Recently the Commentariat have made a number of references to the Mobil Economy Run. Being the son of a Mobil- marketing father, my inculcation of the importance of this event began shortly after I was born. In a Mobil family, the Mobil (or Mobilgas) Economy Run ranked right up there with the Indy 500 and the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in the trinity of Mobil (Socony, Mobiloil, Mobilgas) annual holy events. Pilgrimages were encouraged.This photo depicts the winners of the 1966 Economy Run. In the front row, left to right, we have an Olds Toronado, a Buick and a Chevy Impala. In the back row, also left to right, we can see another Chevy Impala, a Dodge Coronet, a Plymouth Belvedere, a Dodge Dart, and a Rambler American. But wait–an Olds Toronado winning an award for fuel economy? That is like “The Rape of the Sabine Women” winning the award for Best Behavior in Classical Paintings for 1627. WTF?
The Mobil Economy Run was an outgrowth of the Gilmore Economy Runs in California in the early- to mid-1930s. Gilmore, which was acquired by Socony Mobil at about this time, was a real whizz at marketing its products, which included the Red Lion, Blu-Green, Roadamite, Lion Head and Smacko gasoline brands. (Really…Smacko?)
Socony (Standard Oil of New York) Mobil ran the Economy Run from 1936 until 1941, when any type of automotive “competition” ceased due to WWII. Mobil resumed running the event in 1950 and continued it until 1967.
Early on, the event was sanctioned by the AAA Contest Board, but after the huge crash at Le Mans in 1955, the AAA wanted nothing to do with any kind of auto racing. Hence was born USAC (United States Auto Club), which sanctioned the event until Mobil stuck a fork in it after 1967.
The Mobilgas Economy Run was a very big part of Mobil’s promotional and marketing efforts. At the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the Mobil pavilion consisted of 36 driving simulators, all equipped with a steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedals, and TV monitors. The maximum possible score was 23.0 mpg, and as you can see, I beat out the other 35 douchebags, with a score of 22.8–and I didn’t even have a driver’s license. Yet all I got was this lousy certificate.