Clessie Cummins tested the first diesel-powered automobile in the United States, a converted 1925 Packard limousine

Wednesday 25th December 1929

Clessie Cummins tested the first diesel-powered automobile in the United States, a converted 1925 Packard limousine. In November, 1929, Clessie and his chief engineer purchased the “big old Packard limousine sedan” in Indianapolis and drove it back home. The work of installing the engine began. The men used the Cummins Model U. It was impossible to put the engine in place without removing the steering gear, or to install the steering gear after the engine was in place. The Cummins crew finally hoisted the car and lowered it over the engine.30 There were only three-eighths of an inch between the engine and the radiator, therefore no fan could be used. The axle gear ratio had to be changed because of the slower diesel speed. Otherwise, the Packard was not changed. Irwin was thoroughly surprised when Clessie drove the car to the Irwin home on Christmas, 1929. He was soon as excited as was Clessie.31 Within a few days, Clessie left for New York City to attend the Auto Show. This was the famous run in which the fuel cost was $1.38. From New York, Cummins drove to Detroit where the annual meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers was held. Here he was invited out to the Ford shops. This was the first of several meetings with Henry Ford and his son Edsel. They must have enjoyed one another’s company, for in 1930 Irwin was writing with great delight:”They undoubtedly got very well acquainted. Clessie, among other things, told him that ‘with my money and your brains I think we can get pretty far.’ After the first automobile run to New York and Detroit, in early 1930, Irwin was sure that Clessie “had something.” A competent engineer was brought in to survey the set-up and to make recommendations. As a result, design of a new automotive engine was begun. Meanwhile, the old engine was being put into a Packard roadster chassis. In March, 1930, Cummins and cronies set an official mark of better than 80 miles per hour at Daytona Beach. The old marine engine, built for 800 to 1000 rpm, was pushed as high as 1900 rpm, but it held together.33 Fuel for the 2120-mile round trip cost $3.50.

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