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"What do you know about the oil in your car's engine? From the ads, you're led to believe the most exotic part of a Ferrari's engine is in the sump," writes Fast Fours and Rotaries (FFR) (July 1998), an Australian performance car journal.

"The basic concept of oil is to provide a film of lubrication between two surfaces, FFR continues, "reducing friction, wear and heat and ensuring an engine's long life span. But the reality is that while all claim to be superior, there are some that are better than others. We decided to test most of the major brands to see how the well-known brands, the ones most of us can readily buy, shape up in a real-life engine test."

Test Procedure

FFR chose to test only high quality synthetic oils. High quality synthetics are each oil makers' top product and high quality synthetics are "most relevant" to performance enthusiasts. The testers ran each oil through a "short yet grueling" dynamometer session followed by professional oil analysis.

Sam Blumenstein, of COME Racing, performed the dyno testing on his SuperFlow engine dynamometer using a mildly modified five liter V8. Bill Reid, of Lubrication Management, performed the oil analyses. Ryco supplied oil filters.

After establishing baseline performance using a mineral oil, the test team subjected the test oils to three timed sessions at high engine loads, between each of which were three full-power runs.

"The intent," says FFR , "was to establish a number of criteria. Firstly, whether any of the oils would improve horsepower; whether any of the products would lose viscosity; evaluate [the] ability (or lack thereof) to prematurely wear components or suffer from discoloration. As it turned out, discoloration didn t prove to be a factor.

"We approached ten oil suppliers/manufacturers, informing them of our intention, and all were reasonably keen and eager to be involved, although Pennzoil didn t want to commit and Penrite flat out said no a little strange given this company has actually advertised with and for this [performance] market."

The oil probe is placed in a solution to free it of all oil, leaving behind just the raw wear particles. Once the magnet is clean, a piece of cellophane tape is applied to stick any metal particles for analysis either on a contrasting background or under a microscope.

Viscosity Test

FFR first subjected the oils to a test of viscosity retention. "Note," writes FFR , "that being such a short test it was felt that none of the oils would lose any of its viscosity rating, and indeed six oils suffered an inconsequential loss of less than one percent." The other five, Torco MPZ , Shell Helix Ultra , Shell Helix Plus , Hi-Tec HTO and Castrol R suffered significant viscosity losses .

Amsoil Series 2000 Synthetic 20W-50 Racing Oil



Viscosity Loss


Test #





5 & 6


Helix Ultra





Helix Plus














FFR points out that the loss of viscosity suffered by the five oils was very rapid. "Under normal conditions it s suggested oil which loses viscosity this quickly would be subject to significant losses over 5000 km [8045 miles]. Indeed, one would be suspect of the potential for increased wear over this period."

Wear Metal Test

Oils inhibit wear by inhibiting metal to metal contact of engine parts. To test each oil s ability to protect parts from contact and wear, FFR subjected each oil to a test of wear metal generation. Their test "indicates the size and number of wear particles for each oil. The higher the rating the greater number and size of wear particles," writes FFR .

Amsoil Series 2000 Synthetic 20W-50 Racing Oil



Average particle size

Overall (micron)

Test #


Amsoil Series 2000

5-10 micron

5-50 micron



Hi-Tec HTO

15-20 micron

10-60 micron



BP Visco 5000

15-20 micron

15-60 micron



Shell Helix Ultra

15-25 micron

15-60 micron



Shell Helix Plus

10-20 micron

15-50 Micron



Mobil 1 5W-50

20-25 micron

15-60 micron



Mobile 1 OW-40

15-20 micron

15-50 micron



Castrol R

20-30 micron

15-100 Micron




15-20 micron

15-100 Micron

5 & 6


Royal Purple

15-20 micron

15-100 Micron



Castrol SLX

20-25 micron

15-100 Micron



FFR averaged three runs per oil, noting power figures at 500 rpm increments between 3000 and 5000 rpm and noting peak power and torque. While the engine FFR used for testing was a large tolerance engine for which a 20W-50 grade oil is ideal, some of the oil manufacturers supplied 0W-30 grade oils for testing. The low grade viscosity oils delivered somewhat greater horsepower than the high grade oils did, but as FFR notes, "around 4000 rpm the power produced is very similar across the range and it s only really the top end where there are substantial differences. That said, the AMSOIL [20W-50], Castrol R [10W-60] and Mobil 5W-50 prove themselves very well."

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Last Updated April 1, 2016

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