Skip to main content

It's been a little slow here of late, so here's a little something to spice up the discussion.

Motor oil.

I've used Brad Penn 20w50 in the air-cooled engines forever-- lots of zinc and phosphorous-- but not easy to get, relatively expensive, with a base oil of unknown quality (it's a dino oil). The difficulty of finding it easily was becoming cumbersome.

While doing some research for alternatives, I came across the latest Mobil 1 zinc and phosphorous product guide. I found a 15w50 Mobil 1 synthetic with 1200 ppm phosphorous and 1300 ppm of zinc. The product description says, "for HT/HS applications. Racing and flat tappet applications". This is plenty of the stuff our engines need, in a synthetic oil that is stable at much higher temperatures.

I understand that some guys don't like synthetic oil in air-cooled cars, and that there is a movement of late towards thinner oil (10w30 and the like). I'm good with that, but I'm also personally a fan of better oil. I'm also a fan of oil pressure, and as such I like something at least XXw40 weight. I understand the desireability of an oil that's less viscous at colder temperatures, which is why the 15w50 seemed to be perfect for me.

Mobil 1 may not be the undisputed champion of "Bob's the Oil Guy" and related sites-- but I've run it in everything for 20 years (on 10,000 mi. change intervals), and have never had a single lubrication related problem. The engines in my work trucks do not wear out. I like it a lot.

This oil is available everywhere (NAPA, O'Reilly, Advance, and AutoZone all carry it) for short money. I was ready to switch to Valvoline VR1 (conventional) when I found this. I just bought four 5 qt. jugs from for $25 each. 5 bucks a quart is what I generally pay for full Mobil 1 synthetic oil for everything else I've got (work trucks, limo, Jeanie's minivan). I'm going to give this a try in the Speedster next season.

I'll let you know if it's an issue.

President for Life, the People's Republic of Stanistan

"Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts."

Last edited by Stan Galat
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Sounds like a viable plan Stan. I run Mobil1 in my Cayman(factory fill spec.), I think it's 0W40. I also run 5W20 high mileage Mobil1 in the Dodge truck. Like you say, it's available everywhere and doesn't break the bank.

I may switch to this 15W50 in the Spyder if it works for you. I've been running Valvoline 4 stroke motorcycle 10W40, it's got the ZDDP that we and the Harley guys need.


Stan, you should know by now that choosing an oil for an air-cooled engine isn't about scientific facts, measurable quantities, or numbers.

It's all about what you just know in your bones is right.

It's a defining decision. Like choosing your beer or your boots.

Some of us think that oil just has to be green to be any good. Others think that if everyone else is using green oil, then some other color is probably better.

Some of us used to know that 20W-50 is right, but now we know that 10W-40 is right. But that could change, depending on what the cool kids are doing.

The problem is that most of us will get bored with our engines before we actually wear them out. And even if we do wear them out, we won't know if the oil was at fault or if it was alloys of an uncertain parentage. Or maybe it was the time we missed a shift trying to teach that Mustang a lesson.

I am glad to see that you're finally taking Musbjim's advice, though, and buying what's on sale. Saving three bucks a quart can mean $15 at every change - maybe more if you've got a dry sump. So, that's $30 a year right there.

Everyone talks about oil, but no one ever does anything about it.


@Sacto Mitch posted:

Everyone talks about oil, but no one ever does anything about it.

I did, but perhaps I'm just being contrarian? Maybe I'm just becoming a @MusbJim wannabe? Maybe got tired of snooty oil?

Regardless, there's four 5-quart jugs of the 15w50 Mobil 1 in my oil cabinet, keeping the other three viscosities of M1 company. I'm a 100% Mobil garage, as of today.

Maybe I can rock that flying red horse on my front fender now.

Last edited by Stan Galat

PennGrade, yeah. But I think there are many "Penngrades" out there so you still want to make sure it says "the green oil" or some such on the bottle if that's what you're into. I, for one, am thankful for Stan's experimental ambition and even more thankful for DannyP's Raby Oil Order apostasy—given that he drives a hi-po type 1 like a maniac at all times over many years and miles, then takes it apart to see what he did to the insides.

Given the speed at which motor oil formulations change, it actually does make sense for us to pay attention to air-cooled racers and the power users in our midst.

@Stan Galat posted:

I did, but perhaps I'm just being contrarian? Maybe I'm just becoming a @MusbJim wannabe? Maybe got tired of snooty oil?

Regardless, there's four 5-quart jugs of the 15w50 Mobil 1 in my oil cabinet, keeping the other three viscosities of M1 company. I'm a 100% Mobil garage, as of today.

Maybe I can rock that flying red horse on my front fender now.

I'm with you, Stan. That's what I've been using since I put the Panchitos on. I went ahead and added one of those handy-dandy oil pressure adjusters in the flywheel side relief piston ports. I'm a happy camper so far.

I was searching on the internet to see if I could find definitive information regarding ZDDP content in motor oils today. It would actually be nice to find out what the minimum ppm is really needed. It appears that Mobil 1 has some oils designed for flat tappet applications but very few other manufacturers actually list the ZDDP concentrations in their offerings.

I don't have a Speedster but the engine in my car is just like a Speedster engine. I have a 1972 Euro spec Super Beetle that was in storage in Germany/Bavaria for 38 years. It was purchased by an American serviceman in 2012 and from the few pictures he sent me, it appears to be during warm weather. It eventually came to the USA in 2015. I bought it from the second American owner in April 2019 a month before the car's 47th birthday. I have the original German registration booklet and it gives the "birthday", first day of registration and the original owners name and address as well as the registration done by the son.

The odometer/speedometer is in kilometers/ km-ph. The odometer now reads 53,040km. When I purchased it the odometer read 52,892km. If you do the conversion it is about 33,150 miles.  There is a lot of evidence that the odometer is correct. The American that bought it in Germany did correspond with the original owner's son and he confirmed that the car wasn't driven after it was put in storage. The son also confirmed that he started the car occasionally and it generally started immediately without much cranking. I too noticed that after I purchased the car in that it was very easy to start even after sitting for a month or three. I did rebuild the front calipers due to sticking pads and squealing.  I discovered that the front flexible brake hoses were the factory hoses dated 4-72. That was the month and year the car was built. I did replace the hoses as well as the hard pipes due to rust. I used copper-nickel DOM tubing.

With modern motor oils having less than half the zddp of oils in the 1970s and before I was looking for an answer to the oil I wanted to use to change the oil in my Super Beetle. It looks like I am going to use Mobil 1 15W-50. It contains a nominal phosphorus level of 1200 ppm and a nominal zinc level of 1300 ppm. The only Mobil 1 products that have higher amounts are the racing oils. I have order a case of 6 along with a half liter graduated pitcher that I will use to measure and fill the engine. The engine requires only 2.5 liters of oil.

What did the 356 Coupes use for a headliner? My car has a printed headliner instead of  perforated vinyl-cloth.

Yup.  It’s now called PennGrade but uses the same formulation (or so I was told by the owner of Radio Oil in Worcester, MA)

Yup, that's where I drove to when I needed to stock up on Brad Penn. It's too tough to get "snooty oil" shipped (literally) out here. I've been using Mobile 1 with a zinc additive for a year (and yes, the slippery stuff finds a way to drop out of nearly every possible leak point). I've got 5 gallons of Valvoline VR1 waiting to go in next time.

No wonder it leaks a little bit of oil 😄

True story:

In the mid-80s, my family and I were vocational missionaries in the southern highlands of Papua New Guinea.

The local people never saw steel until the early 1960s, when the area was "opened up" by the Australian government. Missionaries came later that year, and set about creating an alphabet for the local language, so that people could learn to read and write in their local language. There are more than 800 such languages on the PNG half of the island of New Guinea. The New Testament translation was completed in 1978, and we came along 9 years later to help wean the local people off a lot of the dependence on "white-guy stuff" that had build up in 25 years.

Anyway (like in any culture) some people figured out how to get the stuff they wanted - and like most people, what they really wanted was mobility. Guys would figure out how to get the money to buy a truck (usually a badly beaten Toyota Land Cruiser), and use it to make more money. The repair and maintenance of these vehicles was something that was very, very culturally foreign.

One day a guy rolled into the mission "workshop" with his personal Land Cruiser. There were maybe 25 people in the bed of the truck, and he was complaining that the engine was running rough and down on power. Bear in mind that these trucks generally had more than 100,000 klicks on the clock, and all of them were racked up severely overloaded and on roads resembling the Rubicon Trail (this is not an exaggeration). Broken FRAMES were not unusual.

Anyhow, this particular guy was a pretty shrewd businessman - he understood that his truck needed oil to stay running well. When he first experienced the rough running, he added some oil... and kept adding it until it came sputtering into the shop.

We drained something like 5 gallons of oil out of it to get the level back to the top mark. It was bubbling up in the intake, pouring out the PCV - oil was everywhere. The guy's engine needed rebuilt, which is why he started adding oil to start with. It was a quintessentially PNG story- there are probably 100 more just like it, rattling around in my addled mind.

But this one was one of those things that gets stuck in the mist of the distant past until something dislodges it. Thinking of it floods me with a sense of just how much I've forgotten along the way.

Thanks for shaking that one loose, Mike.

@edsnova posted:

Cultural and technological touch points can never be taken for granted.

The local language had no indigenous words for "straight", "level", or "square" - precisely because there was no experiential framework where the concepts had any relevance. Nothing was "dimensional" - everything was organic or an adaptation of the organic, and therefore highly variable. We really, really struggled to mill lumber into studs and joists that didn't vary pretty widely ("2x4s" often fluctuated up to 3/4 of an inch in one dimension or anther).

Training local guys in carpentry was challenging. Training them to operate machinery was fraught with surprises. Training them to repair machinery was akin to asking my neighbor to design and build a Saturn rocket in his garage.

However - I've never learned more about faith and community than I did in PNG. Things that are really difficult for me were the lingua franca of the local people. I went with the idea that I'd be teaching them something, but quickly determined that they were transferring far more to me than I would (or could) ever give to them. I've never seen such faith before or since, and I served as an elder in a charismatic inner city church. They were rock-stars in the things that I think really matter, so their difficulty with tools and machines was easily overlooked. Almost all of them could speak several languages as well. The vast bulk of tribesmen will never understand the refrigeration cycle or electrical distribution, but I doubt any of them lost a lot of sleep over it.

Still... I'm super-grateful to have been raised building and fixing things. It's a gift my father gave me that I've never taken for granted, especially as I watch other people struggle. I wish I'd have had more exposure to machine work (mills and lathes), and that Tig welding had come into full bloom while I was in high-school, rather than afterward - but all in all, I'm glad to have had the privilege to make a life working on machines.

Last edited by Stan Galat

Amazing experiences, Stan. From what my father told me, New Guinea was not for the faint of heart. Here's a picture of him in New Guinea with a myna bird sitting on a knife he's holding in his teeth. He was probably similar in age to you when you visited. He was a big goof as well as a B-24 tail gunner. I suspect he never got close to the areas you were working in.WW2


Images (1)
  • WW2

Probably not, Mike. The WW2 battles were out on the islands - the highlands were untouched (and unreached) until the 1960s. Until then, highlanders were preoccupied with killing (and often eating) each other.

Your dad was 100% correct - it's was a wild, wooly place. Every day (every single one of them) was a challenge. The highs were very high. The lows were very, very low.

We lived there for almost 3 years, a lifetime ago.

(PS: What an excellent picture of your dad. Thanks for sharing it!)

Last edited by Stan Galat

Add Reply

Post Content
Link copied to your clipboard.