.......definitely a major problem for all of us still running a flat tappet cam. In the last three months alone I had to change 7 of my customers flat tappet cams, and some of them have been running for 5 or more years with no issues. I quizzed them about their oil changes and intervals. All of them claim to change their oil every 3,000 miles, but admitted that it might be over a period of a year to a year and a half. The pattern I seen was that the ones that had oil on their shelf in the garage for awhile got longer life before the failure. We used only Kendal oil until it became harder to find. Then we switched to valvoline and started pulling our hair out trying to figure out what we were doing wrong. We lost every cam we installed for about a month. Then I spoke with Comp Cams about the problem, and that is when I found out about the Zinc being removed from the oil. After that we started using EOS and the problem went away. Since then we became a Brad Penn dealer and we stock their products.

Bottom line: The risk is REAL. There are only a few types of motor oil available today that contain adequate amounts of ZDDP -the extreme pressure lubricant that protects the contact points between lifter and cam. Fortunately, there are additives available that contain enough ZDDP to make up for those types of oil that no longer have enough.

ZDDPlus or EOS (if you can find some) added to whatever motor oil you wish to use should eliminate any worries about the premature death of your flat tappet cam.

Recently Mobil 1 reintroduced the 15W-50 with increased zinc for older engines. It's in the silver cap. Go to Mobil's website for more details regarding their reintroduced synthetic for older engines. Looks like a winner.

Shell assured us that CJ-4-spec commercial grade oil is the best it's ever been, and that is was designed with flat-tappet camshaft engines in mind. Though its zinc content was lowered, it still contains sufficient levels of ZDDP (1200 ppm).

Brad Penn stated that its Penn Grade 1 contains 1200 ppm, and that it's completely suitable for flat-tappet camshafts. Crane Cams even went to far as to specifically suggest CJ-4-spec or PG1 oil for break-in.

Rotella 5W-40 synthetic

Rotella T
Below is the ROTELLA family of products that carries the Shell and ROTELLA® names and the associated high standards of quality.

Shell ROTELLA® T Multigrade
Shell ROTELLA® T Multigrade with Advanced Soot Control is a premium quality, heavy-duty multigrade oil for all-season use in diesel-powered or a mix of gasoline- and diesel-powered equipment. It meets or exceeds the warranty and service requirements of virtually all diesel and gasoline engine manufacturers - for both newer and older engines. It is recommended for all on-highway and off-highway applications, especially where all-season use is desired

Shell ROTELLA® T Synthetic 5W-40
Shell ROTELLA® T Synthetic is a fully synthetic heavy-duty diesel and gasoline engine oil developed especially to meet the requirements of North American driving. The exclusive Shell formulation offers users exceptional performance and protection in combination with enhanced fuel economy potential over conventional 15W-40 motor oils. This synthetic multigrade engine oil meets the service requirements of virtually all four-stroke cycle diesel and gasoline engine manufacturers.

Shell ROTELLA® T Single Grade Oils
Shell ROTELLA® T Single Grade Oils are high quality single grade oils blended to provide excellent performance in diesel engines of all major manufacturers and in all gasoline, LPG or LNG engines (follow the correct viscosity/temperature guidelines). Additionally, for heavy duty transmission applications, the SAE 10W and 30 grades meet the performance requirements of Caterpillar TO-2 and Allison's C-4 specification.

Shell ROTELLA® T Synthetic-Blend
Shell ROTELLA® T Synthetic-Blend are high performance heavy-duty engine lubricants designed for use in diesel engines. These synthetic blend multigrade engine oils meet the warranty and service requirements of virtually all four-stroke cycle diesel and gasoline engine manufacturers. This includes the latest advanced diesel engine designs resulting from tightened emission requirements and requiring advanced oil performance.

Valvoline's response about the quanityof zinc in their oils:
"The amount of Zinc in the #vv851 Not Street Legal oil is .13% or 1300 ppm. Here is the REAL story about our products and ZDDP. The oil industry per ILSAC had to only decrease the levels of ZDDP (Zinc) in certain viscosity to meet new emission standards. The ILSAC rated oils still have an average of .085 levels of zinc. Testing has shown on standard OEM set ups that used mild camshafts will still get plenty of protection from the new rated oils. There is an exception when it comes to extreme aftermarket applications. If you have a high performance solid lifter set up with an aggressive cam then you will need to use a quality Racing Oil or Fleet Oil for break in and normal usage. These oils have an increased level of Zinc that will range from .14 to .16 and will provide plenty of protection.
The consensus in the industry is that the current chemical limits of the GF-4/SM category are still sufficient to protect all "street" engines, including older flat tappet roller engines. The engine tests required for a GF-4/SM product is just as severe as the older, higher ZDDP allowed category. For the special applications (aggressive cams, high HP racing motors, etc) where the customer needs more ZDDP protection, our NON-GF-4 products still contain the higher levels (such as VR-1 and "not street legal" racing). "

I'd like to share my real world experience with Rotella T 15w40 and Castrol 20w50. The PO used Castrol 20w50. I have read and had good experience with Rotella 15w40, so I decided to try it. It seemed to have no negative effects. In fact, it seemed a little quieter than with the Castrol, but couldn't be certain.

I changed back to Castrol 20w50 at my last oil change. I am no where near as happy as I was with Rotella T. It is quite a bit louder at start up and at normal operating temps. I'll either be going back to Rotella T 15w40 or with what you mention - Rimula Premium 15W-40. Anyone have any more info on this oil?


If you wish not to use a GF-4 oil in your 1970 Cutlass, Castrol does offer the following products that contain Zinc at a level that is higher than the Zinc level found in oils (API SG) marketed during the "muscle car" era of time:

* Castrol GTX 20W-50 (SL,SM)
* Castrol GTX Diesel 15W-40 (CI4,CH4,CG4,CF4,CF,SL)
* Castrol GTX High Mileage 20W-50 (SL,SM)
* Castrol HD 30 (SL,SM)
* Castrol HD 40 (SL,SM)
* Castrol Syntec Blend Truck 15W-40 (CI4,CH4,CG4,CF4,CF,SL)(Semi-
* Castrol Tection Extra 15W-40 (CI4Plus, CI4,CH4,CG4,CF4,SL)
* Castrol Hypuron S 15W-40 (CI4Plus,CH4,CG4,SL)(Semi-synthetic)

Bottom line, if the container says CJ-4 or SM, STAY AWAY. It does not matter if is states is meets previous standards, the data indicates otherwise.

Mobil 1 V-Twin 20w50 is the best overall choice, and I've been using it in my 3.2 for the last 8k miles with good results. It has some of the highest levels of Z & P of all the oils tested...


Motor oil debate - interesting info but a long read.


Oil issues and the modifications to oil formulas il
There is a raging controversy on the recent modifications to oil formulations on almost all major oil companies products .
You'll find a lot about it on the MGCC UK site, look under TD/TF. It seems that at least in the USA, the oil companies have modified an old favorite ;Castrol 20W-50 by reducing the zinc compound. The zinc compound (ZDDP) protects rubbing surfaces like cams and lifters. This has been the subject of articles in the last 3 months of Skinned Knuckles magazine and numerous hot rod magazines.
The bottom line is that you must not try to break in newly rebuilt engines with these new oils, nor should you continue to run your old engines on the new formulation. .
Crane Cams has been very concerned about the new oil formulations ,and placed some information on their website ;
1. Lobe wear
2. Correct break-in lubricant.

"Use only the Moly Paste, Part Number 99002-1. It has the necessary zinc to help in Lobe wear ." That is what is included with the their cams. "This Moly Paste must be applied to every cam lobe surface, and to the bottom of every lifter face of all flat tappet cams."
Roller tappet cams only require engine oil to be applied to the lifters and cam." Also, apply the Moly Paste to the distributor gears on the cam and distributor for all camshafts."
For extra protection, Crane Cams recommends that an anti-wear additive ( with a significant amount of zinc ) be used . They recommend their Crane Super Lube, Part Number 99003-1.


By: Keith Ansell, Foreign Parts Positively, Inc.

About a year ago I read about the reduction of zinc dithiophosphate (ZDDP) in the oils supplied with API approval that could affect sliding and high pressure (EP) friction in our cars. The reduction of these chemicals in supplied oil was based on the fact that zinc, manganese and/or phosphates reduce the effectiveness and eventually damage catalytic converters and introduce minute amounts of pollutants into our atmosphere.

A month or so ago I had a member of the Columbia Gorge MG Club bring a totally failed camshaft and lifters back to me that had only 900 miles on them!! I immediately contacted the camshaft re-grinder and asked how this could happen. They were well aware of this problem as they were starting to have many failures of this type. In the past, the lack of a molybdenum disulfide camshaft assembly lubricant, at assembly, was about the only thing that could create this type of problem. My customer has assembled many engines and had lubricated the camshaft properly and followed correct break in procedures.

This got me on the phone to Delta Camshaft, one of our major suppliers. Then the bad news came out: It’s today’s “modern” API (American Petroleum Industry) approved oils that are killing our engines.

Next call: To another major camshaft supplier, both stock and performance (Crane). They now have an additive for whatever oil you are using during break-in so that the camshaft and lifters won’t fail in an unreasonably short period of time. They also suggest using a diesel rated oil on flat tappet engines.

Next call: To a racing oil manufacturer that we use for the race cars (Redline). Their response: “We are well aware of the problem and we still use the correct amounts of those additives in our products”. They continued to tell me they are not producing API approved oils so they don’t have to test and comply. Their oils were NOT the “new, improved and approved” ones that destroy flat tappet engines! “We just build the best lubricants possible”. Sounds stupid, doesn't’t it, New-Approved but inferior products, but it seems to be true for our cars.

To top this off: Our representative from a major supplier of performance and street engine parts (EPWI) stopped by to “warn us” of the problem of the NEW oils on flat tappet engines. This was a call that the representative was making only because of this problem to warn their engine builders! “The reduction of the zinc, manganese and phosphates are causing very early destruction of cams and followers”. They are recommending that, for now at least, there must be a proper oil additive put in the first oil used on new engines, beyond the liberal use of molydisulfide assembly lube. They have been told that the first oil is the time the additives are needed but remain skeptical that the first change is all that is necessary. Their statement: Use diesel rated oils such as Delo or Rotella that are usually available at auto stores and gas stations.

This problem is BIG! American Engine Rebuilder's Association (AERA) Bulletin #TB2333 directly addresses this problem. I had a short discussion with their engineer and he agreed with all that I had been finding.

Next phone call was to a retired engineer from Clevite, a major bearing and component manufacturer. First surprise was that he restored older British Motor bikes. The second surprise was that he was “VERY” aware of this problem because many of the old bikes had rectangular tappets that couldn't’t rotate and are having a very large problem with the new oils. He has written an article for the British Bike community that verify all the “bad news” we have been finding.

Comp Cams put out “#225 Tech Bulletin: Flat Tappet Camshafts”. They have both an assembly lube and an oil additive. The telling sentence in the bulletin was “While this additive was originally developed specifically for break-in protection, subsequent testing has proven the durability benefits of its long term use. This special blend of additives promotes proper break-in and protects against premature cam and lifter failure by replacing some of the beneficial ingredients that the oil companies have been required to remove from the off the-shelf oil”.

Next question: Now what do we do?

From the camshaft re-grinders (DeltaCam) “Use oils rated for diesel use”, Delo (Standard Oil product) was named. About the same price as other quality petroleum based oils. They are not API formulated and have the zinc dithiophosphate we need in weights we are familiar with.

From the camshaft manufacturer (Crane): “use our additive” for at least the first 500 miles.

From General Motors (Chevrolet): add EOS, their oil fortifier, to your oil, it’s only about $12.00 for each oil change for an 8 ounce can (This problem seems to be something GM has known about for some time!).

From Redline Oil: Use our street formulated synthetics. They have what we need!

From our major oil distributor: Distributing Castro, Redline, Valvoline and Industrial oils: “After over a week of contacts we have verified that the major oil companies are aware of the problem”. “The representatives of the oil companies today are only aware of marketing programs and have no knowledge of formulation”. The only major oil companies they were aware of for doing anything to address this are Valvoline that is offering an “Off Road 20W-50” and Redline.

From Castrol: We are beginning to see a pattern emerging on older cars. It may be advantageous to use a non-approved lubricant, such as oils that are Diesel rated, 4 Cycle Motorcycle oils and other specified diesel oils.

Last question: So what are we at Foreign Parts Positively going to do? After much research we are switching to Redline Street rated oils and stocking the Castrol products that are diesel rated. Castrol, owned by British Petroleum, is now just a brand name. This is a difficult decision as we have been a dealer and great believer in all Castrol Products for over 40 years. We have been using Castrol Syntech oil in new engines for about 3 years so the cost difference in changing to Redline is minimal. The actual cost in operation is also less as the additive package in Redline makes a 1-year or up to 18,000 mile change recommended! Yes, it is a long change interval but with lowered sulfur levels and the elimination of lead and many other chemicals in the fuels there are less contaminants in our oil from the fuel, which is the major contributor to oil degradation. We will continue to offer the Castrol products but will now only stock the suggested diesel oils that they produce.

Too many things are starting to show up on this subject and it has cost us money and time. Be aware that “New and Improved”, or even products we have been using for many years, are destroying our cars as it isn’t the same stuff we were getting even a year ago.

For the cars that use “engine oil” in their gearboxes this may even pose a problem as these additives that have been removed could be very critical in gear wear. We will be using oil specifically formulated for Manual Gearboxes with Brass Synchronizers. The only oils we are aware of that fit the criteria are from General Motors and Redline.

If you have any additional input let us know. We need to let every flat tappet engine owner, i.e.: every British Car owner know that things are changing and we MUST meet the challenge.

Keith Ansell, President

Foreign Parts Positively, Inc.



Larry Ayres, California I was looking for one of the above mentioned additives to use with the castrol 20-50 now in my car, and couldn't find them. I did find that good old STP has zinc (ZDDP) in it though, and remembered that my old British car mechanic in the 60's swore by the stuff. So I got some and put it in. Today, I noticed quite an improvement. The engine was quieter on startup (that 2-3 seconds when the valve train is noisy until the oil pressure is up), and seems much quieter overall. The STP bottle specifically mentions cushioning hard metal parts. I plan to switch to redline non racing 10-40 oil, next oil change. You should read about the oils on their site before selecting one. They are very specific about the applicability of the various oils. regards, Larry
gblawson - TD#27667, Ontario, Pennzoil/Shell reply: They/he managed to side step the 'older' engines... Thank you for your inquiry. Pennzoil has marketed, for a number of years, a "Pennzoil Racing Motor Oil" that would be suitable to use in older vehicles or high performance engines that incorporate high lift cams with high tension valve springs. The Pennzoil Racing Motor Oil is available in the SAE 25W-50, 50, and 60 weight. The product part number is 3623, 3589, and 3599 respectively. Given the part number, any retail outlet that carries Pennzoil products, can obtain this oil. This formulation contains nearly three times as much zinc as most commercially available API "SM" motor oils in the market. I would recommend using this formulation, for truly high performance engines, over the heavy -duty diesel engine oils because this oil has approximately 50% more zinc than most API "CI-4" quality diesel engine oils. Best Regards, Technical Service
It appears that Valvoline makes two types of racing oil: the stuff in the gray bottle (VR1) and the stuff in the black bottle (available in conventional and synthetic). Both contain zinc.

On the back of the VR1 bottle it states: "For use in high performance passenger cars and race cars" and "API Service SM." The fact that it mentions passenger cars would suggest its ok to use in our cars. No where on the bottle, however, does it say anything about detergents. We need to call their 800 number (1-800-TEAM VAL) and ask about detergents, or lack thereof, in VR1.

By comparison, the stuff in the black bottle (they don't give it a catchy name like VR1) has " increased amounts of zinc for extra engine protection" "

Here is the link to the Valvoline web page that lists their motor oil products. Scroll down the page until you see the Racing Motor Oil section.


I called the tech help line at Valvoline with questions on the zinc in the Valvoline products
The Tech said their VR1 Racing oil is fully API rated and contains the detergents needed to keep the engine clean, plus it contains zinc

They said that their regular oils still contain some zinc, albeit a bit lower amount (.08) than before, They said their VR1 has a bit more zinc (.12) than the regular oils and the "racing only" oils in the black bottle, more still. He said the VR1 was not necessary for older engines but it certainly would not hurt.

That's what I think I will put into my MG TC .John

Carl Floyd, Tennessee, USA, cmfloyd@yahoo.com For the U.S., market looks like Valvoline Racing VR1 20W-50 will do nicely. It is API SM/SL/SJ approved so it is for street & track. At $5 a quart, it a bit pricey. Another choice, not usually suitable for our old cars, are the synthetics like Amsoil, Redline, Royal Purple, & Mobil 1. I found out that Castrol Syntec is NOT a true synthetic motor oil. Only the Castrol SLX 0W-30 made in Germany is. So, I'm looking at an additive instead. GM EOS, Valvoline Synpower Oil Treatment, and SX-UP (by Specialty Formulations) have been recommended. Here's an oil analysis for the SX-Up: We had a request to see the elemental analysis for SX-UP from Specialty Formulations. The elements reported are averaged over 5 different lab reports and rounded. Please recognize that there is more to SX-UP than just these elements. As per our PDS, we also use many ashless organic compounds (not shown on elemental analysis, of course) and agents such as rust inhibitors, Friction Modifiers, Anti-Oxidants, viscosity index improvers, surfactants, metal deactivators for copper (copper corrosion inhibitors), detergents, dispersants, etc. The base oils are PAO's and esters ("Quad-Esters"). Anything less than 10 ppm was ignored. Molybdenum - 1400 ppm (Friction Reduction, AW, AO) Boron - 500 ppm (AW, FM) Tin - 12 (AW) Phosphorus - 1500 (AW) Zinc - 2900 (AW) Calcium - 4200 (Detergent, AW, FM) Magnesium - 250 (Detergent) TBN 19.3 KV @100 C - 16.5 This product was originally developed for engine oils in muscle and classic cars from approx. 1955 to about 1980 in order to boost the additive levels of current SF/SH oils to approx. API SD equivalent AW status. The original SD oils had ZDDP levels approximately equivalent to today's HDEO oils. The SX-UP seems to be the superior additive. It is recommended for gasoline and diesel engines using SAE 10 to 40 weight oils at the rate of 1 pint for every 4 to 5 quarts of oil at oil change. It cost $13-14 a pint. I think either Castrol or Valvoline 10W-40 plus a pint of SX-UP would get it done. I did find that though both companies have reduced the ZDDP levels, Valvoline retained a smidge more than Castrol. Also, the European market has motor oils with higher levels of ZDDP than is available here in the U.S. I found an interesting forum full of gear heads that are quite anal about their oil and have it analyzed regularly:
Carl Floyd, Tennessee, USA, Update. The price I quoted for the Valvoline Racing VR1 20W50 was an internet price from Jeg's (surprised they are that high). I just called around. It's $3.28 at Advance & $2.79 at Autozone. That is cheaper than adding additives. I'm off to AutoZone. My MGs & '68 Camaro (with a very big cam) will be using the Valvoline Racing VR1 20W50