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Maserati 250 F...and Castor Oil...


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#1 taflach

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Posted 14 October 2019 - 21:55

I write a blog on Formula One history and I'm currently researching the Maserati 250F. During its first race at the 1954 Argentine Grand Prix, they were having difficulties with the oil overheating and frothing due to the hot weather and the placement of the oil reservoir in the engine bay. I found an interview with their chief engineer in Motor Sport Magazine about how they used castor oil to try to remedy this. He said he needed 30 litres that he obtained from going around all the local pharmacies and buying half litre bottles.

Now, the fuel makeup of the Maserati 250F is listed as having 1% castor oil...my first assumption is that the collected castor oil was added to the fuel to improve lubrication in the engine.

Another thought is that they added it to the oil...though castor oil and mineral oil don't mix particularly well - a bit like trying to combine oil and water...one hydrophobic and one hydrophillic. It might take more than just stirring them together and hoping for the best.

I did find that Castrol-R is oil with 0.7% castor oil. Interestingly Mercedes Benz used this oil in the W196 at the 1954 French Grand Prix.

Or, did they replace all of the oil with castor oil...the 30 litres would be about right for this, but it doesn't seem like it would necessarily work as a straightforward swap...

Is this much simpler than it looks? It might just be that I don't know enough about oils and engines, though I know a lot more now than when I started to try to find the answer to this question! I have three different books about the Maserati 250F and none of them go into any details about this...though maybe they are all assuming basic engine knowledge which I don't have!

Thanks for any information anyone might havesmile.gif

Jennie Mowbray

https://taflach.wordpress.com/

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#2 Sterzo

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Posted 15 October 2019 - 10:39

It does sound unlikely that they'd use "neat" castor oil given its vulnerability to extreme temperatures. Others will have more informed views to offer, but meanwhile here's an article about Castrol R in Motor Sport, which you may already have read. And isn't if wonderfully characteristic of Maserati that they'd address a design flaw by buying an inferior oil from local chemists instead of fixing it?

 

https://www.motorspo...00/55/castrol-r



#3 D28

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Posted 15 October 2019 - 14:04

They couldn't fix it on the spot in Argentina, where the 250F was making its debut. Testing at Modena in the winter weather hadn't brought up the oil frothing problem but in the Argentina heat several engines were destroyed. Chief mechanic Bertocchi suggested the improvised plan with the castrol oil and it worked, they rounded up enough oil for 1 engine. The problem was solved later by relocating the tank, but on the spot inspiration saved the day, Fangio won the 1954 Argentina GP , a rare debut win for the 250F.



#4 10kDA

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Posted 15 October 2019 - 21:19

Many WWI aero engines used straight castor oil as the lubricant, as did 2 stroke racing motorcycles into the 60s and 70s. Castor oil had better film strength than petro-based oils, until petrochemical engineering caught up and developed lubricants which far surpassed the properties of castor oil. Castor oil is a superb lubricant for racing 2 strokes but you have to SHAKE your premix, and it leaves quite a bit of varnish residue which is not much of an issue with a racing engine that may be disassembled (and decarboned and devarnished) on a fairly regular basis. I seem to recall a much-modded Porsche 914/6 running in SCCA A/SR in the 70s that used straight castor oil in the crankcase, but I don't remember who or where.



#5 taflach

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Posted 15 October 2019 - 23:04

It does sound unlikely that they'd use "neat" castor oil given its vulnerability to extreme temperatures. Others will have more informed views to offer, but meanwhile here's an article about Castrol R in Motor Sport, which you may already have read. And isn't if wonderfully characteristic of Maserati that they'd address a design flaw by buying an inferior oil from local chemists instead of fixing it?

 

https://www.motorspo...00/55/castrol-r

 

That's what I thought originally...would they really have just poured in castor oil directly out of the bottle from the local chemist...

 

I'm now starting to think that that is exactly what they did do :)

 

I had seen the article...it was when they wrote that Castrol R and Castrol R20 were blends that I wondered if my assumption was incorrect :)

 

Thanks for the reply!



#6 taflach

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Posted 15 October 2019 - 23:06

They couldn't fix it on the spot in Argentina, where the 250F was making its debut. Testing at Modena in the winter weather hadn't brought up the oil frothing problem but in the Argentina heat several engines were destroyed. Chief mechanic Bertocchi suggested the improvised plan with the castrol oil and it worked, they rounded up enough oil for 1 engine. The problem was solved later by relocating the tank, but on the spot inspiration saved the day, Fangio won the 1954 Argentina GP , a rare debut win for the 250F.

 

Exactly...I think they only had one engine still running by Sunday morning anyway.

 

They also needed the rain during the race, as I think their engine was close to terminal overheating before the storm.

 

Thanks for your input :)



#7 taflach

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Posted 15 October 2019 - 23:11

Many WWI aero engines used straight castor oil as the lubricant, as did 2 stroke racing motorcycles into the 60s and 70s. Castor oil had better film strength than petro-based oils, until petrochemical engineering caught up and developed lubricants which far surpassed the properties of castor oil. Castor oil is a superb lubricant for racing 2 strokes but you have to SHAKE your premix, and it leaves quite a bit of varnish residue which is not much of an issue with a racing engine that may be disassembled (and decarboned and devarnished) on a fairly regular basis. I seem to recall a much-modded Porsche 914/6 running in SCCA A/SR in the 70s that used straight castor oil in the crankcase, but I don't remember who or where.

 

I did find articles written about aero engines and castor oil, with the advantages of castor oil in that situation.

 

That's interesting about the Porsche! I'm starting to think that Maserati did use straight castor oil...as that seems more likely than any of the alternatives. The amount they wanted was certainly the amount they would need to use as a complete replacement for whatever oil they had been using...which I haven't been able to find out what that actually was. I guess oil brands weren't as important back then as they are now...

 

Thanks :)



#8 10kDA

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Posted 15 October 2019 - 23:26

Not unless there was a sticker on the car. :p

 


I guess oil brands weren't as important back then as they are now...

 

Thanks :)



#9 ratkinso

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 14:47

As an aside, I used Castrol R30 exclusively in my quite highly tuned A-series 1293S engine when rallying a Mini in the late 60s/early 70s with no problems with varnishing or glazing. We used to do a lot of Motoring News events in Wales, and starting from the Rugby area often used the A44. Quite a few of our Midlands fellow competitors using the same route to the start of the rally would know if I was ahead of them by the lingering scent of burnt Castrol R hanging in the atmosphere! :p



#10 BRG

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 16:00

.... the lingering scent of burnt Castrol R hanging in the atmosphere! 

Ahh, Castrol R.  They should have bottled that scent.



#11 ray b

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Posted 19 October 2019 - 04:14

I heard somewhere castor oil had to be drained post race quickly or bad things happened sludge/varnish and or corrosion

 

but yes they did use castor oil back then

 

f-1 race fuel 50's had acetone, methanol, benzene and nitrobenzene. Then, they switch to pure 130 aviation gas in 58



#12 ed holly

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Posted 20 October 2019 - 20:24

Even in the late 70's castor oil is the choice in highly stressed model aircraft racing engines - no mineral or synthetic oil could withstand the temps and pressures these engines operated at. See page 15 for a comparison of lube quality versus temperature ... http://bmpra.bmfa.or...ine-history.pdf



#13 chatswood47

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 09:24

Ahh, the glorious smell of Castrol R lingers fondly in my mind.

Many many years ago my dad purchased his first Victa lawn mower ( a great Australian product and the company actually provided sponsorship to David Mc Kay who called his Cooper car the Victa Special) and my job was to mow the lawns.

 

Growing up in Bathurst it was natural that I was a mad motor sport kid and had a collection of motorsport bits and pieces including  a used Castrol R container from a meeting at Mount Panorama - the container was still about a quarter full so I used to add a dash of it to the 2 stroke fuel the mower used.Not satisfied with the smell I decided the mower needed to be a bit noisier so I drilled out the majority of the perforated 'flower pot firework' looking insert so it ended up looking like a bit of Swiss cheese. Dad could not understand how the mower was so loud and an odour hung around every time I did the lawns.

 

I liked it so much that I offered to do the lawns every week, including winter, so Dad finally tweeked to what I had done. Luckily I didn't go ahead with my plan to smooth out the engine exhaust port with the power drill !!  :yawnface: 



#14 Peter Morley

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 09:43

I heard somewhere castor oil had to be drained post race quickly or bad things happened sludge/varnish and or corrosion

 

but yes they did use castor oil back then

 

f-1 race fuel 50's had acetone, methanol, benzene and nitrobenzene. Then, they switch to pure 130 aviation gas in 58

 

Cars running on methanol used castor oil for the engine because it still worked when contaminated by methanol, unlike 'normal' oil - modern oils are different and some are unaffected by methanol.

 

Methanol fuel needs to be drained quickly afterwards because it turns into jelly as it absorbs water from the atmosphere, it can also corrode some of the metals in the fuel system.

Draining the fuel tank and running the car on petrol for a while clears out the methanol.

 

It isn't necessary to drain the castor oil afterwards but it can be a pain when cold and you need to use turps to remove all traces.

 

1% of castor oil in the Maserati fuel mix was probably to lubricate fuel pumps &/or carbs.



#15 Patrick Fletcher

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 10:33

Nothing to do with the above but a bit of fun with three-in-one oil.

 

http://home.earthlin...startoffy1.html


Edited by Patrick Fletcher, 21 October 2019 - 10:56.


#16 taflach

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 00:50

Even in the late 70's castor oil is the choice in highly stressed model aircraft racing engines - no mineral or synthetic oil could withstand the temps and pressures these engines operated at. See page 15 for a comparison of lube quality versus temperature ... http://bmpra.bmfa.or...ine-history.pdf

 

Thanks for that...the whole article was really interesting!

 

What I would really like to find is the actual chemical composition of Castrol R...and what additives they added to the castor oil. I'm trying to find out how different medicinal castor oil was to that used in industry/engines.

 

I've been reading Harry Ricardo's book "The High-Speed Internal Combustion Engine" written in 1931. He wrote the following about vegetable oils...

 

"Their chief virtue lies in their high 'oiliness', which is of use in cases where the oil supply is necessarily limited, as in crankcase compression two-stroke engines, or where severe local over-loads, due to distortion, etc., are probable. Their defects lie in their comparative instability, which renders them liable to become gummy and acid by exposure to the air, and also causes them to carbonize more rapidly than mineral oils. They are also expensive, and, the supply being necessarily limited, would become more so if their employment became general. Their use, therefore, should be and generally is, limited to exceptionally high-duty engines, and a few other special cases."



#17 blueprint2002

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 06:14

I've been reading Harry Ricardo's book "The High-Speed Internal Combustion Engine" written in 1931. He wrote the following about vegetable oils...

"Their chief virtue lies in their high 'oiliness', which is of use in cases where the oil supply is necessarily limited, as in crankcase compression two-stroke engines, or where severe local over-loads, due to distortion, etc., are probable. Their defects lie in their comparative instability, which renders them liable to become gummy and acid by exposure to the air, and also causes them to carbonize more rapidly than mineral oils. They are also expensive, and, the supply being necessarily limited, would become more so if their employment became general. Their use, therefore, should be and generally is, limited to exceptionally high-duty engines, and a few other special cases."


You couldn't have chosen a better reference. Not just about the oil, just about anything to do with the subject of it's title.

#18 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 11:02

Cars running on methanol used castor oil for the engine because it still worked when contaminated by methanol, unlike 'normal' oil - modern oils are different and some are unaffected by methanol.

 

Methanol fuel needs to be drained quickly afterwards because it turns into jelly as it absorbs water from the atmosphere, it can also corrode some of the metals in the fuel system.

Draining the fuel tank and running the car on petrol for a while clears out the methanol.

 

It isn't necessary to drain the castor oil afterwards but it can be a pain when cold and you need to use turps to remove all traces.

 

1% of castor oil in the Maserati fuel mix was probably to lubricate fuel pumps &/or carbs.

That was probably true 50 years ago. These days the only time you drain fuel is the end of the season. Friend uses a bit of 2 stroke [mower fuel] and runs it until it stops.

Some do similar with Klotz or similar on Sprintcars, some put the car in the truck and run it the following night or next week.

Methanol is a lot more stable these days.



#19 10kDA

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 12:13

. Friend uses a bit of 2 stroke [mower fuel] and runs it until it stops.

Be careful with this. Some 2 stroke oils will attract moisture out of the air and create a film that promotes corrosion instead of protecting metal. I used to use an oil made for pickling engines. Then I started adding 2 stroke oil to the last gas and squirting a bit into the cylinders, thinking that since 2 stroke oil is designed to burn, it would clear out easier. I stopped after a couple of storage seasons when I realized my Suzuki's stock valves had a skin of rust when I got it ready to run come Spring. Exhaust and carbs were sealed to outside air during storage too. That never happened with the pickling oil so I went back to that. The rust may have been due to the squirt of straight 2 stroke oil and not from adding it to the gas, but I don't know for sure.



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#20 Peter Morley

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Posted 23 October 2019 - 09:49

That was probably true 50 years ago. These days the only time you drain fuel is the end of the season. Friend uses a bit of 2 stroke [mower fuel] and runs it until it stops.

Some do similar with Klotz or similar on Sprintcars, some put the car in the truck and run it the following night or next week.

Methanol is a lot more stable these days.

 

True enough that things have moved on, there are plenty of methanol additives that also do things like give it a colour when it burns and some that perfume the exhaust emissions etc. but it is still hygroscopic and corrosive.

In old cars there are some components that aren't happy sitting in methanol - apparently the correct sand cast Webers don't react with it but the diecast ones do!

Stainless steel fittings are fine but we've had aluminium ones that have corroded, presumably due to faulty/damaged anodising - also the glue holding the magnets in newer methanol compatible fuel pumps fails and the compatible fuel tank foam disintegrates!!

If the car is used every week it's not necessary to drain the fuel but if it's not used so often (most historic cars) it is better to drain and flush the system (not difficult since there shouldn't be  much left after a race), we start it on petrol anyway.

 

To go back the original issue, synthetic engine oil works fine and makes it easier to start in cold conditions than castor oil.

 

p.s. we're all getting older it's not 50 years ago it's more like 65!!