There are some things in life that will never change. Take for example the old adage that "oil is cheap insurance." With crude oil selling for over $100 a barrel the average person probably doesn't get it, but to any gearhead it's obvious that the oil in their engine should be clean and provide the right lubrication. This makes all the sense in the world, as oil is the internal combustion engine's lifeblood. It determines whether an engine will die a slow, grinding death, or if it will vanish instantly in a terrible explosion.

Narrowing our sights to the subject of how to prevent such a tragedy occurring to an older engine that has now become relatively rare and an increasingly expensive proposition to rebuild we have focused on the Y-block engine, Ford's first series of overhead valve V-8s.

Introduced in the 1954 F-100 (first year for all Fords) with a 239ci displacement, the 239 engine was manufactured for one year only with 863,096 units produced. By 1955 the displacement of the Y-block had increased to 272 ci. There are several improvements that can be made to the oiling system of a Y-block engine. The first is to replace the canister-style oil filter found on '54-'56 F-100 Y-block engines with a spin-on type oil filter. Coinciding with the Y-block's debut, WIX filters introduced the spin-on type oil filter to the world in 1954, but it wasn't until '57 that Ford Motor Company became one of the first manufacturers to offer spin-on oil filters as standard equipment. Bearing in mind that the canister-type oil filter on Y-block engines has been obsolete for over 50 years, it is not hard to understand why locating a replacement cartridge on the shelf at your local auto parts store is next to impossible. Of course there are advertisers in this magazine that stock high-quality oil filter cartridges, but that requires planning ahead-we all know how hard that is.

Right off the top, there are several good reasons to convert a Y-block motor to a spin-on-type oil filter. First and foremost, the spin-on-type oil filter is a more sophisticated design, incorporating an anti-drainback valve that prevents dirty oil from running back into the engine and keeps the oil-filter full so the engine achieves oil-pressure faster. In addition, there is a bypass valve that serves multiple functions. The bypass valve opens when the filter isn't capable of passing enough oil because the filter material is clogged (dirty), the cold oil is thick at startup, or the oil pressure is elevated due to high rpm. Last but not least, the filtering media in a spin-on filter is better because the more expensive spin-on filters use higher-quality synthetic materials, as opposed to the paper that's used in cheap oil filters. The synthetic media traps more dirt particles and flows more oil per square inch.

Of course, even the best oil filter in the world is useless unless it has the right oil coursing through it. We've noticed that around the old trucks there are still some people (magazine editors included) that cling to the belief that conventional mineral oils are better to use than synthetic in an older engine design. That's pure horse puckey because a lot of the problems normally associated with Y-block engines were due to running the oils that were available at the time. Back in the good old days the oils were low in detergents and high in coke, which caused the tiny oil passage from the Y-block's center cam bearing to the cylinder heads to clog up with sludge and prevented oil from reaching the top end. Long story short: the results were a big helping of "Y-block charcoal surprise," that literally burned up the rocker-shafts and destroyed the engine's top end.

There are numerous synthetic and semi-synthetic oils on the market today that all do a good job to varying degrees. Choosing the right type and brand of motor oil is a topic that deserves a lot more explanation and comparison than we want to address in this article, but we will dispel one misconception about synthetic oil, starting with the most erroneous: synthetic oil is made entirely from some kind of space-age plastic instead of a mineral (petroleum) base. This is not true.

The synthetic oil that we chose to run in the 272-inch Y-block in our '56 F-100 was Royal Purple. We based our decision on what we read on Royal Purple's Web site and decided to give it a try. What intrigued us was Royal Purple's claims to reduce internal heat and engine wear (they go hand in hand), along with increasing horsepower and even lowering emissions. Immediately after pouring Royal Purple into our 272 we didn't conduct any scientific testing to verify these claims, so we don't have results that we can publish. What we can say, and will stand behind, is after we installed the genuine Ford spin-on oil filter adapter that we got from Sacramento Vintage Ford Parts and poured Royal Purple into the crankcase, the trusty old Y fired up and made a whole lot less audible mechanical noise than we thought possible. Every initial startup since has produced less bearing rattle, and the engine achieves oil pressure much sooner. That said, it's a pretty safe bet that for very little money we have increased the odds of our Y-block motor living a lot longer. That's what we call cheap insurance.

sacramento vintage ford parts
2484 Mercantile Dr. Dept. CT
Rancho Cordova
CA  95742
Royal Purple
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