Synthetic Oil

Hey Dave’s Garage-

What is synthetic motor oil all about? Why is it better than natural oil? How does it differ chemically? I always thought that frequent oil changes were necessary because of the build up of acid and other contaminants. Why don’t they build up in synthetic oil the same way? Wendell Noble

Wendell, great question! There is a lot of information, and a lot of strong opinion here.

There are three types of engine oil sold in the U.S. that are considered “Synthetic”.

synthetic oilGroup III synthetics are oils based upon hydrocracked crude oil. They have many qualities of “true” synthetic oils, but they are not manufactured or “synthesized” in a lab. They are refined from crude oil.

Group IV synthetics are produced from Polyalphaolefin base stocks, and are one of the two “true” synthetic oils available in the US.

Polyalphaolefin (PAO) is a manufactured ethylene chemical used to manufacture many plastics and fabrics. It also can have good properties as a lubricant. Pure PAO alone does not work well as an engine oil. It still needs additives to work as an engine oil.

Group V synthetics are almost exclusively ester based. Like PAO based lubricants, group V base oil needs additives to be an engine oil. Group V based oils are very specific application lubricants. I don’t believe they’re used as a base in over the counter synthetic engine oil.

So, so called group III synthetics are a more highly refined crude oil, with a base stock that comes out of the ground as crude oil.

Group IV synthetics are synthesized from Polyalphaolefin (PAO).

The benefit of a true synthetic is uniformity and consistency in the molecular make up of the base oil. Unlike refined crude oil, synthetic oil has consistent molecular chains. Think of crushed gravel being ground up to similar sized pieces (conventional oil), and compare that to manufactured glass marbles (Synthetic). The marbles are more consistent in size and shape. The marbles would make a better lubricant.

Cost may be the best way to determine if oil is a true synthetic. If it is under $5.00 a quart, it is probably a group III synthetic. The true answer can be found on the bottle or the manufacture’s website.

Regardless of the base lubricant, all engine oils have additives to control viscosity through temperature ranges, and additives to keep the engine clean and well lubricated. These additives still wear out or break down regardless of the base oil used. Engine oil is also diluted with by-products of combustion through use.

So why use synthetics? Synthetic oil is a superior lubricant. The oil is consistent on a molecular level, with no impurities. Refined oil has inconsistent molecular chains and still retains trace amounts of impurities. Synthetic oil maintains viscosity regardless of temperature. Put a quart of conventional oil and a quart of true synthetic in your freezer overnight. In the morning take them out and shake them. The synthetic will still be fluid. The conventional oil will be thick like honey. Remember that next winter when it is below zero and you start your car.

Synthetic oil does not sludge and varnish in the engine as conventional oils do. I have opened up engines with over 200,000 miles on them with synthetic oil, and they look like new inside.

Oil change intervals should still be dependent on driving conditions. Short distance driving is “severe” duty. It is often a good idea to do a Used Oil Analysis to get an idea of when to change your oil. A UOA may show your used oil did not need to be changed, and was still able to properly lubricate. You may find a vehicle with synthetic oil, with few short trips can go 10,000 miles or more before the oil needs to be changed.

From the Editor…. Dave, would you please keep this oil discussion going?

Questions….. Should we use synthetic in our old cars? What about the question of single-weight oil vs multi-weight oils in our old cars, which is best and why? You have mentioned the moisture collecting in our car’s oil pans, especially during winter storage, should oil types come into the conversation here? What about this whole question of 600 weight in our old differentials? What should we use and is 600 weight really 600 weight? Thanks Dave.

A 1949 Indian Roadmaster makes it back on the road.

With a little help from Wendell Noble and an assist from Fred Gonet

For as long as I have known him, my friend and neighbor, Dallan Baker, has owned an all original 1948 Indian Roadmaster motorcycle. That’s at least 30 years and I only recall seeing him ride it once. When he recently mentioned that he wanted to sell, I found it merely interesting. I’m not a motorcycle guy so the thought of buying it didn’t immediately spring to mind. I did ride a little motorcycle briefly in the ‘70s but I gave it up. Unfortunately, I was going around a corner at the time. However, the idea of owning this wonderful piece of motoring history did gnaw at me. I finally made him an offer which I thought was reasonable and better than any offer he had had at the time. We are both very happy with the results.

1949 indian roadmaster motorcycleIt’s great to acquire something like that which comes with plenty of provenience information. The first owner, who bought it new in the Springfield, Vermont area, put 194 miles on it before he took a spill and then put it in his bedroom for the next 10 years. Dallan, who was 18 at the time, bought it from the deceased owner’s estate in 1958. He rode it regularly until he went into the service a couple of years later. We don’t know the actual amount of mileage on it now because the speedometer drive gear has been broken for a while. The odometer now reads 5,413 miles. Owning it is one thing, learning to ride it is another. Wendell Noble

Editor’s notes…… A nice phone conversation with Dallan Baker uncovered a few other details in the life of this Indian. Asked if he had ever taken a spill on the bike, Dallan recalled a day when he was a passenger while his cousin was slowing down on wet pavement to enter his driveway. A little too much rear brake was applied and they went down. He recalled how his cousin jumped up, pulled the bike back on its tires and quickly pushed the Indian into the garage. All the time leaving Dallan lying, unhurt, in the middle of the road. He guessed he might have put 15,000 miles on the bike, with his longest ride being the 300 miles from Arlington to Essex and back one day many years ago. He had done very little to the bike during the time he owned it. The seat was changed to allow room for a passenger. Before that, the passenger sat on a blanket on the fender rack with one foot resting on the kick starter and the other on a part of the frame….that was where he was when his cousin hit the rear brake too heavy. He also said because the bike had sat for 10 years when he bought it, the engine compression was very low. He had the engine overhauled with new rings and etc.

Dallan Baker's 1949 indian roadmasterAnd where does VAE’er Fred Gonet of Proctorsville fit into all this? Soon after Wen-dell purchased the Indian, Fred got word and was anxious to make his way North to see it…..he has this huge “thing” for Indian motorcycles. In the mean time Wendell and Dal-lan had spent some time unsuccessfully getting the bike to run. Fred did come North and found the main culprit was a bum condenser and the bike was soon making it’s beautiful sound.

The bike controls are…. Left hand throttle, right hand spark, left foot clutch and right foot brake. When asked, Fred explained how to stop at an intersection with your left foot occupied and not tip over. It goes like this….You hold the brake with your right foot, the clutch with you left foot and keep the bike from tipping over with your

1948 indian roadmasterThe Indian Chief, built in Springfield, Massachusetts by the Hendee Manufacturing Co. and the subsequent Indian Motocycle Co. from 1922 to the end of the company’s production in 1953.

The Chief was Indian’s “big twin”, a larger, more powerful motorcycle than the more agile Scout used in competition and sport riding.

Engine is a four-stroke 42 degree V-twin, 1210 cc, 40HP. Top speed 85MPH.

Transmission, 3-speed hand shift, chain final drive.

Suspension, girder fork, weight 550 lbs., fuel capacity 3.7 gal., new price, $800 without sidecar.

Tank Ooze

gas tank oozeAbsent any questions this month, I will share something interesting with you. Recently I drained and removed the gas tank on the Datsun 240Z project. This car was parked in 1982. I removed the drain plug, but no gas came out. I poked at the hole with a screwdriver, and felt a thick tar like substance. I poked through it and very dark, varnished gas began to dribble out.

After removing the gas tank, I stood it up on end. About a gallon of thick, black asphalt like substance oozed out the filler neck.

I googled it, and learned that gasoline literally turns back in to crude oil after sitting for a long time. After 35 years, it does not resemble gasoline anymore.

Special Days

By the time this goes to print, Mother’s Day will have passed and Memorial Day and Father’s Day will be on the horizon. Let me say, before I really get going, that I probably have written about the subject before and hopefully you are a bit like me and can’t remember and to those who can, just use it as a reminder, if you remember and have followed my past suggestions, a giant kudos to you!

I have wondered for years why we make such a big deal about what I consider very important certain subjects one day a year. Take Mother’s Day, which has just passed, many people took some time and took Mom out to eat, gave her candy, flowers, jewelry, cards and I’m sure the list would include a huge assortment of things, some of which would have been more appreciated on – well, let’s say a Wednesday. Those things are vacuums, brooms, new dust cloths, ice scraper or maybe a gift certificate to the car wash. Nothing says I love and appreciate you like a gift certificate to the local car wash! Don’t get me wrong, remember I am writing from my prospective and I realize there are women out there that tools would be at the top of their list, I’m just not one of them. Another thing about these days, like Mother’s Day, that I think of is why are those mothers running around and waiting on me. It does create some guilt in me, even though I have worked in a profession which required working on holidays and I certainly didn’t want any (well I won’t say any) one to feel guilty, I was away from my family and hopefully helping them out.

This can apply to all our “special days” such as Father’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Veterans Day, Easter, Christmas, Labor Day, and President’s Day (combo of Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays, for those of you who didn’t know or have forgotten). Some of these days have become just another day off from work with no mail and no banking and no thought to why it is a special day. And of course, some always fall on a Sunday. When I was in grade school (yes, many moons ago) onMemorial Day we marched to the cemetery, sang songs like America, Battle Hyman of the Republic and read a list of veteran’s names ending in a 6th grader (who had been chosen with great honor) to recite the Gettysburg Address. Yes, I said recited from memory. There wasn’t a child in that school that didn’t want that privilege and honor. I am not saying not to have any of these ‘special days’ but I bet mothers, fathers, veterans, workers would really appreciate a little more recognition, hand shake or a smile and a kind word all throughout the year and not just on ‘their day’. And let’s not forget those who don’t get a day, kind and helpful neighbors, door openers, people who let you go first, those who are there if you fall, those who give when something bad or sad happens to you, those who give you a hug when it is most needed, people who push your car when it is stuck or stops running and I remember once trying to fit a dresser into a way too small car (at the entrance of University Mall) where there was an abundance of onlookers) the Salvation Army bell ringer stashed her buck-et in the front seat and spent time and a lot of muscle trying to thread this needle – to no avail, then, a woman from a Fence Company in Orleans, ran back to her truck and produced enough rope to tie the dresser to the trunk, success – looks great in my house!

I guess what I am saying that once a year isn’t enough. Make a pledge to try and do something no matter how small each day. A kind word goes a long way and I bet if you get in the habit of doing this that if by chance a special day gets here and gone without you – you will be forgiven!

John Johnson’s Pro Street 1967 Camaro SS

john johnson 67 camaro ssA few in the VAE have heard about John Johnson and his Mountain View Auto Body & Sign company in Sheldon, Vermont.

If you see the logos on our show trailers, they were made in John’s shop. There are also some beautiful member vehicles that have departed John’s shop ready for the show field.

67 camaro ss pro street supercharged engineThis ’67 Camaro had been a “full dragster” in its earlier life. A quarter mile in the 9 seconds comes out about 150 MPH, and this Camaro had a reputation of beating most anything that wanted to go up against it. John says the car was showing its bumps and bruises when it came to him in 2005. A worn out paint job, a weird painted figure on its side and fist-bumps on its roof where maybe the former owner was teaching the SS to behave…. It also had no engine or firewall and the inside was gutted. You can see in these pictures what John has accomplished. His attention to detail is abundantly clear, all the way to the 100 hours that was spent to redo the hood into exactly what he wanted.

Superchargers were originally built for aircraft during WWII. Essentially, it is a large pump that compresses air and forces it into the engine’s air intake resulting in a horse power I increase of 50 to 100 percent. John has a supercharger that produces 9 pounds of boost on top of his 502 Chevy engine and when he wants to, he can produce HPs in the 700 range. Having a supercharger means it will not affect the engine’s reliability, longevity, or fuel economy under normal driving conditions but when you want to press your right foot down, all hell is let loose! Wheel Tracks has just learned about the term “Pro-street”. John’s Camaro is street legal and at the same time if he wants to do “some screaming”… the car is ready and willing. A “double barrel shot gun” is what they call the supercharger air intake that you see on top of the engine, another one of those terms an old antique Dodge and Franklin guy might never use.

67 camaro ss pro street interiorThe SS was about a two year project from ‘05 to ‘07 and John can still show you items he wants to add or change. To allow the engine to be as low as possible the mounts were special made. A Dano 60 rear-end was installed along with a whole new rear suspension system to accommodate the extra power. The paint job is a work of art, and all one can imagine is all the work unseen, when you walk up to a car like this……and the work continues.

There is a possibility we will see this Camaro at the VAE/Shelburne Car Show on Father’s Day Weekend. Another Camaro that has come out of John’s shop is the one you see on Wheel Tracks (page 16), the McDermott Camaro. Mark “Blue” McDermott will have his beauty at the show along with many others that have been invited. We see these wonderful ‘finished’ automobiles, and Ernie Clerihew & Don Perdue, hopefully, will have a surprise for us at the Shelburne show. The show’s co-chairs have found a true “barn find” ’67 Camaro for the show that will demonstrate the amount of work involved when we use the word “restoration”.

1967 camaro ss tail