The origin of the familiar Mobilgas Economy Runs of the 1950’s can be traced back to 1936 and a similar contest sponsored jointly by the American Automobile Association (A.A.A.) and the Gilmore Oil Company. Although this 1941 Nash was not the overall winner of the event that year (the honors went to a Willys that achieved a very respectable 29.06 m.p.g.), the cheerful fellows seen in our featured photo are proudly proclaiming the Kenosha-built car’s “Best in Class” victory.
On the silver anniversary of the company’s founding, Nash introduced a truly revolutionary automobile. Called the Nash 600, it was the first mass produced domestic car to be built without a separate frame. In the wonderful ad-speak of the day, the new model was said to use “cantilever construction” in which the roof panel was stressed like contemporary “aircraft and streamlined trains”. The “torpedo style Nash Unitized Body” saved weight and was said to eliminate rattles and squeaks. This innovative design, combined with a “fourth forward speed” (that’s overdrive to you and me) combined to yield that impressive fuel economy number. It was a slightly exaggerated figure (30 m.p.g.) multiplied by the gas tank’s capacity (20 gallons) that resulted in the new model’s appellation.
In what had to be one of the greatest examples of marketing foresight in history, these well built and fuel efficient Nashes proved to be the right car for the time, as the gas rationing during the war years that followed would prove.
We at The Old Motor would appreciate input from any reader who might be able to identify the tall fellow in the cowboy hat. For more about the Nash 600 and other cars of the same make, visit the Nash Car Club of America. You can learn all about the Mobilgas Economy Runs here and find more photos and information about the Gilmore Oil Company here on The Old Motor. Photo courtesy of the Benjamin Ames collection (scroll down).
And finally watch Teens & Cars: “On the Run” 1956 General Petroleum Corp Socony Mobil Safety Economy Run. The film below is later but interesting and 1950s corny, it shows how many of the smaller economy runs were organized.