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Shell develops new premium fuel for the engines of old cars

December 18, 2016 By: William Hall

Modern gasolines have become a recurring headache for classic car owners. Low octane and unleaded fuel have presented challenges for years, but federally-mandated 10 percent ethanol content has caused new problems with compatibility in vintage fuel-system components.

Recently, Shell Oil Company invited me down to STCH (Shell Technology Center Houston) in Texas to demonstrate what they’re doing to address the needs of the classic car owner with their Shell V-Power Nitro+ premium gasoline.

The 200-acre research facility is under heavy security, but once inside the folks are friendly and you feel the camaraderie and sense of purpose between the scientists. I’m in way over my head among the resident PhDs; I feigned some semblance of comprehension as I was shown around the mass-spectrometer, a device used for weighing individual molecules.

These people are real car enthusiasts. A flyer for their annual STCH Classic Car show hangs on the cafeteria wall. Everyone is walking around in Ferrari Red lab coats, emblazoned with the famous Shell pecten logo. Shell is Ferrari’s partner in Formula 1 Racing, as well as an R&D collaborator. It’s sometimes hard to tell where Shell stops and Ferrari starts.

To discuss fuel, it’s important to understand that it’s a highly engineered concoction – not unlike a medicine – that uses base gasoline stock plus an additive package. The portions are precisely balanced to interact effectively. Like cooking chili, adding more of one ingredient does not necessarily improve the end product. Simply adding octane, or eliminating ethanol, is not the answer.

V-Power Nitro+ is available nationwide in 91 to 93 octane and was first introduced at a massive rollout in Times Square in 2015. Since then, the Shell scientists have been accumulating lab data and real-world experiences amongst a variety of vehicles and applications. In particular, they’ve noted some interesting effects on older carbureted engines with higher miles.

Of special interest to classic car owners is the detergent additive in V-Power Nitro+ fuel. The blend features seven times the EPA-mandated LAC (Low Additive Concentration) found in standard gasoline. Combined with an anti-wear protector, the fuel has been found to have a rehabilitative effect on gunked-up (yes, that’s a technical term) valves and intake chambers, with data showing it removes as much as 60 percent of deposits from the valve area after just the first tankful.

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