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Frantz oil filters and other gimmicks...

isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
edited March 2014 in General
The other day, a guy brought a 52 Pontiac into our store. Under the hood, along with the straight flathead eight was mounted a Frantz oil filter.

Memories came flooding back...

These consisted of a chrome plated can that held a roll of toilet paper that served as the filter.

These were sold at state fairs by hucksters who delivered a pretty convincing demonstration of how they worked much better than the conventional types.

I seem to remember they even claimed you never needed to change oil again, just the filter.

I also remember that on some cars they would cause problems such as a severe drop in oil pressure.

Anybody else remember these?


  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I remember hearing about them and thinking they were something to avoid. Then I was surprised to read somewhere that they actually worked--I think it had to do with off-roading, probably with VW or Corvair engines.

    Speaking of gimmicks, what about Marvel Mystery Oil? I bought a '67 GTO with 150k from someone who claimed they'd used the stuff since it was new. The engine still ran smoothly, the lifters were quiet and it had good oil pressure, although it was a little down on power. Those 400s were extremely durable anyway, and the car had obviously been treated well, so it may just have been regular oil changes.

    The only additive I ever used was ATF if an engine was sludged up. Ever notice what a great hand cleaner it is? Apparently it does the same thing to the inside of an engine.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I think an automotive engineer would roll his eyes if you told him /her about toilet paper filters. For one thing, who would be so incredibly cheap as to save...what?...$1.50 by using toilet paper instead of a well-designed filter. Secondly, if you really ever looked at what happens to toilet paper when you get it wet, it would become painfully apparent that it will clog in about two minutes and the engine will have to operate with the oil bypass valve (that is, the oil is shunted around the clogged filter).

    As for Marvel Mystery Oil, this isn't a case of a "gimmick" but rather a fancy or mysterious name for a very common item....upper cylinder lubricant...the idea here is that adding a bit of oil to the gas will coat the valves and upper cylinders, where oil normally doesn't get. Modern engine technology has rendered such lubricants useless of course.

    ATF is a very high detergent 10W oil is all, and yes, it could knock debris loose in a's been known to work.

    I think lots of "devices" that are in fact legitimate get "mythologized" beyond their real capabilities. Such things as K&N air filters, which do work, or synthetic oil, which does work, are now examples of preposterous claims for HP and gas mileage. I just saw a post with someone claiming a 3 mile per gallon jump in his car after adding synthetic oil! Can you imagine how much money automakers could save on engineering if all they had to do to boost their entire corporate fuel average some 10% was to add synthetic oil to the engines?? Probably the real gains for HP in K&N filters (and more dirt in your engine) would be 2-35HP in a BIG engine at very high rpms...and the gas mileage increase from synthetic oil might be 1/2 a percent under certain conditions (say cars used in extreme cold).

    HOw about those "magnetic" fuel ionizers! Don't you just LOVE these silly things?
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    I think in another forum awhile back, I talked about an old man (he was probably 50 at the time) who lived down the street from us. He had a 55 Buick Century. Every time he changed his oil, he would put four quarts of Havoline 30, and one quart of ATF. He claimed the ATF kept the lifters clean, etc. Many years later, as an adult, I would see him still driving that Buick.

    And I remember firewall mounted oil injectors that people would have installed. These were filled with Marvel Mystery oil that was metered into the intake system.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    When I was living in the Bay Area, 20 years ago, people were touting the benefits of cow magnets.

    By attaching these somehow to the fuel lines, gas mileage was supposted to increase my an amazing amount!
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    Remember the thing called "Magna-Fire" or something like that. It snapped on the center of the distributor cap, and was supposed to amplify the spark to the point where "up to 25% increase in horsepower" and other wild claims. I saw one of these demonstrated at the Oregon state fair in 1958. The car was a 53 Pontiac station wagon with the old straight eight. The guy would install one of these, and while the car was running, disconnect spark plug wires and note how smoothly the car still ran. My uncle caimed it was all rigged-with retarded timing, etc.
    And remember those "mini-superchargers" that mounted on the intake manifold under the carburestor-had a little moving rotor that was supposed to add a "real supercharging effect". Tha's what's fun about browsing through old issues of Motor Trend and others from the fifties-all those wild claims for gimmicks. Just think, if you combined all the percentage gains from the sparkplugs, magna powers, the "supercharger" and the fuel additives, you could increase your power and gas mileage by "up to 75%"-with an old flathead straight eight! Fun topic, Isell.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    The "snake-oil" salesmen haven't quit yet. The claims from chips and exhaust systems still defy credibility, although I must say the science is indeed a lot better.

    Most interesting to me is that the purchasers of the gimmicks will often INSIST that they are true. You tell someone that 60HP from a new muffler isn't really possible and they'll swipe your head off.
  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    There's an electric motor that's supposed to act as a turbo charger when you hook it up to your air filter - this was a big discussion in an Integra Forum I used to frequent.... the argument that manufacturers would have done this long ago was just wasted on many there.

    The other one that amuses me is the passive Radar Jammer that's being sold. (Hey it qualifies for this discussion - it lets your car go faster, right?)

    I tried for a couple of days to explain to a kid that the fact he hadn't been caught speeding since he bought it wasn't conclusive evidence that it worked. (He had no detector to see if there were signals out there to jam). Even when I pointed out that I haven't been caught speeding either, it went past him. I then pointed out that I wear a pinky ring and have never been eaten by a bear but that doesn't mean the pinky ring prevented it... and he still didn't get it.

    He's probably reading this in jail somewhere right now...
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    It's usually been classified with the gimmicks, but I'm not so sure. They were apparently used with some success on turbocharged Corvairs. In the '80s Edelbrock made an adjustable unit that I used on a GTO. It let me crank in a little more initial advance without audible pinging, which did nice things for throttle response. 50/50 distilled water and alcohol. It was sure cheaper than octance booster over the long run.

    I also remember "fire injectors" advertised in the J.C. Whitney catalog. They were super spark plugs as I recall. I don't know if you could get them in good, better or best, like you could with most of their stuff.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    No, water injection is a sound principle, but a rather clunky bit of engineering to solve a problem and hard to regulate precisely. I think intercooling does all this much better.
  • roadroachroadroach Posts: 131
    'Splitfire' spark plugs just screams 'gimmick' to me.

    Are they supposed to provide a 'hotter' spark? Do you gap them the same as standard plugs (theoretically, the spark has a longer path than a normal plug since the annode(s) are offset slightly)?
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    I doubt if they would make even the slightest twit of a difference.

    Does anybody remember "Wink" mirrors?

    The '83 Chevy pickup that my next door neighbor and I co-own has one of these miserable things.

    They were popular in the sixties.

    These would replace the center mounted rear view mirror. They had either five or seven mirror panels mounted at an angle and are supposted to give the driver a wrap around view.

    Personally, it drives me nuts! Since I probably drive the truck 300 miles a year, if that, I haven't bothered getting rid of it.
  • b4zb4z Posts: 3,372
    Remember the brake dust covers that fit over the
    rotors. These were popular in the eighties and stopped braked dust from getting on your beloved cross laced wheels (all the rage). I think these covers eventually caused rotors to warp and you never hear about them anymore.
    With the fad of exposed rotors now i don't think we will see these covers again.
    I wonder how long the exposed rotor look will last?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I think people have always like to see the functional components of their cars displayed in some fashion. If you can't see how a car works by looking at it (where's the engine? Look for the grilles and scoops) or if the car doesn't look purposeful and mechanical, generally it's kind of boring to the spectator.

    Exposed rotors are really the product of light wheels...much different from the old trend of lots of glitzy chrome and wires...the latter look pretty bad on modern cars.
  • dweezildweezil Posts: 271
    the magnetic oil pan plug that was supposed to trap the metallic by products produced by your engine and keep them in suspension until wipe off at your next oil change. Supposedly they allowed "even old cars" the benefit of running 200,000 miles with no problem.I love reading the 4 page ads [with testimonials]in 50's Motor Trend magazines- they're so could you NOT believe it worked? Did it?What about "overhauls" in cans complete with pellets you pea shot into the spark plug holes to "increase compression" etc.What did this actually DO? Someone would make a mint bringing it back and producing a "paid advertisement" infomercial.The mystery and voodoo of it all is what appeals to people I think.Just like the elixers/patent medicines sold by peddlers at the turn of the century.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    Engine Overhaul in a can!

    I remember. You removed the spark plugs and put the pea sized pellets in the holes. Then you poured the can of gunk into the oil!

    You could save HUNDREDS of dollars that way!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I'm waiting for ORGANIC automotive additives...we are about ready for this, aren't we, I mean, as a people? NATUR-OIL.......ECO-HOSES....ENVIRO-BRAKE PADS.....
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    to come from the Berkeley-Oakland area. Having gone to school there in the late sixties, I can just see a little shop on Telegraph Ave, close to the UC campus. Subaru owners would get big discounts...
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Yes, Save the Earth, buy a $35,000 Volvo Turbo 4X4 wagon....
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJPosts: 10,357
    You are on to something here! With the right marketing there is a fortune in this! "This brake pads are made of 100% compressed coconut shell..."

    I just caught this topic - yeah, MArvel Mystery Oil may have been a gimmick, but you gotta admit - the can looked great!
    2013 Mazda 5 Grand Touring, 2010 Toyota Prius IV. 2007 Toyota Camry XLE, 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999 Mazda Miata
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    might make a great radiator stop-leak. A bonus gift would be the hood-mounted pinwheel, in your choice of 5 natural colors
  • dweezildweezil Posts: 271
    produced on a commune with cruelty free bees in a recyclable container. Don't know if it works, just keep repeating the chant printed on the can and.......what are you doing driving a CAR anyway when you can take PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION YOU CAPITALIST PIGS?
  • dweezildweezil Posts: 271
    only joking, I hope!!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    "capitalistic pigs" is we say "fascist insects of repression".

    Remember the organic cigarettes? Now that was unclear on the concept.

    I love automotive voodoo that "magnetizes" things....magnetism is one of those things you can't see, so what better thing to sell to someone? Like using magnets to "align" your gasolines "ions".

    Also, the little electric propeller in your air filter to "supercharge" your engine was pretty funny.

    Or the one I saw the other day....a "special oil" that (quote) "can go to places where no other oil can!".....HUH?
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    A buddy who was broke long ago needed to do SOMETHING to keep his radiator from leaking. He was a paycheck away from buying a used one and needed to get to work.

    An old timer suggested a few cups of Quaker Oats.

    Not only did that work but it smelled pretty good too!

    Fezo...Marvel Mystery Oil isn't a gimmick. It works!
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    if Oatmeal works [and why not?] then all we need is a marketing scheme-like a label with a picture of Mt Shasta, claiming "only the purest soil, water, and milling conditions". Could be sold in 8oz. containers for 5 bucks a pop, and would include a page of "testimonials" about how the "puroatol" worked wonders on getting Ken Kesey's blue bus across the country--and other stories.
    I'd forgotten about Motor Honey. It's a riot to look through old Motor Trends from the early 50's, and read all those "miracle products."
    I knew a guy who had his own body shop [for about 3 months] and who claimed the cow magnets he had wired to his fuel line actually made his 79 Chev pickup with 350/automatic get 25-28 mpg on the road. Yeah right. I think I know why his business went belly up...
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Lucky he didn't have some cows sticking to his truck.

    "Marvel Mystery Oil" works in the sense that it is a light upper cylinder lubricant, often called a "top oil". Mostly a superfluous item on today's modern engines. It was probably somewhat high detergent, too, like automatic trans fluid, which has also been used to "free up noisy lifters".

    So Mystery Oil is just as good as any ordinary light top oil, no better no worse. No more mystery, see? Awwwwwww.......
  • dweezildweezil Posts: 271
    "oil that goes where no other oil can go", but it's in a special section behind a swinging door along with other "marital aids"!AND organic cigarettes- they smell like burning weeds.
    There were also pellets you could put into your tank that would supposedly give greater mileage between fill ups.If I'd known THAT I could have gotten myself out of a "switching" for pouring pebbles into my Dad's 53 Ford's gas tank!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Oh, the gas mileage thing! I could go on for days.

    Here's why I don't believe "increased gas mileage" claims:

    An automotive engineer, and a major auto manufacturer, under such pressure these days to increase the fuel efficiency of their fleets (government mandates, gas guzzler taxes), would DIE to have some cheap, easy way to get a few more miles per gallon out of their products! They would literally KILL to have this.

    But, oh, some guy in a warehouse in the Midwest....HE knows how to get 5 mph more out of an air filter or a computer chip or a muffler. He has discovered what GM, Ford, Mercedes, BMW, Ferrari and all the rest have failed to discover!

    A K&N filter! Synthetic Oil! A Flowmaster Muffler! Why, I'm getting 5-8 more miles per gallon now in my full-size sedan!

    Yeah, right.

    BUT DON'T some people actually get better mpg with these things?

    No, I don't think so, or if they do, it is really minimal and with certain disadvantages of noise or stress that the engineers did not want to risk.
  • dweezildweezil Posts: 271
    But, do you remember the 44 mile per gallon Vega that motor trend rigged up in the mid 70's during the height of the eco/gas shortage craze.They used everything and got real close, but I don't know if they used organically grown rabbit pellets in the gas tank!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Well, sure, I could take your car, whatever it is, drive it EXTRA CAREFULLY, inflate the tires to 60 lbs, remove the air filter entirely, disconnect your muffler, roll up the windows, drive with bare feet, take off the antenna, bump the timing, disconnect your belt-driven fan (won't need it at high speeds), use your cruise control, drive on the flats on a windless day, etc. etc....I'd bet I could get 40+ mpg out of car, too.

    A Vega actually ran 40 miles at one time?
This discussion has been closed.