in the Middle East they are still talking about 42 gallons, not a 55-gallon drum. 80 n Performance & Hotrod Business n May 2014 Part 1: The early years of oil history; dispelling myths; high- and low-tech explanations. B y E d P r E s t o n PHBMAYp58-91.indd 80 4/2/14 2:05 PM

Articles in this issue

view archives of THE SHOP - Performance & Hotrod Business May '14