Highlights from the 1952 Mobilgas Economy Run

The Mobilgas Economy Run was once the premiere low-performance event for passenger cars in the United States.

You didn't have to go fast. You didn't have to finish first. You simply had to get the best mileage.

And Studebaker kicked gas in the 1952 Mobilgas Economy Run. A Studebaker Champion won the event for “all cars entered in standard classifications” by sipping gas through a coffee stirrer at a rate of 27.82 miles per gallon. A ’52 Land Cruiser V8 came in second at 25.59 mpg. Not bad for the early 1950s when the prevalent trend was to build cars longer, lower, wider, outward, and upward.

The three-day event started in Los Angeles at 3am on April 14th, 1952. With regular stops for refueling and measuring along the way, the cars pulled into the Sun Valley Lodge and Challenger Inn (now the Sun Valley Inn) in Idaho on April 16th.

Studebaker competed with a lot of other intermediate and big cars of the day including a Hudson Commodore, a Packard 300, a Lincoln Capri, Mercury Monterey, DeSoto Firedome, etc.

(If you’re really interested in this particular event, look for an old copy of the 1952 Mobilgas Economy Run published by Floyd Clymer back in the day. This booklet contains stories about the event and a ton of great pictures that show all facets of starting, monitoring, and ending the event. It’s really a great document.)

So Studebaker won. Again. But what good is all that effort if you can’t properly exploit it? Well, that’s what films are for.

I’m sure that the other car makers had their own film crews on site shooting footage. After all, there were lots of categories and niches in which their cars could claim a slow-moving, penny-pinching victory lap.

But this promotional film comes from Studebaker, and it’s only fitting that they should get bragging rights. Until Nash decided to enter this event with the Rambler, Studebaker grabbed all the headlines at the Economy Run. And they made sure everybody knew about it, too. In fact, here’s a 1953 radio spot where they trumpeted their results in that contest.

Nineteen Fifty-Two was a big year for Studebaker. They celebrated their centennial, and the legendary Loewy Coupe was gearing up for manufacture. The Mobilgas Economy Run was a nice feather in Studebaker’s cap. There was nothing ahead but smooth land cruising (in gas-sipping overdrive, of course). What could go wrong?

Gone Autos Podcast #7: Studebaker '62 with Lew Minkel and Richard Quinn

It takes a Studebaker fan to talk about a Studebaker man’s Studebaker plans.

That’s what happens when you ask Studebaker uber-historian Richard Quinn to talk about a rare 1961 recording featuring Studebaker Marketing Vice-President Lew Minkel.

Lew Minkel
Lew Minkel

Minkel’s speech to Los Angeles-area Studebaker dealers was captured live on a metal-acetate record around August 1961 before the new 1962 model year.

I bought this recording through eBay several years ago, and I always wondered what it meant in the timeline of Studebaker’s history.

So I logged onto the Studebaker Drivers Club Forum and searched around for the ultimate Studebaker expert. (Although he disagrees with me, the forum members don’t lie. Many conversational threads point back to Richard and his deep knowledge of all things Studebaker.)

me posing with 41 copy
Richard Quinn
I had the audio artifact. I had the expert to tell me all about it. And now you have the result.

Find out from Richard Quinn what the men at South Bend were up to with this long-lost, forgotten speech delivered when Kennedy was still president and Studebaker still made cars.

Get the podcast here.

And then do me a favor: tell me what you think in the Comments section below. I’d love to hear your feedback about the work I’m doing here at Gone Autos. Thanks! ---Todd Ruel