Reader Question: Oil for Old Oldsmobile?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Mitch asks: I corresponded with you a few years ago to ask your opinion about doing an engine rebuild for my 1976 Oldsmobile. You indicated that it was a good idea if I liked the car, which of course I do. I had the rebuild done in 2015 and it has run well since then. I have had oil changes done more frequently but haven’t requested a specific oil. I see you recommend AMSOIL given their line of products with ZDDP. Is there a particular type of AMSOIL you think is best? I note you use ZRod but obviously the Cutlass is not exactly like your vehicle. Is AMSOIL the only manufactured synthetic oil? I can’t recall what oil the local tire shop where I have the oil changes done used for the most recent change. If I were to buy AMSOIL I would likely have my prime mechanic do the next oil change rather than the tire shop. Any suggestions you might have I appreciate. Thanks!

My reply: I am assuming your Oldsmobile’s engine was rebuilt using the stock/factory-type flat tappet camshaft and lifters. If so then it is really important to use an oil that has the additives needed – or add the additives to the oil you’re using.

These additives are not present in most if not all store-bought/over-the-counter oil available today, chiefly for emissions control reasons which do not apply to your car. And because car companies stopped using flat tappet camshafts in the early-mid 1980s.

AMSOIL Zrod oil is one of the few available oils that does have the necessary additives. This oil – in 10w-30 weight – would be ideal for your Olds and not just because it has the additives. It is also an extremely high quality synthetic that will help your engine last as long as possible before it needs another rebuild! Your engine will start easier and faster on cold days and run cooler on very hot days.

You can also buy the additive over the counter (GM sells it). It comes in a small plastic bottle and you just pour it into the engine at each oil change. Assuming you use a high-quality oil (Mobil1 is very good) this will suit, too.

Also be sure to use a high quality oil filter, such as Wix or Mobil1!

. . .

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  1. I used Lucas Oil Stabilizer in my 1968 Olds Delta 88’s 455. I had good luck with it. With it, I used Mobil 1.

    While we’re on the subject of Olds engines and oil, the Olds Rocket’s oiling system is happiest below 4000 RPM. But the Rocket is a tower of low-end torque, which is what you need to get those heavy 88s, 98s, and Toronados off the launchpad and into orbit.

    That’s because the Rocket’s oiling system sends oil to the rockers and lifters first and the crankshaft last. The higher RPMs can cause the bottom end to be oil starved. Some people install a higher volume oil pump, which only does half the job in that you end up with only more oil at the top end.

    If you plan on sustained high RPMs, it’d make sense to install oil restrictors and a larger-capacity oil pan. Mondello Performance is perhaps the best around for Olds Rocket builds. A larger oil pan by itself wouldn’t hurt.

    But as long as you keep it below 4000 RPM, which you almost never do on the street, you should be OK. Just be diligent about your engine’s oil…it’s not Rocket science!

    I am not Dr. Oldsmobile, nor do I play him on TV!

    • Hi Squirrelly!

      You lucky dog…I wish I had one of those GT Fieros… I remember the 2.8 V6 was OHV (not OHC) but I can’t remember whether it used a flat tappet or roller-type cam. If the latter, it should be ok to use modern oil without the additives needed by older OHV engines with flat tappet camshafts and lifters, etc.


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