January 6, 1930 – The first diesel automobile trip

Founded in 1919, the Cummins Engine Company set out to prove that diesel motors were a viable option for passenger car travel. To show the feasibility of diesel, founder Clessie Cummins concocted a marketing stunt that would prove diesel engines could compete with gasoline motors in daily drivers. To do so, he installed one of his engines in a used Packard and traveled from Indianapolis to New York, completing his journey on this day in 1930. The entire journey used about 30 gallons of diesel fuel at a cost of less than $1.38. 

This was the first of several publicity drives Cummins would complete, including one in 1935 from New York to San Francisco that cost just $7.63 in fuel. Cummins Engine Company wouldn’t immediately change the game in passenger cars, but they would find great success in the trucking industry. Cummins became the leading supplier of heavy duty truck engines in post WWII America, owning more than half of that market throughout the 1950s.

The car that went coast to coast on just $7.63 in fuel.

Cover: Clessie Cummins with the diesel powered Packard, originally printed in Diesel Power publication.

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