January 6, 1930 – The first diesel automobile trip

At 11 years old in 1930, the Cummins Engine Company need to show the public diesel motors were a viable option for passenger car travel if they intended to stay in business. To do so, founder Clessie Cummins concocted a marketing stunt that’d once and for all prove diesel engines could compete with gasoline motors in daily drivers. He installed one of his engines in a used Packard and promoted a long distance diesel journey. He successfully traveled from Indianapolis to New York in the car, completing the trip on this day in 1930. Overall, the car used used about 30 gallons of diesel fuel at a cost of less than $1.38. 

1930s diesel passenger car
Above: The car that went coast to coast on just $7.63 in fuel. Top: Clessie Cummins with the diesel powered Packard

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 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.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email