Oil Consumption in the Old Days

We see many posters complaining about adding ANY oil between multi-thousand mile oil changes… Notice the excerpt below from a 1961 Car and Driver Review of the Jaguar XKE with the 3.8 liter six cylinder engine…

“Our average oil consumption came to one quart every 112 miles and this cannot be considered abnormal for a hard-working E-Type. Even for the 3.8 and Mk IX, the oil consumption figures are quite liberal, according to Jaguar Service. A range of 300 to 875 miles per quart is considered normal. Apparently due to the large quantities of oil being burned in the cylinders, the most frequent maintenance operation consists of cleaning and adjusting the spark plugs at 2500-mile intervals.”

The full article here.

Seems like you’d be adding at least 2 quarts of oil at every gasoline fill up and cleaning spark plugs 4 or 5 times a year!

Ahhh… the Good Old Days!


I can’t recall specific but I recall the then newly introduced 426 Hemi consumed almost that much.

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People seem to have very selective memories when they tell us that “everything was better in The Good Old Days”. Whether one wants to consider intensive automotive upkeep and repairs, or the inability of doctors to save people from an early death, or the relative lack of affluence of the middle class, or the lousy quality of the air, or just about everything else in our daily lives, there is very little about the so-called Good Old Days that was actually good.


I realize that some oil consumption is normal. But I would still be psychologically damaged if my car used more than a quart every 5000 miles, except for my 05 Town and Country. It started using a quart every 6000 miles at 200,000 miles. At 250,000 miles it’s a quart every 3000 miles. But I’ve always been lucky to never have oil burners.

Jaguar also recommended “decoking” the cylinder head every 20,000 miles!!

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The best thng about the good old days was our ages.and the feeling of immortatitly :laughing:


Get a copy of “The Good Old Days- They were Terrible” by Otto Bettman.

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I think engines seemed to burn less oil a few (15-20) years ago, although they probably burned more oil many (30-60) years ago. I mean it was fairly uncommon for a new 90’s or early 2000’s Toyota 4 cylinder to burn oil. But a Toyota engine of today…meh, no big shocker. Same can be said for some of the GM engines of the same era. So we kind of got use to little or no oil usage for a period.

I figure some of the oil burning has to do with trying to meet emissions standards (which seems ironic). Plasma lined cylinders vs the old cast iron bores or sleeves, cylinder deactivation, the use of lighter weight oils, etc.


More to meet MPG standards from what I heard from a powertrain engineer years ago. The oil control ring tension is a big part of the oil use… Low tension oil rings reduce friction and make power. That helps MPGs and HP. Dealing with the hydrocarbon rich oil in the combustion chamber is a problem. The oil that gets past the rings also wrecks the catalytic convertor faster. Thinner oils don’t help that, they only make it worse.

It is a balance between MPGs and the life of pollution control equipment.


I’m trying to recall how often VW recommended that the points should be replaced on their beetles.
Wasn’t it something on the order of every 6k miles?

Well, I mean… It’s an old British car. The only old British cars that didn’t leak oil were the ones that were out of oil. :wink:


If I could only give that more than one thumbs up!

When I was racing, you could always tell where all the old Brit racecars were paddocked together… from the oil spots!


Yeah the Good Old Days …
Gas was around 35 cents a gallon (about $3.00 in todays dollars but mileage was about 12 MPG.
Someone trotted out to “fill 'er up and check the oil” but oil was about $1 a quart and needed a quart every couple of fill ups.
But the air was fresh with lead scented gas fumes, the dash board was plain hard steel, no seatbelts and safe driving meant putting your butts out in the ashtray instead of out the window and driving a lttle bit slower after half a dozen beers.

Great times, fond memories but today is sooo much better in every way!


I followed a '65-ish Corvette the other day - the smell (exhaust, hot oil on the block) took me back a few decades.


If you smell that smell in modern traffic there is either a vintage car ahead… or a modern car that is a complete rat-basket!

In the 60’s, like with cigarettes, we didn’t even notice the smell in traffic!


My brother used to work at place that if the forklift wasn’t smoking, it was out of oil.


I don’t recall my 50’s or 60’s cars using a lot of oil but it was not unusual to need a quart after a couple hundred mile drive. Always kept a quart in the trunk-still do but rarely need it.

I don’t know what the recommended points change period was for my VW but if I did not change them every 2000 miles, it would leave me stranded. We’ve had this discussion before so some here think there was something wrong with the ignition. Could be who knows? It’s a washing machine now. A blue one.


… and let us not forget that many steering wheel hubs had a pointed protuberance in the center, coupled with a rigid (non-collapsible) steering column. Can you say… crushed sternum?

This video says it all:

The Good Old Days… only for those who forget the reality of those days.

I suppose about 1958, guy driving a Mercedes missed the turn, went down a ravine and hit a tree. Dead at scene hitting that standard flat Mercedes steering wheel. I was there when they pulled him out.

Can you say … why Sammy Davis Jr. had only one eye?

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