A Brief History of Torco & What Oil You Need for Your Ford

Many times, we forget about the lifeblood fluid keeping our engines running at their peak. A lot has changed in the technology which provides such performance, drivability, and fuel mileage as we have in today’s cars. A lot has changed in the oils needed to keep them running that way. Torco has always had an eye on performance, and now the supplier of very high-end synthetic racing oils is expanding to offer a premium line of lubricants for the street and high-performance vehicle market.

When Bob Lancaster founded Torco, he began by inventing the first 20W-50 racing oil, a multi-viscosity oil in a world dominated by single-viscosity lubricants. In 1948, the Society of Automotive Engineers didn’t even have a viscosity grade for 20W-50 oils! This new grade of racing oil was first tested on the dry lake known as El Mirage. It was designed to counter the hot operating conditions by resisting breakdown under high-stress operation.

Bob Lancaster started Torco oil by formulating the first multi-viscosity 20W-50 motor oil for racing.

After two years of supplying this no brand 20w50 racing oil to owners of all kinds of race cars, Lancaster was ordered by his company to stop making it. So, at the suggestion of his father, Lancaster started his own company in 1950 to manufacture his racing oil under the Torco name. As racing evolved into higher-performing fuels and engines that used them, Torco continued to identify areas where off-the-shelf oils were found wanting – and then build a better oil.

The Fuel Makes The Oil

The next phase came when nitro fuel became a factor in drag racing. Engines succumbing to scored pistons and cylinders, known as “black death.” The extant oils were being washed away by the nitro and without life-preserving lubricants, engines quickly consumed themselves at speed. Bob began working with Keith Black to engineer an oil capable of withstanding the most potent of fuels. The benefits of his oils soon drew names such as Don Garlits, Don Prudhomme, and “The Colonel” Art Malone.

Torco soon supplied oils in many racing venues such as lakes racing, top-fuel, and stock-car racing.

As the world moved into the ‘70s, the emphasis shifted from outright and obscene performance to fuel mileage and emissions. With engines designed to make the most of each drop of fuel and leave as little as possible exit the tailpipe, Bob Lancaster began researching ways to help do this through energy-saving lubricants.

Today’s street-driven performance enthusiasts can enjoy the Torco protection, with the energy-saving enhancements today’s engine systems require.

He discovered that liquid moly and phosphorus helped an engine put out more horsepower by reducing friction. In combination with zinc, these additives also gave outstanding protection against wear. That knowledge was the foundation for Torco’s MPZ oil additive, which was used in Torco’s racing oils to reduce friction and prevent wear. Torco offers MPZ Plus today, which is also safe for modern-age catalytic converters and oxygen sensors.

Taking It To The Streets

The fact we have 700 horsepower cars rolling out of the factory shows how much performance has blended with OEM drivability and reliability. Even so, the fact remains that components within our engines and drivetrains are still under extreme stress at these power levels. Therefore, they need lubrication that is up to the task of keeping them safe from wear.

Torco sells its ultra-high performance oils through select vendors and mail-order direct to the customer.

To address these concerns, Torco has created its Street Series line of oils which focuses on today’s technologies, while offering the level of protection necessary for today’s high-performing autos. Torco’s Street Series line of oils are highly advanced, 100-percent synthetic-base oils with proprietary additives specifically designed to increase power, efficiency, and engine protection. Today’s engine oils are much different from the 20W-50 oils Bob Lancaster began formulating. Many times, viscosities can dip all the way down to zero-weight thanks to today’s tight-tolerance machining. As mentioned, modern sensors and fuel delivery systems dictate that oil technology is advanced as well.

You don’t have to be big to be good at what you do. But you do have to be better than the rest.— Bob Lancaster, Torco

Torco’s Street Series oil is an ultra-performing line of lubricants designed to operate in sync with today’s technologies and performance levels. Oils such as the Torco SX-8 are certified to meet GM’s Dexos 1 Gen2 specification, which requires a lower Calcium content in the detergent package. SX-8 meets the specifications for most domestic engines where an API SP, SN Plus, SN, SM, SL, SJ is required. Torco SX-8 provides superior oxidation stability and protects against Low-Speed Pre-Ignition (LSPI) in direct-injection engines, such as the Gen-III Coyote or EcoBoost engine.

Torco SR-1 is offered for those modern high-performance street engines not needing Dexos certification and is available in 0W-20, 0W-40, 5W-30, and 5W-40. As such, it is one of Torco’s most popular oils. It would be a great oil to use in your Fox-body 5.0L or modular engine. Torco also offers SR-5 GDL for use with engines using 0xygen sensors and catalytic converters. The difference has only to do with base oil composition between these oils — SX-8 (Group III Plus), SR-1 (Group III Plus), and SR-5 GDL (combination Group IV and Group V), but all three oils meet passenger car oil specifications.

On the other side, Torco’s  TR-1R, SR-1R, and SR-5R are racing oils. As such, they are overbuilt with an abundance of additive systems. So much so, they fall out of passenger car oil specifications. These are specifically designed for racing and some high-performance applications, such as the one listed below.

Torco offers several different oils in varying viscosities to serve the OEM and vintage performance enthusiast. GM's Dexos certification is even available through Torco SX-8 so warranty issues are not a concern.

As lubrication is most important during an engine’s first seconds of life, Torco also offers its TBO Break-In oil, which contains a high percentage of zinc for proper valvetrain protection during break-in. Torco TBO Break-In oil is a high-performance blend of hydro-processed petroleum base stocks and specially-selected cleansing agents to “scrub down” any contaminants left over from the build process and provide the proper film for new bearing protection. After a vintage engine is broken in, the Torco TR-1R could be used, as it is a mineral oil base with an abundance of additives designed for both racing and vintage engines.

Even the early stages of your engine's life are covered specifically with Torco oils.

For those with their own choice of oils for break-in, Torco also offers its Zinc Additive Plus (ZEP). The addition of Torco ZEP to any modern motor oil will put back the proper amount of Zinc Dialkyl-Dithiophosphate (ZDDP) purposely taken out to be catalytic converter friendly.

The performance envelope of our engines has increased greatly since Bob Lancaster first designed his “racing oil” but thankfully, the engineers and tribologists at Torco have continued to expand, and hone the company’s offerings to address today’s concerns both on track and off. Check out the entire line of Torco Street Series oils and see how your ride can benefit from better lubrication.

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About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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