Your Mileage May Differ: The Mobilgas Economy Runs, 1936-1968

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Your Mileage May Differ: The Mobilgas Economy Runs, 1936-1968
John A. Heitmann

Alumni Chair in Humanities and Professor of History

University of Dayton

300 College Park

Dayton, Ohio 45469-1549

Work-In-Progress: Do not Cite without Permission

On April 22, 1953, Les Viland, piloting a Ford Mainline 6, arrived at Sun Valley, Idaho and won the Mobilgas Economy Run Sweepstakes Trophy, averaging 27.0335 miles per gallon.1 Viland covered 1206.1 miles over a course that varied in altitude from 19 feet above sea level to 7383 feet. A Ford engineer with previous experience in the Mexican Pan America road races, Viland, his relief driver, and two observers from the American Automobile Association (AAA), wound their way from Los Angeles through Bakersfield, Fresno, Stockton, Carson City, Reno, Boise, and Twin Falls, before arriving at the final resort destination. For his efforts, Les collected a bonus of $500 from his employer. Yet, in retrospectively reviewing this accomplishment and drawing on documents for the Ford Archives, it appears that Viland’s victory was tainted, for Ford executives working in Dearborn deliberately broke contest rules.

Prior to the Run, Detroit News automobile editor Ralph Watts had reassured readers that despite charges that previous winners were not driving stock vehicles, “cars are chosen without advance warning from factories, dealers’ showrooms, and even boxcars by the American Automobile Association….”2 Thus, according to Watts, Viland’s forthcoming victory was based on driving skill, not the particular vehicle that he drove.

.Indeed, the mileage achieved by an ordinary customer driving an ordinary car probably differed from that of Viland’s, not only due to the factor of driving ability, but also as a result of mechanical issues.3 As it turned out, a large number of cars were specially prepared and shipped to Southern California in anticipation of the event. Some fifty specially readied cars, with engine tolerances modified and engines balanced, were sent to Los Angeles showrooms and the Long Beach factory in anticipation of the AAA Contest Board vehicle selection. At Ford factories, even production schedules and tire sizes were changed so that more economical versions could be homologated. While one cannot be sure that Viland actually drove one of these special cars, certainly his results must be called into question.

To single out Ford, however, would be wrong. To the firm’s credit, it appears that Ford Motor Company left the only records that illustrate what perhaps took place on a broader scale.

Given this story, were the Mobilgas Economy Runs merely a sham? What can be salvaged from what was considered as one of the most important automobile competitions of the era? Clearly Ford executives valued the competition so highly that they were willing to subvert the rules to gain a victory. Finally, what can be learned from this study at the intersection of Big Oil with the Big Three?

Ask anyone who read automobile magazines during the 1950s or 1960s, or who paid attention to auto advertising during that “car crazy” era, and they will immediately, but usually only vaguely, remember the Mobilgas Economy Runs. During the 1950s and 1960s, these annual competitions were the most publicized of all corporate promotions. However, unlike “authentic” racing events that have been the topic of numerous histories, these tests of machines and drivers have seemingly been lost in time.4

Given our historical sense of the 1950s and 1960s, the Mobilgas Economy Runs seem curious anomalies. The post-WWII Runs were held during a time of stable and relatively inexpensive petroleum prices coupled with rising levels of per capita real wages. Furthermore, as the decade of the 1950s unfolded, this wave of prosperity enabled consumers to demand more powerful engines and accessorized vehicles. And Detroit made them. “Affluenza,” not thrift, characterized the economic lives of most Americans after 1950. Given this social and economic context, why did so many Americans care about a competition that calculated miles per gallon to the second decimal point? What is the deeper meaning of this event beyond a superficial recounting of routes, winners, cars, and corporate history? As an avenue to explore the complex post-WWII American experience, what did the Runs suggest about Americans and their priorities? Apparently, until collective memories of the Great Depression faded, Americans continued to place a high value on thrift.

Between 1936 and 1968 the Run evolved in scale and scope, and ended as a coast-to-coast event. Statistically, the Run left some impressive numbers. Between the years 1936 and 1967 (it was not held between 1942 and 1949), a total of 815 entrants traveled 1,504,117.8 miles, averaging 21.5019 miles per gallon. Even by today’s standards, its winners had remarkable fuel economy numbers; for 4-cylinder vehicles, a 1936 Willys finished with 33.21 mpg; a 6-cylinder 1961 Ford Falcon 32.68 mpg; an 8-cylinder 1938 Ford V-8 28.85 mpg; and finally, a 12-cylinder 1938 Lincoln Zephyr, 23.47 mpg5 As the 1953 Ford victory suggests, were these numbers a total distortion?

Early Economy Runs and the Gilmore Years, 1906-1941

The Run’s origins were modest and grassroots, but they were often tied to automobile manufacturers. They celebrated the American ideals of utility and economy, held even among the upper classes. For example, in 1906, the Automobile Club of America sponsored a two gallon fuel contest in an effort to see how far each competing car could go. And while a 4-cylinder Franklin won, the criteria for the event involved multiplying weight by distance, and thus an unfair advantage was given to heavier vehicles, a pattern that would be followed in many of these events in the years to come with the ton-mile often used.6 A second run took place in 1912 between Philadelphia and Atlantic City, and included such marques as American, Lenox, Columbia, Flanders, Moon, Michigan and Krit. Fuel averages ranged from 10 to 22 mpg7

Mobil first became involved in these competitions in 1916, when King and Pathfinder cars used Mobil oils in what was labeled “high gear and fuel economy runs.”8 More significantly, 1916 marked the beginning of the Camp Curry Runs, an annual promotion held until 1926 that was created to show the motoring public how easy and inexpensive it was to drive from Los Angeles to Yosemite. The Camp Curry Runs were small-scale competitions featuring “amateur” participants. In 1926, for example, two of the 12 amateur pilots were women who asserted that “feminine drivers are more careful than men.” 9

Other examples of early events included the Dallas, Texas Times-Herald Durability and Economy Tour of 1920, where the ton-mile as opposed to the miles per gallon was used as the key performance criterion. Taken from previous Glidden Tour competitions, the ton-mile supposedly leveled the playing field, but in fact conferred a distinct advantage to heavier vehicles. It would be the key statistic used to determine sweepstakes winners in the Mobilgas Runs until 1959, and certainly was a factor in public suspicions about the legitimacy or believability of the event.10

Texas was also the scene of similar economy run competitions sponsored by Ford dealers during the 1920s. Local events culminated in a state-wide run that determined an overall winner.11 These and many other economy runs of the 1920s made sense for the times. They reflected widespread concerns throughout the decade that petroleum reserves were limited and that gasoline might become scarce, quite suddenly.12 Indeed this fear of running out of oil prompted Charles Kettering and his GM researchers not only to develop the copper-cooled engine but also anti-knock additive tetraethyl lead during the 1920s.13

Economy Runs also made sense during the Depression-era years.14 It was then that developments took place foundational to the first Mobil Economy Runs – or at least Runs sponsored by a West Coast Oil Company that was eventually absorbed into the Mobil corporate structure. The sponsor was Gilmore Oil, and by the 1930s Gilmore was a flourishing firm with numerous branch plants and distributors in California, Oregon, and Washington State. Gilmore also had strong brands, including “Red Lion,” “Blu-Green,” “Roadamite,” “Smacko,” and “Lion Head.”15 Gilmore’s strength was marketing, and one of its key executives, Clarence Bessemeyer, was responsible for the early Gilmore Runs that officially started in 1936.

Gilmore’s economy run promotions began as early as 1930, and even then women were one focal point of these promotions. For example, in June, 1930 at a 185 mile AAA-sanctioned event that started and ended in Seattle, it was proclaimed that the “Fair Sex Will Test Skill as Motor Misers.”16 By the mid-1930s Gilmore had hired professional driver Austin Elmore, who quickly distinguished himself as the economy driver in America. Elmore not only gained great publicity for Gilmore with his record-setting 1935 run from Los Angeles to Reno via San Francisco – 34.04 mpg in a V-8 car – but as the firm’s troubleshooter. Elmore handled complaints by demonstrating to owners that one could get 11 to 41% better mileage by practicing “good driving habits.” Using a “mileage vizometer,” consisting of two visible reservoirs mounted to the windshield, Elmore effectively demonstrated that smooth acceleration, maintaining a steady speed, shifting into higher gears whenever feasible, avoiding brakes unless necessary, and always thinking ahead saved substantial amounts of gas.17

The first Gilmore Yosemite Economy Run, also publicized as the Gilmore Yosemite Mileage Run, took place in 1936.18 A Willys 4 led the field by getting 33.21 mpg, but the sweepstakes winners were all heavier automobiles with high ton-miles-per-gallon figures – a Graham Supercharged Six (55.47), Chrysler Airflow 8 (53.35) and Studebaker Dictator 6 (50.98). By comparison, the Willys 4 only achieved 49.48 ton-miles-per-gallon, despite its high mpg The Graham Supercharger 6 would repeat as sweepstakes winner in 1937 and 1938, and a Studebaker Commander 6 took the honors in 1939 and 1940. In 1941 the Gilmore Run’s route was lengthened to include San Bernardino, Barstow, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, and Kingman, ending at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Again, while a Willys Plainsman earned top honors in mpg with an average of 29.06, heavy Lincolns placed first and second in the sweepstakes. Obviously, the emphasis on ton-miles perpetuated a distortion of true economy, yet assuaged American automobile manufacturers who profited handsomely with every large car coming off the assembly line.

While the automobile companies capitalized on the competition results in their own advertising and promotional campaigns, Gilmore Oil profited most on these events. Gilmore marketing executives asserted that using its “Red Lion” gasoline resulted in more power and more thrift.19 Put simply, it was claimed that Gilmore gasoline was the best, and as Clay Moore, the driver of the 1938 sweepstakes winner observed, “I get more miles per gallon from Red Lion than any other gasoline.”20

A Post WWII Restart

After nearly a decade in abeyance, 1950 was a propitious time to begin the Economy Run anew. Automobile industry executives were touting new engine designs that were more fuel efficient and powerful. GM vice-president for engineering J.M. Crawford stated that “the engineering emphasis of the future will be directed to more economical motoring,” the consequence of work on higher compression engines that were bottlenecked only by the availability of higher octane fuels.21 To that end, GM engineers in May 1951 announced the development of a carefully timed, high compression engine with a better combustion chamber design which gave 40% more mpg than the Kettering V-8 in a Cadillac.22 Concurrently, the Texas Company developed a new high efficiency engine that combined fuel injection with combustion head design and spark ignition.23 And up for discussion in technical circles was a single valve engine design of Alex Taub and his associates that claimed enormous efficiency gains. Finally, the Chrysler Corporation unveiled its hemispherical head engine, or Hemi.24

But the most powerful impetus towards gasoline conservation was the onset of the Korean War. Again there were fears of gasoline rationing similar to WWII, and by the fall of 1950 California oil was in such demand that it was no longer shipped eastwards.25 As one oil industry publication made clear, there was a “new national need for conservation of gasoline.”26

As in the past with the Gilmore Runs, the key individual related to the success of the early Mobilgas Economy Runs was Clarence Bessemeyer. One publication went so far as to name Bessemeyer the “Big Chief” of the Run. Bessemeyer was assisted by Frank Meunier, advertising manager for General Petroleum and the leading corporate advocate for the Run after the former left the Socony-Vacuum Mobil organization in 1953.27 Bessemeyer’s imprint on the Run was enduring, for he was a showman extrordinaire, and that style continued throughout the history of the Runs.

Consequently, the Run was seen by many as a continuous cocktail party for the press and hangers-on. One year the closing featured a celebration of Navaho tribesman, and the next year a Hopi war dance. Ending at resorts that included the Lodge at the Grand Canyon and the Sun Valley Resort, one could only wish to be the lucky newspaper reporter that was on the bus or express train following the race route.

In addition to Bessemeyer and Meunier, other prominent figures in the early 1950s Runs included speedway designer and AAA Chief Steward A.C. Pilsbury; all-time racing great and Referee Tommy Milton; Honorary Referee and vice-president of the Indianapolis Speedway T.E. “Pop” Myers; and Steward Earl Cooper, one of racing’s most famous drivers.28 And for years, the starter’s flag was dropped in downtown Los Angeles at 3 am by the colorful and flamboyant A.C. Agajanian.

The rules and procedures associated with the Run changed little between 1950 and 1968.29 Most significantly, it was a contest for American cars of the current year; imports were not allowed, although separate, small-scale events for foreign cars were organized towards the end of the 1950s to placate a changing marketplace and consumer. Cars were classified according to cost and engine size, and were selected by the AAA Contest Board from showroom floors, dealer lots, or factory assembly lines. These vehicles were no different than the average American would own, and certified as stock. Minor changes could be made in terms of carburetor jets, timing, and tire pressures. Break-in runs were allowed, and that was when the rules were stretched. Tires were scrubbed to reduce rolling resistance, brakes worn down a much as practically possible, and support cars dragged chains in front of the race vehicle so as to have as much dust and sand enter engines minus air cleaners. Cars were impounded and sealed before the race, but despite the precautions, tweaking and break-in resulted in cars that were quite different from an everyday vehicle.

Routes were chosen so as to vary both altitude and temperature. Cars were often greeted by high school marching bands as they stopped in smaller towns along the way, yet, the early Mobilgas Runs were more than a crowd-pleasing spectacle. It was big business; since Socony-Vacuum initially centered its $9 million advertising budget on the event; thus, a payback was expected, and early indications suggested a 9.8% sales increase in the Western region in 1951. 30

The auto industry, or at least segments within it, also became enthusiastic supporters of the event, providing that its cars did well. For example, Studebaker focused its 1951 advertising on the slogan “The Thrifty One in 1951,” and Lincoln, a Sweepstakes winner, displayed 120 cars painted exactly like the contestant vehicle in West coast showrooms. Car manufacturers began mentioning the event in sales brochures, making sure that the AAA Contest Board seal was inserted. For example, in 1953 Dodge distributed the brochure “Dodge Tops All 8’s in 1953 Mobilgas Economy Run.”31 The copy went on to assert that “this great new ’53 Dodge Coronet Sedan provided absolute proof of the basic design superiority of the 140-horsepower Red Ram V-Eight engine….Hemispherical combustion chamber provides the ideal shape for maximum thermal efficiency. It squeezes more power out of every drop of fuel.” Competitors -- including brands made by divisions within the Chrysler Corporation -- must have cringed when reading the last page of the brochure, in which nine other class participants were listed in order of finish.

With time, the complexity and the cost of the event grew. Literally hundreds of Mobil employees became involved, and executives soon included it in corporate strategy. In an undated memorandum from the 1950s entitled “How to Realize More Productive Attention for the Mobilgas Economy Run,” four main outcomes were listed: 1) a direct effect upon sales; 2) enhanced prestige from the sponsorship “with what is becoming the most widely known type of auto performance trial in the world;” 3) the opportunity to connect with auto manufacturers and safety organizations; and 4) the ability to make news of interest to the public.32 Two internal committees within the firm were charged with steering this event in such a manner that these outcomes would be realized -- the Advertising and Sales Promotion Committee and the Publicity Committee. The former group was charged with creating the printed material to promote the event, to inform salespersons and dealers, to formulate a variety of contests, and to film the Run. The Publicity Committee, on the other hand, was on the ground throughout the competition, hosting guests and press, touching base with local newspaper editors, and making sure that everyone was comfortable and entertained. Both were daunting jobs, made logistically more challenging as the route lengthened from several hundred to several thousand miles. In sum, there were many specific tasks to perform before, during, and after the event.33

The drivers spanned the spectrum of racing experience, talent, and social class, although particularly in the early 1950s, many were highly qualified.34 One of the best was Les Viland, an engineer educated at the University of Southern California and Cal Tech, who was a sweepstakes winner in 1951 and 1953, and who got the best mpg in 1955. Popular racer Mickey Thompson won his class driving Pontiacs in 1962 and 1963. The family of Mel Asbury, a Hollywood Chrysler dealer – sons Mal and George, wife, and daughter-in-law – won numerous times during the 1950s. With women entering the field in 1957, former sports car drivers Mary Davis, Myra Buchanan, Marian Pagan, Ina Mae Overman, Marilyn Miller (the wife of famous racer Ak Miller), and Betty Skelton distinguished themselves while at the same time demonstrating that women were, if not better than, at least equal to men in economy driving events. The 1959 class B winner Mary Hauser wrote that

You men probably think, because I’m a woman, that I’m a lousy driver and don’t know the first thing about how to get good gas mileage. So you’re surprised, maybe even a little peeved, that I managed to win a class in the 1959 Mobilgas Economy Run. Well, I’ll admit that many women are stupid drivers. So are many men. They have their minds on a thousand other things.35

Big Money, an Ambitious Scale, and International Events

As the scale and scope of the Run gradually evolved over the 1950s, so did its geographical locus. Beginning in 1954, the Mobil Run went international, first in France, then in 1955 in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.36 Some staggering mpg numbers were recorded resulting in the ban of coasting; nevertheless, in 1955 a Renault 750 traveling through the English Midlands achieved 76.36 mpg! Subsequently, events were also staged in the Philippines, Rhodesia, and Malaya. With the petroleum shortages caused by the 1956 Suez Crisis, the event became western European in 1958, with a 2,700 km route that began at the World’s Fair in Belgium, and then traversed Holland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Italy and France.

With the relatively huge influx of foreign cars in the U.S. after the brief recession of 1958, foreign car events were staged briefly on the East and West Coasts and on a limited scale.37 Between 1958 and 1959 Mobil sponsored rallies in California, and predictably, small displacement European marques put up impressive economy statistics. For example, in 1958 a Fiat 750 won its class with slightly more than 50 mpg; even a class D Volvo sipped gasoline with a 36 mpg result. In 1960 a similar event started in New York City, and a small Renault got more than 49 mpg

The rise in interest over miles per gallon that typified American thought between 1958 and 1962 also forced race organizers to rethink the use of the ton-miles-per-gallon as the criterion for determining the sweepstakes trophy winner. It seemed illogical that heavy cars should win an economy event, yet, that is what happened, as in the case of the 1958 Run, when a Chrysler Crown Imperial won the overall contest.38 Thus in 1959 the switch to mpg was made, and the Independents – American Motors and Studebaker – topped the field. Yet, figures were disappointingly low across the board, as low-priced, 6-cylinder cars barely squeezed 20-22 mpg, and the event-winning Rambler American Deluxe only got 25.3 mpg39

As the 1960s unfolded, the Run became bigger and more complex than ever.40 Likewise, there was more hoopla involved, whether a $100,000 sweepstakes and car giveaway for dealers and their employees, or the remarkable exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.41 At the Mobil exhibit a complex electronic computer system with individual consoles was set up so that 36 fairgoers at a time could test their skills while behind the wheel of a simulator. Each participant received a sticker, and each group winner a certificate. Some 1.2 million visitors were expected to get behind the wheel. All of this outreach cost plenty of money. For example, Mobil’s expenses related to the 1966 Run amounted to nearly $550,000, and the company spent an additional $440,000 to advertising the results.

Not only were women drivers featured, but also teenagers – Chevrolet fielded an entire team of teens in 1964.42 The first African-American teen driver, Marty Payne, entered the competition in 1966, with some trepidation on the part of Mobil executives who were concerned about racial incidents that might take place along the route.43

An End to the Runs?

Courtly, white-haired Frank Meunier, a throwback to the General Petroleum days of the 1930s, remained the leading advocate for the event. However, the Run, and indeed all Mobil-sponsored competitions, including their involvement in the Indianapolis 500, came under scrutiny.44 As he approached retirement, Meunier’s long standing arguments in favor of the event began to fall on deaf ears. A new generation of advertising executives was now on the scene at Mobil, and they were asking hard questions concerning the event’s effectiveness in promoting corporate objectives.

Consumer researchers, including Alfred Politz, were consulted on the value of the Run, and his views markedly contrasted with R.S. Brophy’s in-house study. Politz argued for the Run’s continuance, stating that “The motorists’ fascination with gas mileage seems not to wear out—just as sex appeal has held its ground over the ages.”45 Brophy countered this view by stating that “It is interesting to note that the one area of greatest effort, the Economy Run, cannot be related to any meaningful difference….” Brophy also harnessed the results of a consumer survey, citing that some 42% thought that professional drivers were used, 35% had concluded that cars were especially adjusted, and 16% doubted the miles per gallon results.46

Among the points that were debated were the following. First, while performance events factored little into consumer gasoline purchases, getting more miles per gallon did. Ironically, and perhaps with some embarrassment, most consumers did not recognize Mobil as the best gasoline in terms of mileage; rather it was Shell. Thus in 1966 a group of Mobil executives concluded that “at present the Run does not offer a favorable opportunity for our use in a national advertising campaign.” Indeed, Mobil’s ad agency, Doyle, Dane, and Bernbach was not interested in using any performance events in their advertising strategy. Yet, the Run was not scrapped at that time. Recommendations were made to reduce costs, shorten the route, and cut the number of ads.

The Run continued for two more years. The 1968 event was underway when the assassination of Martin Luther King forced organizers to end the race in Indianapolis instead of New York City.47 In December 1968, Mobil rather abruptly announced the end of the Run. The decision was based on perceptions of changing consumer attitudes along with changes in engine pollution controls and a shift in corporate advertising strategy. The America of 1968, despite its internal strife and controversy over the Vietnam War, was experiencing an unparalleled prosperity, low gasoline prices, and an expanding youth market. Yet around the corner was a burgeoning second wave of imports, coming this time not from Germany, but from Japan. And only five years later, in 1973, the U.S. experienced its first “Oil Shock,” an event of profound long-term economic and social significance. While “your mileage may differ,” gasoline supply and usage emerged as national concerns, at least for a while.

Currently, Americans are facing another oil crisis, and issues of drilling on protected lands, carbon emissions, vehicle design, and economical driving are at the forefront of daily news discussions. Despite its shortcomings, perhaps it is time to bring back the economy run, if for no other reason than to raise public awareness concerning the values of thrift and conservation.

1 “Mobil Economy Run – General Information – 1936 through 1967,” p.3.Box 2.207/F20, File Marketing Advertising Proofs of Performance, Exxon-Mobil Collection, Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

2 Clipping, Ralph Watts, “Auto Economy Run Test Drivers’ Skill,” Detroit News, April 18, 1953. National Automotive History Collection, Detroit Public Library, Vertical File, “Contests – Economy #1.”

3 See “1953 Mobilgas Economy Run Proposed Organization and Planning;” G.P. Montagnet to C.T. Dorman, February 5, 1953; C.E. Bowie to E.B. Richard, “Special Awards – Mobilgas Economy Run,” May 13, 1953; C.E. Bowie to G.A. Moss, February 24, 1953. All in Accession 568, File 1953 Mobilgas Economy Run & 1953 Indy Pace Car, C.H. Donohue Records, Car Sales (1950-53), Box 3, Benson Ford Research Center.

4 To my knowledge, there are three very brief commentaries of the history of the Mobilgas Economy Runs in the literature. See Bryant, David; “The Mobil Economy Run,” Car and Driver, Feb. 1981, pp. 45-6; “Tech Tidbits,” Road and Track, Sept. 2003; Knoll, Bob; “Coast to Coast in the Pursuit of Economy,” New York Times, December 24, 2006. Leo Levine, in his important Ford: The Dust and the Glory: A Racing History (New York: Macmillan, 1968), mentions the Run on three occasions in passing, although he infers that Ford allocated considerable resources to this event.

5 “Mobil Economy Run – General Information – 1936 through 1967,” Exxon-Mobil Collection.

6 Clipping, “Mechanical Features of Some Winning Cars in the Automobile Club of America’s Two-Gallon Fuel Contest,” Scientific American Supplement, No. 1585, May 19, 1906, in Vertical File “Contests – Economy #1,” National Automotive History Collection.

7 “Economy Run History,” news release, March 23, 1958, in Accession 1930, Ford Motorsports Records, Box 2, file Mobilgas Economy Run, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1965, Benson Ford Research Center.

8 “The King Car Test,” Gargoyle, July 1916, p. 5; “Best Entire Runs: Gargoyle Mobiloils Efficiency Helps Pathfinder and King Cars Break Records on High Gear an Fuel Economy Runs,” Gargoyle, Nov. 1916, p. 3.

9 Bluvett, Hershel; “25 Years Ago…Along Auto Row,” Los Angeles Evening Herald & Express, Tuesday, March 20, 1951, reprinted in Clymer, Floyd; The 1951 Grand Canyon Economy Run (Los Angeles: Floyd Clymer, 1951), p.56.

10 “Times Herald Durability and Economy Tour,” Magnolia Oil News, Nov. 1920. A ton mile per gallon is determined by taking the weight of car and passengers in tons, multiplying by miles traveled and then dividing the result by gallons of gasoline consumed.

11 The Ford Motor Company sponsored events were called Ford Economy Mileage Test Runs. Magnolia Oil News, Feb. 1927, p. 9.

12 For example, see “Gasoline and Alcohol as Fuels of the Future,” Scientific American, June 1923, p. 381; “Stretching the Gasoline Supply,” and “Doubling the Automobile Mileage Per Gallon,” Scientific American, March 1926, p. 185; Shepard, William G.; “300 Miles to the Gallon!,” Collier’s, Oct.5, 1929, pp. 10-12, 59-60.

13 Leslie, Stuart W.; Boss Kettering (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), pp.123-180.

14 Studies conducted during the early 1930s definitively connected speed with gasoline consumption and that pegged 30-40 mph as the most efficient speed in which fuel was conserved. See "Motor Test Shows How Speed Affects Fuel Use," Business Week, February 16, 1932, pp. 16-17.

15 File, Basic Training Text 500, March 1956, Box 2.207/E213, Exxon Mobil Collection, Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin; Alan Darr, “The Gilmore Oil Company, 1900-1945,”, accessed 10/22/2007.

16 Clipping, “Northwest Women Drivers to Make Economy Run,” Seattle Sunday Times, June 1, 1930, Exxon Mobil Collection, 2.207/H90, Center For American History, University of Texas at Austin.

17 Clipping, “Austin Elmore Smashes All Previous Economy Records with New Red Lion!,” Tacoma Times, March 20, 1935, in file 2.207/H90, Exxon Mobil Collection; “Secrets of More Miles Per Gallon,” Popular Mechanics, Feb. 1935), pp. 222-223.

18 For a cursory history of the Gilmore Runs, see E.J. Sanders, “The History of the Economy Runs 1936 to 1950,” in Clymer, Floyd; The 1951 Grand Canyon Economy Run (Los Angeles, Clymer, 1951), pp. 53-5.

19 See for example, “Extra Power of Speed Gives Red Lion Thrift,” Gilmore Graphic, March 1935), p. 2; “How Much Gas Did You Use?,” Gilmore Graphic, Aug. 1935), 2; Clipping, “Vote for Red Lion,” The Tacoma Times, October 23, 1936; Clipping, “No Blackout of Mileage in Gilmore-Yosemite Run,” Seattle Daily Times; Clipping, “It’s Mileage Proved,” The Seattle Star, May 18, 1937, all in Exxon Mobil Collection, Box 2.207/H90.

20 Clipping, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 19, 1938, Mobil Exxon Collection, 2.207/H90.

21 “Car Industry Looks Ahead,” Science News-Letter, Jan.28, 1950), p. 50.

22 “Days of High Compression is Nearer,” Business Week, (May 5, 1951), pp. 42-3.

23 “Mechanical Octanes,” Fortune, May 1951, pp. 116-9.

24 Francis, Devon and Rowsome, Frank Jr.; “Chrysler Lifts Hood on Most Powerful Car Engines,” Popular Science, March 1951, pp. 134-8.

25 Likely, Wadsworth; “U.S. Pumps Oil for Korea,” Science News-Letter, September 16, 1950, pp. 186 7.

26 “Mobil Products Set Mileage Records,” Doings in General, 1951, p. 3.

27 Betty L. to H. Reid, March 8, 1973, in General Petroleum Corporation Correspondence, Box 2.207/E213, Exxon Mobil Collection.

28 Clymer, The 1951 Grand Canyon Economy Run, p.43.

29 Ibid., pp. 47-52.

30 “Economy Test Sells Gas as Well as Cars,” Business Week, April 28, 1951, pp. 86-7.

31 “Dodge Tops All 8’s in 1953 Mobilgas Economy Run,” N.P., n.p., n.d.

32 “How to Realize More Productive Attention for the Mobilgas Economy Run,” n.d.

33 The timing and complexity of the tasks involved is best seen in a 1960 promotional manual prepared for international events. See “Mobil Economy Run Promotional Manual ,” n.d. [1960?], Mobil Exxon Collection, Box 2.207/F23, File Marketing, Proofs of Performance & Racing, International Economy Run, 1960.

34 Ford executives were particularly interested in learning about their drivers. See W. Barry McCarthy to A. Bruce Ewing, et al., April 11, 1952, in Accession 536, Public Relations Res. Library, Catalogued Releases, Etc. Box 74, file Mobilgas Economy Run – Biography Drivers, Benson Ford Research Center.

35 Hauser, Mary; “Woman Driver Tells How to Save Gas,” Popular Science, July 1959, pp. 68-9. The stereotype of the bad woman driver wasting gas was certainly prevalent during the late 1950s. See Francis, Devon; “How I Taught My Wife to Save Gas,” Popular Science, March, 1957, pp. 94-8;”All We Women did…,” Time, April 18, 1960, p. 84.

36 “French Mobilgas Economy Runs Win Motorists Enthusiasm in ‘54, ’56;” “United Kingdom has Been the Scene of Two Mobilgas Economy Runs, 55-56;” “The Mobilgas Economy Run Goes International in a Big Way,” The Flying Red Horse, Autumn, 1958. All in Exxon Mobil Collection.

37 “2nd Mobil Mileage Rally Held in California,” November 17, 1959; “Mobil Mileage Rally Results, New Rochelle, October 30, 1960.” All in Exxon Mobil Collection. See also “Hilly Run Puts Foreign Cars to Gas Test,” Business Week, October 25, 1958, pp. 32-3.

38 “Victory for the Heavies,” Time, April 28, 1958, pp. 88-9; “The Run into Texas,” Newsweek, April 28, 1958, p. 78.

39 “Victory for Rambler,” Time, April 20, 1959, p. 94; “Rambling In,” Newsweek, April 20, 1959, pp. 90-1.

40 On the complex logistics, see Thoms, Wayne; “Behind the Bedlam of the Featherfoot Fleet,” Motor Trend, March 1966, pp. 61-2. On specific annual results, see “Grand Grind,” Newsweek, Apri1 6, 1962, p. 85; “Mobil Economy Run,” Motor Trend, June 1963, p. 80; “Mobil Economy Run, 1962 & 1963,”, accessed 9/5/2007.

41 “Entry Blank,” Box 2.207/F21, Exxon Mobil Collection, File, Mobilgas Economy Run 1961. “The Only Audience Participation Show at the Fair,” Box 2.207/E205, File 1963-1965, Exhibits World’s Fair New York, Exxon Mobil Collection.

42 “Teen Age Driving Skill,” Hot Rod, July 1964, pp. 91-3.

43 “Teen-Age Driver Sets Precedent,” Ebony, July 1965, pp. 49-50. Payne finished a respectable third in his class. On concerns over his trip, see R.B. Snow to R.a. Wiener, “Mobil Economy Run – Possible Racial Queries,” Box 2.207/F21, File, 1965 Mobilgas Economy Run.

44 “Mobil Economy Run. Purpose. To Resolve the Future of the Mobil Economy Run” [1966].

45 “Excerpts from Alfred Politz’ Letter Dated June 26, 1966, to J.B. Merrell Regarding Mobil Economy Run.”

46 R.S. Brophy, “Evaluation of Performance Events,” June 2, 1966.

47 “Mobil’s Annual Run for the Money,” Business Week,” April 13, 1968, p. 54, 58, 64.

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