59 Opel gets 376.59 mpg

Energy & Sustainability

Treehugger points us to this story about a 1959 Opel T-1 that, in 1973, got in the Guinness World Record book by achieving 376.59 mpg. The car was recently rediscovered (moldering away at Talladega Raceway) and bought by a Seattle car dealer.

Some of the “tricks” used to achieve this amazing mpg were to make the car as light as possible, greatly narrow the rear axle, use super-hard low-friction tires, a chain drive, and to drive a steady 30 mph.

Hybrids, meet your rival — it gets 376.59 mpg – Link

14 thoughts on “59 Opel gets 376.59 mpg

  1. EllisGL says:

    With a little bit a remodeling of the design, the car could become more aerodynamic, use of carbon fiber and aluminum could bring the cars weight down, use of port injected EFI could allow for better air/fuel mixture.
    Since they heat up the fuel to make it burn leaner they could use a cooling device (peltier) to cool the air intake, basically providing more O2 (and other combustable gases).

    Of course the tires they used are not safe for real day to day driving thou. Not enough traction on the road.

  2. Timm Murray says:

    A chain drive will snap easily.

    Narrow axel will ruin the handling.

    Super hard tires are useless for stopping and starting.

    Weight has been trimmed down to the point (from what it looks like in the article’s picture) where they use a lawn chair for the driver’s seat.

    So it’s impractical, unreliable, and unsafe, which is what I’d expect out of such a high record-holder.

    I bet you could do even better by tuning the cam profile and exhaust manifold to a specific RPM. Could also get some gains with an Atkinson-cycle engine, which are more efficient but less powerful than the typical Otto-cycle engine. (These aren’t common, but the Prius has one.)

    Fuel line heating is an interesting idea, and not one that I’ve heard of used in modern cars. A Pelt would take electricity, which would require a larger alternator, which increases weight and robs engine power. Rather, you could run the fuel line next to the exhaust. Intake cooling isn’t going to help you much, anyway, unless you also run high compression or high boost.

  3. Timm Murray says:

    One other thing I thought of: fuel line heating probably only make sense for this car because it’s running at a constant RPM. Hot fuel hitting the combustion chamber is likely to cause preignition if you’re running at anything more than low-range. However, this should be solved with modern direct injection engines.

  4. jonouk says:

    @ Timm

    chain drives are not as weak as you’d think. back in the day, they were widely used in cars, even land speed record cars. Yes, they sometimes snapped (whipping off someones head in the process on a speed record attempt, which he got).

    Think about it, tuned ‘busas use chains.

  5. hammerthumb says:

    Chain drives would definitely take more maintenance and inspection. I’d be willing to live with it if it meant 100+ MPG though.

    I agree with Timm about the peltier cooler being a bad idea. They’re only about 15% efficient best case. Add in the alternator which is about 60% efficient best case. You’d be wasting 91% of the energy used just to cool the air.

    A pity carbon fibre is so expensive and in short supply these days. It would be nice to see these materials used in everyday vehicles.

  6. rbean says:

    I’d like to know how much that thing actually weighs. It’s obviously been stripped down to just a shell with a driver’s seat, and the engine is where the back seat used to be (is that the original Opel engine, or something else?). I wonder if it still runs.

    Anyone in Seattle know how to contact the owner?

    I assume the “steady 30 mph” is part of the secret– air resistance goes up exponentially with speed, and the bodywork doesn’t look very aerodynamic.

    Re: chain drives– the first Mack trucks had chain drives. They used larger chains, but that’s just a matter of using the right tool for the job at hand.
    The Oldsmobile Toronado had a chain drive between the engine and transmission, and it was over-engineered because replacing it would have been a real PITA.
    It was also fully enclosed, which would tend to negate the weight savings. It’s worth noting that modern motorcycles often use a toothed-belt drive instead.

  7. Bob Fritz says:

    Someone on another forum made a good point–why was this record removed from the Guinness Book?

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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