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Hi Lou,

I have a 1976 BMW 2002 with a mildly modified engine. First, what motor oil do you recommend? The manufacturer recommends 20w50 which can be difficult to find, and of course, motor oil has changed a lot in the last 40 years.

Second, I have been diligent about using Shell 91 octane gas, since it is the only one I am aware of that is ethanol-free. Can you give your opinion as to whether ethanol blends are harmful to this particular car, and, if so, what steps I can take to mitigate the moisture problems it entails?

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I really appreciate your no-nonsense advice with respect to maintenance and read your column faithfully.

Tom B, Ottawa

Thanks, and very cool car Tom.

Vehicles that predate catalytic converters used motor oil with higher levels of zinc dialkyldithiophosphate (ZDDP). After catalytic converters were introduced, it was found that the zinc was damaging the convertors, and thus, zinc levels were reduced in modern oils. Your grade of oil is limited in comparison to newer vehicle grade lubricants but shouldn’t actually be that difficult to source as there are several oil companies that offer 20w50 vintage oil-specific products. While you may have to call around a bit, I’m sure some Ottawa automotive-parts jobber has something that will work, either in stock or that they can order in quickly enough. I personally use Lucas Hot Rod and Classic Car 20w50 motor oil in my 1966 Porsche 912. Not because I’ve spent hours researching oils for my car, but because my parts supplier keeps it in stock, and like a pizza, I can pick up the phone and have a couple of litres delivered in 30 minutes.

Yes, stick with ethanol-free fuels such as the Shell V-power 91, but also, I believe, Canadian Tire 91, Esso 91 and Coscto 91 are ethanol-free. I’m sure your BMW sits a lot, so make sure it is always kept full of ethanol-free fuel to minimize condensation. Also, upgrade rubber hoses and cork gaskets whenever possible, as I’m sure years of moisture-laden fuel have brought them to the end of their life.


Hi Lou,

On recent travels in New Zealand, England and the U.S., I have found that the NZ and the U.K. service stations are selling regular that is 91 octane and premium is 93, while in the U.S., premium is 93, 91 is mid-grade and 87 is regular. Canada, meanwhile, offers regular at 87 octane, and super is 91. I have an MGC that will only run without knocking on hills with 93 octane, which I cannot always find. What is going on with the marketing of gasoline in Canada?

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Thank you,

Malcolm B

I am definitely not an expert in worldwide fuel octane ratings, but here is my non-engineer explanation. Europe displays the Research Octane Number (RON) only, while Canada and the USA display the Anti-Knock Index (AKI). AKI is calculated by averaging out the result from the RON labs test and also the Motor Octane Number (MON) test; thus, the formula is (R+M)/2=AKI. The MON rating is the more stringent test of the two and therefore produces a lower octane number. For example, a RON of 95 and MON of 87 would average out to an AKI of 91.

Your problem lies in finding 93 Octane fuel, and unfortunately, the primary factors determining availability are regional needs. Most Canadian fuels vary between 87-91 with specialty higher-elevation markets like the Rockies selling 91 to 93. Every retailer needs to turn their inventory, and fuel vendors are no different. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. Southern U.S. states sell 93 because their warmer climates result in engines running a bit hotter, requiring higher-octane fuel.


What’s on my radar

Knowing of my enthusiasm for older, vintage Porsches, a friend dropped by to show off a 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S that he was driving for the week. Given my unique perspective as an auto technician, pseudo-journalist and vintage air-cooled Porsche 912 owner, I thought I would take it upon myself to give an old-versus-new comparison.

Firstly, for those who aren’t aware of 912 history, it was available from 1965 to 1969 and then had a brief reprise as the 912E in ’75 and ’76. Porsche used the 911 body, chassis and most mechanicals for the 912, with one significant exception – they opted to reuse the four-cylinder engine from the outgoing Porsche 356 instead of their new 2.0-litre six-cylinder. In essence, it was a 911 lite, and this cheaper variant went on to outsell the original 911 two-to-one.

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Jay Kana, left, and Lou Trottier with their Porsches.

The Globe and Mail

Looking at the new 911 and my old 912 side by side, it’s apparent that Porsche has not strayed far from the styling cues that has worked so well for them since 1963. The roofline, glass and pillars of the 2020 car take after the 912 in the way a grandchild resembles their grandparent. As I drove the new 911 for the first time, I was also keenly aware that despite how much had changed, so much of it still felt surprisingly similar. Driving position and visibility were almost identical, with every switch and control exactly where I expected it to be. Even the rear seats still look as utterly useless as they always did.

My 912 features four-wheel disc brakes, which was unheard of in 1966. They are absolutely fantastic for the time period and decent even by today’s standards. The 2020′s massive brake rotors are obviously superior, but what really startled me was the difference in power output. My ’66 generates a usable yet paltry 89 horsepower and 90 lbs.-ft. of torque from its 1.6-litre engine. Compare that to the 3.0-litre turbocharged motor that’s producing 443 hp and 390 lbs.-ft. of torque in the modern 911. Just one stab at full throttle put the biggest grin on my face.

Whether you are a Porsche enthusiast or not, one has to give the company due credit for being able to keep the 911 relevant and exciting after all these years, even with their missteps along the way.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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