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NewsStand - AMERICAN GRAFFITI


by Ed Newman

AMSOIL Advertising Manager

This article appeared in National Oil & Lube News, April 2014


If you're a film buff and you like cars, Hollywood has gone out of its way to keep you satisfied. Even films about other things, like The Bucket List, will digress to some exciting car racing action now and then. It isn't just the Chevrolet that is the heartbeat of America, even though they co-opted that title. The auto industry itself was the heartbeat of America during its twentieth century reign.

Car films fall into several categories.  First, there are those films with adrenaline-rush chase scenes like Bullitt, Vanishing Point, Fast and Furious and their ilk. Then there are the movies featuring race cars and the racers who drive them, like Le Mans, Grand Prix and Days of Thunder

And then there are those hybrid genre films. Cars meet animation to become Cars, for example. Or cars meet teen angst to become that nostalgic lifestyle classic American Graffiti.

George Lucas wrote and directed the film. Production costs for this no-name cast of future stars was $777,777.77. It was filmed in 29 days. Revenue generated: $115 million. That's called ROI. Nice little business model there.  Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard and Harrison Ford were primarily doing television stints before stepping onto the silver screen here. You might say the film launched their careers. But it would never have been the film it was without the cars.

Every film has a casting call for actors and actresses, not only the stars but for the extras as well. This film had a “casting call” for cars. Over 1000 applied. Three hundred made it to celluloid. The car stars included a Chevy Impala, a '32 Deuce Coupé, a '55 Chevy Sport Coupé, a '58 Ford Edsel and a French Citroën 2CV.

Life was simpler in 1962. A first class stamp cost 4 cents. A gallon of gas cost 31 cents. Your oil was 10W-40, a conventional oil made from refined crude. Synthetic oils for cars were still in the concept phase. And for the most part cars were American-made.  Yes, Porsche, Mercedes and Jaguar may have had a small footprint at that time, but the cars most teens drove with pride in 1962 were manufactured by Detroit, not Germany or Japan.

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW
A lot has changed since those days of innocence.  People who own classic cars today are well aware of their value and the need to take care of them.  Usually the cars are not driven much.  Because of road salt here in Minnesota a friend of mine with '57 Ford rents garage space for winter storage.

Many vintage car owners adhere to a fairly detailed regimen when it comes to storage. It's a little more elaborate than the average motorist might be aware of. It's one of the things you owners need to learn though. Fortunately when you own a vintage car you become part of a fraternity that will help you along the way.

THINGS CHANGE
When it comes to storing a classic car, or any car for a substantial period of time, there are two critical concerns that vehicle owners need to be aware of. (1) Gasoline has changed and (2) oil has changed. Let's briefly talk about this and what you can do to help your customers with vehicles in storage.

Gasoline is one of those things that has always been inherently unstable. It needs to be treated when sitting idle. Now that we have ethanol in gasoline we have an additional problem to address called phase separation. Ethanol in fuel has a tendency to absorb water and separate from the gasoline, sinking to the bottom of the gas tank, where it quickly degrades and creates gum, varnish and other insoluble debris that can plug fuel flow passages and negatively affect engine performance. When this ethanol/water mixture is pulled into the engine, it creates a lean burn situation that increases combustion chamber temperatures and can lead to engine damage. The solution is to use a gasoline additive that addresses this problem of phase separation while also serving as a gasoline stabilizer. It also helps to fill the fuel tank before placing the car in storage as this will minimize the amount of moisture that will get in along with humid air.

As most of us in the business are aware, oil has also changed. When premium synthetic motor oils were introduced in the seventies the performance gulf between conventional and synthetic oils was significant. Over time, however, engines became increasingly sophisticated. This forced conventional oils to get better or get out. They got better but had to become pricier. The performance gulf narrowed some but the price gulf narrowed a lot.
Another thing changed. Camshafts. Fifties and sixties cars had flat tappet cams. The lifters and cam lobes on flat-tappet camshafts common to classic and high performance vehicles slide rapidly against one another, producing high friction and heat. The friction between the two components can eventually wear down the cam and affect valve operation, ultimately resulting in lost engine power and reduced efficiency. In addition, these areas are splash-lubricated rather than pressure lubricated like other areas of the engine, which adds extra strain on anti-wear additives like the zinc and phosphorus in zinc dialkyldithiophosphate (ZDDP).
A problem was created when in an effort to reduce emissions and address catalytic converter issues decisions were made to reduce ZDDP content. The effects were felt throughout the industry on these older vehicles with flat tappet cams. Specialty oils began appearing that addressed this issue. There was a lot of hurt before the root cause was identified.

One more issue for your customers with classic or inactive cars is the problem of rust. Not all oil is created equal. Some motor oils are formulated with rust and corrosion inhibitors to ensure maximum protection during long-term storage.

LAST THOUGHTS
It's important to stay current with changes by reading trade magazines like this one, and imperative that we keep our ears on the tracks to hear what's coming toward us in the future. We live in an era with increased specialization and differentiation. Keep up to date with the issues associated with fuel, as well as lubrication matters. You will be doing all your customers a big favor by recommending an effective fuel additive, and remember, not all oil is created equal either. I recommend a premium synthetic solution.

 

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