The name Cummins is synonymous with diesel truck power today. But the instinctive engineer had to travel a long and winding road before his engines became economically viable. It was only through dogged persistence and substantial bankrolling by benefactor W.G. Irwin that Clessie Cummins was able earn his place in automotive history. His experiments began as early as 1912, but it was only after producing literally thousands of prototype fuel injectors in the 1920’s and injections of large amounts of cash from Irwin that he was able to achieve his goal of building a reliable powerplant for motor vehicles.
- Cummins’ run is described in detail in this article from the December 17, 1932 issue of Automotive Industries.
To prove his engines, he embarked on a number of promotional events beginning in 1925. High speed cross country reliability runs were not unique in the 20’s and 30’s, but attempting one in a ten ton bus certainly was. Achieving an average speed of almost forty miles per hour on the two lane roads of the day in such a substantial vehicle was quite an accomplishment, but the fuel economy numbers were equally impressive. It was this performance and a similar one in a medium duty Indiana truck in 1931 that got the attention of the trucking industry, so much so that by 1934, 70 per cent of the diesel trucks in the U.S. used Cummins power. You’ll find other posts about Clessie Cummins’ diesel drives and more unusual trucks, buses and equipment on The Old Motor.