Monday 6th January 1930
The first US diesel-engine road trip was completed. To promote the diesel engine, Cummins Engine Company owner Clessie Cummins mounted a diesel engine in a used Packard Touring Car and set out for the National Automobile Show in America’s first diesel-powered automobile in January of 1930. The 800-mile trip from Indianapolis to New York City used 30 gallons of fuel, which cost $1.38, and showed that diesel was a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine.
It was the first of many diesel-powered driving feats Cummins would attempt and it established his company as an engine supplier that would lead to success in the trucking industry. Production diesel cars would start in 1933 with Citroën’s Rosalie, which featured a diesel engine option. The Mercedes-Benz 260D and the Hanomag Rekord were introduced a few years later in 1936. Diesel automobiles did not gain popularity for passenger travel until their development in Europe in the 1960s. In 1931, Cummins installed his diesel in the Cummins “Diesel Special” race car, hitting 101 mph at Daytona and 86 mph at the Indianapolis 500 race, where Dave Evans became the first driver to complete the Indianapolis 500 without making a single pit stop, completing the full distance on the lead lap and finishing 13th, relying on torque and fuel efficiency to overcome weight and low peak power. In 1935, Cummins drove a diesel-powered Auburn from New York to San Francisco on $7.62 worth of fuel.