Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG.com
- June 20, 2006
Thanks go out to a friend, Brian Hardegen (some might know him from IC as Nemystic) for finding this wonderfully written and informative piece of hypermiling nostalgia. After reading the article, I bet most here will come to the conclusion that what some of our fathers and grandfathers performed and achieved differs little from what some of us try to achieve today! I added additional commentary in Blue. The more things change, the more they stay the same …
Motor Trend - June 1956
Image by George Fukuda
Motor Trend Research Report by Pete Molson and John Booth
There is more then one way to get an A, as any school boy can tell you. So it is with saving on your gas bill. You can drive with an egg under your throttle foot, taking off like a tortoise, coasting downhill. Or you can go to the head of the class with driving tricks that up your mileage to 42 mpg! But don’t flunk by putting all your faith in the 101 gas saving gimmicks that claim to double your mileage.
When the Ready-and-Waiting newspaper ads burst upon us after the finish of the 56’ Mobilgas Economy Run, they succeeded in confusing the public still further a mixed up motoring public.
What actually happened? To General Petroleum’s credit, this years run was closer then ever to ordinary driving. Actual miles-per-gallon figures were not only believable; in some cases, stout owners announced with scorn that even old Betsy could do then that, and had. Nonetheless, it is extremely doubtful whether Betsy could have done nearly as well over the same distance and the dizzy heights.
There were some strange-seeming upsets on the final score card but the startling record of the Imperial is firmly based on engineering theory, as well as agile footwork of its driver, Mel Alsbury, Jr.
1956’s Mobilgas Fuel Economy Champion
61.38 ton mpg - 1956 Chrysler Imperial
What winning combination did the Imperial have? Its weight played no small part in an astonishing lead of almost 10 ton miles per gallon over the second place Pontiac. (Ton miles equal pounds weight times miles traveled, the whole divided by gallons of gasoline consumed). It also had an engine plenty big for all the trips contingencies, yet not so big as to demand another drink at every opportunity. It had an efficient and quick shifting new transmission (TorqueFlite previewed in April MT) and a 2.92 to 1 rear axle; enabling it to take off with little wing-beating, to float along level, and to coast down the other side of the mountain with the torque converter spinning free. All this resulted in 21.042 mpg, an especially tidy figure when compared to the actual mpg of the other entries. Only the Rambler did substantially better; the Pontiac and Chevrolet 6, only other cars to better the Imperial’s mpg figure, did so by 0.068 and 0.130 mpg respectively! The Studebaker Champion, a car never intended to have an automatic transmission, was particularly hard pressed on mountain grades. This pulled its mileage down considerably.
1956’s Mobilgas actual Fuel Economy Champion
24.35 mpg - 1956 Nash Rambler
Final Results 1956 Mobilgas Economy Run
|Special Limited Displacement Class||Place||mpg||ton mpg|
| || || || |
|Low Price Class|| || || |
|Ford 8 (Customline)||1||20.52||47.76|
|Ford 8 (Fairlane)||5||18.75||44.25|
| || || || |
|Low Medium Price Class|| || || |
| || || || |
|Medium Price Class|| || || |
|Nash Ambassador Special V8||2||20.71||47.99|
|Hudson Hornet Special V8||3||20.49||47.49|
| || || || |
|Upper Medium Price Class|| || || |
| || || || |
|High Price Class|| || || |
|Average mpg, all cars: 19.95||Average ton mpg, 48.65||Average speed, 40.99 mph|
Can you duplicate Economy Run driving on your vacation trip? Sure, if you want to, but you won’t have much of a holiday. You’ll never open a window, never turn on the radio or ventilating fan (it takes HP to run the generator), and you won’t drink any liquids because if you do you’ll have to stop occasionally, and stops waste gas!
But how much would you actually save in gas bills? To give you a definite answer, we did comparative runs on a 56’ Studebaker Golden Hawk, equipped (unlike most of its fellows) with overdrive. Our mileage ranged from 17.25 mpg to 19.67 mpg to 41.59 mpg
(that’s correct); all these are figures averaged over our entire course, which contained no steep grades and no heavy traffic. It wouldn’t be fair to compare them with actual mileages on the Mobilgas Run, but it’s intriguing to note that our average when driving as the Run drivers did was less then 0.3 mpg from that of all this years official Run cars.
How We Did It
1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk
Fuel Economy Test Vehicle
: It was no chore at all to get this healthy figure from the Golden Hawk. We drove as we thought most drivers would under ordinary conditions (not
as they would 1st experiencing the Hawk’s incredible urge to go). We used Overdrive on the highway, but not in town; took off and stopped smoothly but without undue caution, and did not coast. Our windows were open because it was warm, and we played the radio when we felt like it.
: For the small margin, we had to sweat this one out. Up went all the windows (Lowers aero drag of course!
), the Overdrive button was firmly pushed in and remained there, making possible some coasting below cut-in speeds (Sounds very much like our HSD and eCVT - 41 mph limit today in fact
). The Radio stayed off. As soon as the engine caught, we took off (this is of little import when the oil has been circulating, of course; but as practiced in the Run, it means more cylinder wear than makes sense). We drove far ahead of ourselves (Anticipatory 3 lights out - Hypermiling
), making use of the brake or other sudden moves of any kind unnecessary. (Anyone here know anything about DWB
). We cultivated a feather-light foot on the gas. In short, Economy Run driving takes all your attention, stern self discipline, and is no-fun. (No fun? Are they crazy
). What price a 2-1/2 mpg saving? Yet there is one Economy Run tip on which you can’t lose, whether your interest is in economy, safety, or just being as skillful a driver as possible: that’s watching the road ahead, terrain, and other cars included. Not only will your mileage improve; as your new technique becomes habit, you will find you enjoy driving more. So will your newly relaxed passengers!
: This was easier to achieve than the 19 mpg. Here’s how to do it. With the transmission in high gear, accelerate with the throttle floorboarded
to 25 mph. Then simultaneously turn off the ignition and push in the clutch. When the car’s speed has dropped to 5 mph again, turn on the ignition and start the engine by popping the clutch. Down to the floor goes the accelerator, and you’re off again! (I’ll be, extremely LS P&G from the 50’s!
An important part of this strange procedure, understandably enough, is to have the tires inflated to high pressures. Although we used a mere 45 psi, the originators of the method went as high as 110. (Sounds like the hot setup
) The tricks we
used might be of help if you found that you were running out of gas far from civilization. The antics of the men that who ran the original Shell Wood River Mileage Marathon were weird and wonderful, and netted them as high as 158.36 actual mpg. (So much for the Marathon Attempt being hot stuff
). They have, however, no practical value. (I don’t quite see it that way?
Some engine tuning was done, naturally, but it pales in significance before the other harsh measures. Here are some of the gimmicks used: Oversized tires with the treads filed off; extra high rear axle ratios; +SAE 10 lubricant in transmission, differential and front wheel bearings, (Mobil1 0W-20 anyone
), planed cylinder heads to raise ratios very high; and disconnected fan belts. Combined with the very curious method of driving, they did the trick.
What about bolt on gimmicks?
Over 50 years of automotive manufacturing have produced a multitude of stock phrases designed to sell cars or accessories directly or indirectly. Most of these phrases pass with years, to be remembered only by a few automotive historians. Yet there is one that seems destined to be with us as long as man desires to go from one place to another. That phrase is “increased mileage
”! Strangely enough it draws as much attention today as it did during the Depression or as far back as 1908. (Almost 100 years later and the same phrase is the norm once again!
). This in spite of the proven fact that most new-car purchases pass up the admittedly more economical 6-cylinder engines in favor of today’s high output V8’s. (Where have we all heard this before? I must have the V8 or V6 vs. the I4?
). Having purchased a new car, its owner is immediately on the lookout for some kind of device to cut down the lusty appetite for gasoline, that is inherent in his new engine. The only reservation is that he wants to keep the flashing performance he bought in the 1st place. A neat trick if it can be done but unfortunately you cannot get something for nothing.
Most gasoline savers operate on the principle of a higher air-to-fuel ratio. In essence, this is equivalent to an abnormally lean fuel mixture. Under extreme conditions, it can cause burned plugs and valves. At best, mileage will improve to some extent, especially in traffic, but the torque output designed into the engine will be lessened in proportion to the fuel displaced by the increased air drawn into the cylinder. This type of gas saver is usually designed to replace the standard idle adjustment needle valve or is mounted in an adapter plate that installs between the carburetor and intake manifold.
Still another type combines the increased air/fuel ratio with a vacuum-activated rotor which is supposed to “super mix” the gasoline and air for more complete combustion. (Sounds like an antique version of the gimmick called Turbonator today?
). In addition, one manufacturer of this rotor-type gas saver claims it operates on the same principle as a supercharger
, which is not actually true. Unlike a supercharger, this unit has no compressing characteristics. In theory, there is some merit in mixing the fuel and air with a mechanical device such as a rotor, but this unit is still essentially a method of introducing an abnormal amount of air to a given portion of fuel. As to the advertised horsepower this unit will produce, that is an exceedingly remote possibility on any properly tuned engine regardless of its basic condition.
Another approach to the problem of increased mileage utilizes the same principle of increased air but it is variable in direct proportion to the engine vacuum and hooked up in precisely the same way as a vacuum controlled spark advance. The unit mounts between the carburetor and fuel line. Its advantage is a variable air intake which should reduce the probability of burned valves by its continued use, but the performance, ratio offers little advantage over air introducing types.
It is a recognized fact that under certain conditions of acceleration, deceleration, rough roads, and long sweeping curves, the carburetor fuel bowl can over flow, producing a flooded condition that wastes a certain amount of gasoline. To overcome this problem, several fuel-regulator-type gas savers are on the market. Essentially their function is to meter gasoline to the carburetor under a maximum allowable pressure, which is variable or proportionate to engine speed. They have a tendency to prevent this over-flow condition, especially when driving over rough roads where pump pressure can force an excess amount of gasoline past the carburetor float valve while the float is being jiggled up ad down the uneven road surface. The regulator also eliminates the pulsating action created by the fuel pump.
One maker includes a vapor lock dome to reduce the tendency toward this common problem, even though it’s rapidly being whipped with today’s fuels and engines. This type of gas saver will increase fuel flow efficiency to the carburetor and if working properly, cannot create any tendency toward burned valves or plugs with to lean a mixture.
Other gas savers such as special spark-plugs, dual point ignition and dual exhausts, will contribute better mileage to some extent. They’ll do this without an inherent loss in overall performance, but by far the best gas-saving device is the driver himself. (How can it be said any better? Congratulations go to these two MT writers for being so visionary from the very distant past!
1956 Hudson Hornet V8 Special
1956 Mobilgas Fuel Economy Competitor