Richard Holdener
February 26, 2010

When it comes time to search for that hidden horsepower in your Mustang (or other fast Ford), the oiling system is likely to be at the very bottom of the list (assuming it was lucky enough to make the list in the first place)-and I am just as guilty. Like most, my attention is usually focused on plotting some wicked form of forced induction, or at the very least, the installation of aluminum heads, cam and intake on a normally aspirated combination.

While performance cylinder heads, a radical camshaft, or a dual-quad tunnel ram (for carbureted motors) have the potential to dramatically improve the power output, so to does a good oiling system. What's that-power gains from something as simple as the oiling system? Yes, the right oiling system can not only ensure a constant supply of life blood to your motor, but can also improve the power output. Hidden horsepower indeed!

Surpassed only by the cooling system, lubrication (oiling) seems to be the most neglected sub system on the engine. The very most we can expect of an average enthusiast is to fill the well with quality oil, check the level and/or take an occasional glance over at the oil pressure gauge. In most cases, we simply assume every thing is alright (meaning our motor is receiving sufficient lubrication) and let it go at that.

On a stock motor, this is probably a pretty safe assumption, but things quickly change on a modified street/strip motor (even more so on a dedicated race motor). You would be surprised to hear how many high-rpm motors are out running around with nothing more than a high-volume oil pump or simple deep-sump oil pan!

The old adage that "if it ain't broke-don't fix it" doesn't really apply here, as there is much more to a performance oiling system than simply having sufficient oil pressure. In addition to improving the life expectancy of any performance engine, the right oiling system modifications can actually combine improved life expectancy with a sizable increase in performance. Incorporating tricks like the right oil pan and windage tray can be the difference between weekends spent on the track or in the garage performing a rebuild.

To illustrate the gains available from an aftermarket oiling system, we compared a stock 5.0L oil pan to a Milodon system consisting of a dedicated street/strip oil pan and windage tray. Though the dyno test revealed the power gains offered by the new oiling system, what the dyno could not show were the improvements in lubrication offered by the Milodon pan under acceleration, deceleration, and cornering. Having oil in the pan is simply not enough if the oil is allowed to slosh back and forth at will.

It is this movement that allows the pick up to become uncovered. Drawing air instead of oil can result in bearing and other reciprocating component damage. That this situation is more likely to occur at high-rpm operation makes a dedicated performance oiling system that much more critical. Let's not forget that a trick oil pan looks a great deal cooler than the stock stuff, though this consideration should remain third on the priority list.

Our comparison came on the engine dyno, but before we could run the back-to-back test, we need a suitable test subject. Naturally, we needed something more than a stock 5.0L, so we chose a (relatively) high-rpm 347 stroker. Actually, the short-block was supplied by Demon Engines and L&R Automotive and included a 3.4-inch-stroke steel crank and 5.4-inch forged rods from Pro Comp combined with a set of forged pistons from Probe Racing.

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Pro Comp also supplied the oil pump, 8mm plug wires, and a complete gasket set (though we installed Fel Pro 1011-2 head gaskets with ARP head studs). The 347 features flat-top pistons with valve reliefs designed for use with Trick Flow Specialties Twisted Wedge heads. Though a number of offerings are available for the 5.0L (ranging from the 170cc Twisted Wedge heads to CNC-ported R-series heads), we selected Trick Flow Twisted Wedge Track Heat 185 cylinder heads (CNC-ported). The CNC-ported heads flow just over the magic 300-cfm mark, or more than enough to tax the stock oiling system when combined with the proper intake and cam profile. Trick Flow Specialties also supplied the matching bumpstick in the form of part number TFS-51402002 cam. The hydraulic roller profile offered a 0.574/0.595 lift split, a 236/248 duration split at 0.050, and a 110-degree lobe separation angle. We finished up the test motor with an Edelbrock Performer RPM air-gap and Holley 750 HP carburetor.

The plan was to run the 347 stroker first with the stock pan and then of course with the Milodon pan and windage tray upgrade. Having first performed (and photographed) the installation on the engine stand, swapping the components on the dyno was fast and easy.

Run on the dyno with the stock oil pan full (five quarts) of 5W-30 Lucas synthetic oil, the 347 produced 475 hp at 6,600 rpm and 422 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm. Back up runs at a constant water temperature revealed the power numbers were very repeatable.

Next we installed the Milodon oil pan and windage tray. Equipped with the Milodon upgrades, (keeping oil and water temps constant), the 347 produced peak numbers of 486 hp at 6,600 rpm and 426 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. The oiling system upgrades were worth as much as 12 hp and 9 lb-ft of torque!

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As expected, the majority of the power gains occurred at the top of the rev range, where windage was most prevalent. According to the Milodon website, crank-throw speed (at the tip) exceeds 300 mph at 6,000 rpm. If you have ever stuck your hand out the window of a moving car at 30-40 mph, you can imagine the resistance offered by the oil and vapor at nearly 10 times that speed.

Eliminating or greatly reducing windage with an oiling system upgrade is not quite as visible as a new intake or a fancy set of heads, but it is one of those hidden-horsepower tricks that can sneak you past the competition or get you some extra miles from your performance engine.

Oil System Test

Stock Vs. Milodon Pan And Windage Tray
STKMilodonGains
RPMHPTQHPTQHPTQ
3,00020035020135212
3,20021735621735600
3,40023937024037111
3,60026238226338412
3,80028739628839812
4,00031240931441223
4,20033341633541923
4,40035141935542445
4,60036942237042210
4,80038542138942645
5,00039941940442455
5,20041341741942366
5,40042841743542376
5,60044041344842087
5,80045040745941699
6,00046240447141298
6,200468397478405108
6,400473388483396108
6,600475378486387119
6,800471363482372119