Losing oil pressure isn't usually a situation that evokes the warm fuzzies, but we can't help ourselves. As promised, Project Olds has been subjected to chronic lateral abuse since its completion, and we're proud to have driven the car hard enough to leave its oil pump pickup gasping for a drink from time to time. The problem first surfaced while running laps at Road America, when the oil pressure abruptly dipped below 20 psi under hard braking. Then it happened again on the autocross, as the pressure momentarily plummeted to 10 psi. Although there's undeniable heroism involved with manhandling a behemoth A-body through a sea of cones and apexes, there's a big difference between pride and stupidity. To address the situation, we plumbed in an accumulator system from Canton Racing Products, then hit the track once again to test it out.
When it comes to selecting...
When it comes to selecting an Accusump, a larger capacity unit provides extra protection. The biggest Accusump we could fit in our '65 Cutlass was Canton's 2-quart unit, which has a 4.25-inch diameter and measures 12 inches long. It features an aluminum housing and a double-sealed billet piston for durability and leak-free performance.
Maintaining steady oil pressure in a car that turns, stops, and accelerates vigorously is an inherently difficult proposition. Extreme lateral and longitudinal loads cause oil to orbit around the pump pickup in violent arcs instead of being sucked up by it. Furthermore, dropped ride heights severely compromise the ability to design oil pans with sufficiently deep sumps. Baffles, trap doors, and kicked-out sumps help to a certain degree, but they can only do so much.
For race cars and people who have money oozing out of their orifices, the ultimate solution is a dry sump oiling system in which oil is stored in an auxiliary tank as opposed to the pan. Unfortunately, the $2,000 it costs to rig a dry sump system makes them extremely cost prohibitive. For weekend warriors, the most practical alternative is plumbing an accumulator into a traditional wet sump oiling system. "Lots of racers use an accumulator as an alternative to converting to a dry sump system with great success," says Mike Zeranski Jr. of Canton. "Oftentimes, our Accusump system can bridge the gap between the performance of a wet sump and a dry sump system given the demands of road racing and autocrossing. By extending the limits of a wet sump system, a dry sump system is only necessary in all-out race cars where cost isn't as big of an issue."
Oil enters and exits the Accusump...
Oil enters and exits the Accusump out of a single 1/2-inch port. Before mounting the Accusump to the car, Randy Johnson of D&Z Customs screwed the accumulator valve into the Accusump's inlet/outlet port. The valve is essentially an electric solenoid that opens and closes based on signals it receives from a pressure sending unit.
For a total of $682-which covers the cost of the Canton Accusump, remote oil filter mount, hoses, filter adapter, and fittings-we were able to ensure that our 461ci big-block Olds never starves for oil again. While that's hardly chump change these days, it's cheap insurance for an $8,500 motor at a fraction of the cost of a dry sump conversion. At the end of the day, the risk of filling up the oil pan with what used to be your bearings and crank journals just isn't worth it. Worse yet, what's the point in going racing if the fear of mechanical failure prevents you from wringing a car out for all its worth? Special thanks go out to Randy Johnson of D&Z Customs (www.DandZCustoms.com), who knocked out the install in one afternoon.