Tom’s Corner – Castor Oil in Racing

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Those of you who have followed the #52 Fiero may have noticed a distinctive exhaust smell coming from those four big megaphones. This is the result of burnt castor oil which I add to the premium gas and an octane booster (to achieve 100 octane) in the summer months. I use ½ oz. to a gallon of premium gas for the desired result. This may sound like an exotic fuel blend and it is and I get very good mileage with this mixture. At this point I will attempt to explain why I do this. I first noticed this ‘fragrance’ at Elkhart Lake’s Road America sports car course in 1958 while watching sports cars such as Ferrari and Maserati on the track. Flash forward…in 1972 I attended a pro outboard race in Depue Illinois and asked where I could obtain this oil as it was the same fragrance I remember from the Road America days. I could use it in my unlimited outboard hydroplane and was told that Blendzall made a very high quality de-gummed castor oil for cars and boats so I bought a case of it and have been using it ever since.

Now I will digress for a moment and give you a little history on this amazing product. Castor oil is made from the castor bean plant and has been used medicinally for about 4000 years and was given to children to ‘keep their systems clear’. In the medicine field, it is strongly laxative and purgative. It has a myriad of uses in industry and here is where it comes into motor racing. Ever since the internal combustion engine was invented there was a need to properly lubricate it. In February 1899, Charles Cheers Wakefield resigned from the Vacuum Oil Company and the firm he started would go on to become the Wakefield Oil Company. In 1909 the company began production of a new automotive lubricant named ‘Castrol’ a contraction of castor oil from which it is made. The original 3 grades were CW for cars for motorcycles, and R for aircraft and racing engines…the castor oil being responsible for the noticeable odor of early race cars. Castor oil maintains its viscosity from -30 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and is extremely clean burning. It bonds to metal surfaces, prevents rust, lubricates upper valve guides and upper cylinders and goes where the source of heat is. De-gummed castor oil has been used in engines whose revs can go as high as 21,500 RPM’s! There are several manufacturers of racing castor oil. To name a few are: Castrol ‘R’, Blendzall 460, Klotz BeNol-B-175, Maxima 927, VP RC-3, Burris LC-003. Castrol has sponsorship in all forms of motorsport such as Formula One, World Rally Championship, Sports car racing, NASCAR, and NHRA drag racing and power boat racing, karting, motorcycle racing and airplane racing. Even in the 1950’s there were other racing castor oils such as Pratts Castor, Essolube 60 Racer, Notwen Castor, BP Energol Racing, and Vigzol Golden Race. But the fact is when racing sounds and scents are recalled, all castor oils are thought of as the famous Castrol ‘R’. Today you can achieve this scent of burnt castor oil by using it as I have prescribed at the beginning of this article.

Castro oil is not cheap and you can only purchase it at race shops that carry a specific castor oil brand. Or you can order it on-line using Google to find your preference…My experience with using Blendzall Racing Castor in the #52 car has given me very satisfying results. I also used it in my hydroplane in 1974 for the first time and the boat was clocked at 101.664 MPH in Canada. I can be reached at my e-mail address ( tom165mph@yahoo.com) On a much lighter note, wouldn’t it be really neat for someone to make a man’s cologne with this fragrance? I would make someone very wealthy!!

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