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MG TD TF 1500 - Best Motor Oil for 1950's MG's

I am about to install a spin-on oil filter adapter as part of my next oil change. My dilemma is what oil is best for my recently rebuilt 1250cc engine. Oils for modern cars apparently have less zinc (ZDDP?) than is needed by older design engines.
I am considering Mobil 1 15w50. I do little winter driving and not much driving the remainder of the year (less than 500 miles/year). An alternative maybe to simply add a zinc additive to the 10W30 I previously used.

Anyone have thoughts on the best was to go?
M&J Ward

I would suggest staying with 20/50 Oil
My preference is Kendall Liquid Titanium GT-1 High Zink formula. But I am sure you will get plenty of others on here who use other oils and will recommend them. Change the Oil every spring no matter how many miles you do if not a lot.
I really wish they still sold the Duckhams Green goddess 20/50 Oil I used to get in England back in the day. Never had a cam / flat tappet issue then. Progress sometimes sucks.
Rod Jones


Miller's Classic, right ZZDP.

B Bridgens

How many miles / hours after rebuild?

under 800 - 1000 breakin oil(Shell Rottla T diesel oil )
then the 20/50 ?? works for me.

M Grogan

Good news, Rod...
Kevin McLemore

Stay away from synthetics (Mobil 1) until well broken in. I have used the exact same Kendall Rod uses for many years. 20-50 best due to wide bearing clearances, etc. George
George Butz

This is an often asked question, just as what is the best beer!

Kendall gets lots of votes.
P G Gilvarry

Is Castrol GP SAE 50 ok? Anyone who knows.
YS Strom

I use Castrol 20W50 in all my MGs. Granted they are all well broken in, but as an everyday oil, I find it quite good.
Lew Palmer

YS Storm,
When I came to the USA in 96 I had to switch to an American Oil I had not heard anything about Flat Tappet ware or cam degradation at that time. I was only doing around 2000 miles a year as Maine is really cold in the winter. I started to use Castrol GTX and after 8 years I was deep into tapper wear and the engine sounding like a Rattler. Had the Followers reground and tried again. SO far with Kendall it is doing OK but it is early yet.
I stopped using Castrol then. Others I am sure, have other ideas/experiences.

Rod Jones

LOL :) Kevin,
Even with Trump trying to doing away with the EPA,
Do you honestly think this oil will be anything like it's famous predecessor here in the USA.

I somehow doubt it.

Thanks for the link though. Nice to see something coming back with that kind of heritage.
Rod Jones

New engine rebuild,
60 miles on engine.
I am using Brad Penn brake in oil.
"Google it"
My drag racing friend pointed me to it
Its Green. Lots of Zink.

Jim B.
JA Benjamin

As said above, best to use a 20W-50 classic motor oil with more than 100ppm ZDDP. Castrol have a classic motor oil range, as do Penrite, Millers and several others.
Dave H
Dave Hill

Valvoline VR1...
D Moore

Well, Rod, I don't think Mr. Trump has much to say about what they'll do in the UK, and I believe that's where it's being reproduced. Granted, getting it here would require shipping, but by the case it might not be so bad.
Kevin McLemore

Yes, also VR1.
Dave H
Dave Hill

I like Castrol 20 W 50 and add ZZDP myself, and I also like Lucas 20W50 Hot Rod and Classic Oil, which has ZZDP in it.

Charlie Adams

I use VR-1 in the TF, also used it in the 72 B. PJ
PJ Jennings

MG TF 1250.
I have been using Valvoline VR1, 20W-50 since I had to change my camshaft and lifters that were both worn. At that time I also changed the Valve springs to a lighter tension. During the summer , If I have to add any oil I then top up with VR1 straight 50 weiht oil It keeps the oil pressure up. I now have driven over 60,000 miles on "Dagmar",since 1995.
Cheers, Byron.
JB Warwick

I'm also fan of Valvoline 20W-50 VR-1. They've changed the label on the container to point out the ZDDP inclusion. Bud
Bud Krueger

There are components in synthetics that will dissolve deposits inside an engine, keep them in suspension and carry them to the oil filter. That's all well and good for a new engine, a little bit not good if the engine has a lot of gunk built up - deposited there while running standard oils.

If it's an older engine, you want the gunk to stay put. Suddenly dissolving this stuff may not be very helpful, and if a lot of it comes loose it'll clog the filter. Can you imagine running the sludge at the bottom of the pan through the filter or worse, throughout the engine?

So, new engine - synth or not, your choice.
Old engine w/deposits, stick with naturals.

Engines that pre-date filters, non detergent so the deposits and gunk sink and stay there.

For what its worth.
I received this from Castrol back in 2012.

Thank you for contacting Castrol North America.

Full ticket details

Ticket #30977
Ticket: ZDDP additives
Status: Emailed

Company: Castrol
Contact: Not Provided
Address: Not Provided

Detail Description:
Mon 23/07/2012/9:59 AM EDT/ AF - Castrol Representative (time)-
Sun 22/07/2012/8:57 AM EDT/ (email)
Can I use Castrol Edge oil in my 1952 MG TD (with flat tappets) without destroying the cam and tappets? This is not a rebuilt engine it has 40,000 plus miles on it. I have used Zink additives since the removal of Zink from most oils.


Ed Stanfield


Problem Resolution:
Mon 23/07/2012/9:59 AM EDT/ AF - Castrol Representative (time)-
Thank you for contacting Castrol North America.

Castrol always recommends following the guidelines of your manufacturer to determine the recommended grade and API specific to your application. This information can be found in your owner's manual, or by contacting your OEM directly.

Castrol EDGE with Syntec Power Technology (SPT) SAE 5W-50 has been recently reformulated to have a boosted level of ZDDP (1300 ppm) to help protect flat tappet cam engines in classic cars. This engine oil is a full synthetic, has excellent cold temperature properties, and has a high temperature viscosity (SAE 50) that is suitable for use in many classic car applications.

Thank you again for contacting Castrol, we value your patronage!
Castrol Consumer Relations

ECS Stanfield

Castrol informed that GP 50 Classic was recommended for old cars and with bigger tolerances, as it had a higher viscosity when cold. With old cars they meant around 1950. As XPAX was designed a lot earlier, I think we fall in that category.

GP 20 50 Classic had about the same zinc content, but was recommended for old cars after 1950.

I donīt argue, just quote.
YS Strom

Here's a link to charts listing, among other specs, the zinc levels for various Mobil 1 motor oils.

Tim Burchfield

For the Time our engines were designed and built With the tolerances then used and deemed acceptable.
I think 20/50 is a better and right choice. Modern engines are far more tight and most have shorter strokes than ours. Unless you are in a climate where it is freezing for long periods of time. It should cope well and in the summer when it gets hot will hold up better for oil pressure.
I have been driving a TD since 1962. In Northern Ireland, England, Germany, Spain, Maine and Florida in the USA. Wherever I went, it went too. From my experience 20/50 has handles all the temps just fine. High or low.
Just my 2c worth.

Rod Jones

JB Warwick: I'm curious to know why you went with stronger valve springs, which should increase cam and follower wear? I suppose the heavier valve springs are better for high-performance driving and would increase your red-line from 5200 to 5500RPM, but that's the only reason I can think of - and I very seldom approach 5200 RPM, much less 5500....

Many thanks. Tom Lange
MGT Repair
t lange


He said he "went to a lighter tension". Would that not mean less strong springs.

James Neel

I found Mitchell's cautionary advice to be very relevant to my engine rebuild. It last ran in 1970 when I replaced the rings & big end bearings. On the cam & roller lifter changeover the lifters were soaked in oil for a couple of months before I finally got around to installing the cam. On assembly about 12 months ago I used Assembly Lube on the cam lobes & lifters. I'm looking to fire her up once the dash is reinstalled & wiring reconnected. I will not be using synthetics for the reason Mitchell gives, which makes perfect sense to me. It also can't hurt to use a high zinc content oil for the break in period, even though some reckon that this is unnecessary. Now wondering if I should re soak the lifters & reapply the Assembly Lube just before starting the engine? Like I said she's just been sitting there for a year now. Cheers
Peter TD 5801
P Hehir

This thread was discussed between 04/12/2017 and 08/12/2017

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