What is the best engine oil for my classic Porsche?
Choose the right engine oil and prolong the life of your car
Woman with classic Porsche 911 Targa in a workshop
Prevention is always better than a cure – and that’s certainly true when it comes to looking after your engine. Choose the right engine oil for your classic Porsche car and it’ll help prolong its lifespan for more happy motoring
The phrase “you get out what you put in” is meant to be about life in general, but it’s equally pertinent to cars, too. And that includes owners of classic Porsche vehicles. If you drive a classic 911 (type 964), for example, who wouldn’t want to give it the very best care that you can afford? Treat it to the finest lubricants that are available – not just engine oils, but transmission oils, brake fluids and fuel additives too – and you will enjoy enjoyable motoring.We are concentrating on engine oil here, as it is at the heart of keeping your classic Porsche running. Talk to any experienced automotive engineer and they will recommend that you listen to those who know your car the best – and that means the manufacturer who made it in the first place. For Porsche, that means recommending the lubricants it has developed itself in the shape of Porsche Classic Motoroils.
Woman inserts oil dipstick into engine of Porsche
Keep your motor running: check the oil in your classic Porsche regularly – and perform an oil change annually
There are many engine oils on the market, but it’s important to recognise that not all engine oils are the same. As we will discover, there are several different factors governing which particular one you should choose, but the age of the car and size of its engine are highest among them. There are great oils for modern cars, but they are often too thin for older engines. And, while they contain additives that are perfectly suited to the needs of modern high-performance engines, these can have a detrimental effect on older engines as they can attack old sealing materials.Why do cars need engine oil?We all know that every car needs engine oil and that replacing it regularly is important to maintain its health, but why does your classic Porsche need it in the first place? A car’s engine is a complex arrangement of moving parts working in close proximity with each other. The engine oil acts as a lubricant for these moving parts, reducing friction. It also helps cool those parts that get hot when you drive – like pistons and bearings – as well as helping protect against corrosion. Debris builds up in an engine so Porsche Classic Motoroil, for example, also helps by cleaning it. It does this by absorbing abrasion, dirt and oil carbon, which it transports through to your car’s oil filter. Finally, it also has a sealing effect on parts like the piston rings and cylinders.
Hand placing Porsche Classic Motoroil on a workbench
Making the grade: with four types of Porsche Classic Motoroil available, every classic Porsche car has an engine oil specially developed for it
Why do I have to change my engine oil?It’s all very well using the proper motor oil in your classic, but it doesn’t circulate around the engine forever. Regular oil changes are essential for the good running of your classic Porsche. Over time, the oil becomes contaminated by combustion residues like soot, sulphur oxides and water and also by mechanical abrasion. Also, by its very nature, a classic Porsche car is likely to be used less frequently, and over shorter distances, than your average, modern daily driver. Because of this, your engine oil can be diluted by unburnt petrol components. Put off changing your oil at your peril. It could, potentially, cause lasting damage to your engine.What are the different kinds of engine oil?When you pick up a bottle of engine oil, you’ll see a series of numbers and letters on the label – 5W-50 or 20W-50, for example – that represent which particular class of oil it is. These are defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, who determine these internationally. The numbers represent the viscosity – or fluidity – of the oil. The lower the first number, the thinner the oil in low temperature. The W? It simply means winter. The first number gives you information about the behaviour of the oil at lower temperatures (i.e. in the winter), the second about how it acts when the engine temperature has heated up.One of the most important qualities of a good engine oil is that they do not become too thin at higher temperatures. When this happens, it loses its lubricity – and if the oil is too thin in a classic car’s engine, it can penetrate the sealing points of a classic engine, leading to oil loss. Peter Steinfurth, editor-in-chief of leading German classic car trade magazine, Oldtimer Markt, says that he sees very practical examples of when classic car owners choose the wrong engine oil for their car – especially when it is too thin. “Some rally organisers distribute oil collection pads,” he says, of the large strips of absorbent material placed under the cars, “because they fear that otherwise the participant vehicles might leave behind a less than sympathetic calling card of oil stains in car parks and pedestrian zones.”
Man with head in engine bay of classic Porsche 911
Checking your engine oil is central to the maintenance regime for any classic car
When it comes to Porsche Classic Motoroils, there are two base oil types – mineral and fully synthetic. The former is produced from natural crude oil. Before the development of synthetics, all motor oils were mineral-based, which is why they are used as the basis for the Porsche Classic 20W-50 Motoroil – making them perfect for pre-1977 up to 2.7 litres, air-cooled Porsche models. All the other motor oils in the range are made from synthetic base oils. These are refined and distilled and broken down to their basic molecules, removing impurities and then allows them to be assembled exactly as the manufacturer desires in order to suit more modern engines. All Porsche Classic Motoroils are also multi-grade, which means they’re suitable for winter and summer.Which engine oil does my Porsche need?While you might expect that you simply look up the type of engine oil that was recommended for your car when it was made, that’s not the case. In the case of older, classic Porsche cars, the original engine oils are also no longer available in the exact same form today, while the engine itself also changes over time. As your car has (hopefully) been serviced regularly, it’s likely to have been fitted with new components. Another big factor is that by their nature, a classic car is driven more infrequently, driven fewer miles and tends to have longer periods where they are not used. Older cars take longer to warm up than modern ones – but that doesn’t mean this advice isn’t regularly ignored, increasing the chance of causing damage to the engine.
Hand seen pouring Porsche Classic Motoroil into a car
In the words of rally legend and Porsche ambassador, Walter Röhrl, “You can’t treat a car like a human being. A car needs love!”
All these factors were considered when developing the Porsche Classic Motoroil range, which were all “engineered in Weissach”. Consisting of four particular specifications, they are compatible with all installed sealing materials in your engine, so do not harm them. Here’s what Porsche Classic recommend:

• Porsche Classic 20W-50 Motoroil for all air-cooled, pre-1977 Porsche models up to 2.7 litres (356, 914 and 911 F and G model)
Whether the engine is warm or cold, this engine oil has great compatibility with materials like the gaskets, which are made of cork, in these vehicles and generates few deposits. Specially formulated for the early air-cooled flat engines• Porsche Classic 10W-60 Motoroil for air-cooled, 911 models from 3.0 litres upwards (post-1977 up to type 993)When introduced, these Porsche air-cooled engines were developed to benefit from the technical progress made by developments in engine oils. Today’s fully synthetic oil is the best you can buy in order to help maintain your engine and keep it clean, whatever the temperature.• Porsche Classic 10W-50 Motoroil for transaxle models (924, 928, 944 and 968)This high-performance oil is synthetic, developed to reach superior lubricating qualities and to maintain its viscous consistency on cold starts.• Porsche Classic 5W-50 Motoroil Water-cooled 911 models (type 996) and Boxster (type 986)Developed for the most recent vehicles to be given a Porsche Classic designation, as well as great lubricating properties in all conditions, it also includes advanced corrosion protection as well as neutralising corrosive combustion products.
Woman lifts up rear engine bay of a Porsche 356
The Porsche Classic Motoroil range covers classic Porsche sportscars from the first one made, the 356, right up unto the 911 (type 996)
Why should I use Porsche Classic Motoroil for classic Porsche cars?When it comes to seeking sage advice about choice of oil and how to administer it, your best port of call should always be your local Porsche Classic Partner. The reason why is simple – they are more specialised and qualified than any other and deal with cars like yours, day in day out. Details on oil change intervals are usually found in the operating instructions, but the general rule of thumb is once a year. Don’t be tempted to skip it just because you probably drive your classic Porsche less frequently than a modern car. Engines, especially older ones, are particularly put under stress on short journeys and cold starts stress, introducing combustion residues, impurities and condensation into the oil. Luckily, as we’ve discovered, there’s a readymade solution in the form of Porsche Classic Motoroil. Specially developed for classic Porsche cars, they’re a perfect match.
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