Monday, February 25

Big Dickie C. to America: "Lay Back & Enjoy It; Big Oil is Large and in Charge"

"Certainly in 34 years we could do something to make this work."--Evan McMullen, owner of Seattle-based Cosmopolitan Motors

After the October 1973 oil crisis when a unified Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC, including Egypt and Syria) reduced their US exports during the Yom Kippur War to scare hell out of gas-guzzling America, Shell --yes, one of those rapacious Big Five Oil Sisters-- sponsored a national competition to see who could squeeze the most mileage out of a gallon of gas.

The winner? A 1959 Opel T-1 (photo). You would think that if a car got over 370 miles to a gallon of gasoline, that American ingenuity would have been sparked to build a car based on the Opel template, right? It didn't happened.

Last week, the Seattle Post Intelligencer--certainly with an eye to record fourth quarter oil profits across the Big Oil industry board--updated readers on that 35-year-old competition, asking this winning question:

"Why didn't this technology find its way into the mainstream? Why did the car sit unremarked, unremembered for so long?". Last December, Milkhouse Mouse offered a partial answer to these questions. (Read: "General Motors.")

Hmmm. I wonder, too, if....Can you spell D-I-C-K or B-U-S-H? Or C-L-I-N-T-O-N? Or R-E-A-G-A-N?

And I wonder why a Democrat-controlled 110th Congress dares not to inquire--beyond public posturing--into the record oil profits?

The PI article is titled "Hybrids, meet your rival--it gets 376.59 mpg."

MIKE LEWIS (206-448-8140 or

Finally something to wipe the smug off you hybrid owners, you high-mileage acolytes, you global-cooling zealots who wash your Priuses (Prii?) with graywater while wearing reclaimed plastic fleece and hemp undies.

Don't choke on your organic soy-double-decaf-fair-trade-carbon-neutral macchiato, but how does 376.59 miles per gallon sound? Makes your Honda Civic hybrid look Hummeresque, doesn't it?

That number doesn't come from some manta ray-shaped, wind tunnel-vetted carbon fiber space car. No, it's from a chop-top, steel-frame 1959 Opel T-1 (think melting jelly bean, but uglier). And the record was set in 1973 in a contest sponsored by Shell Oil Co.

Evan McMullen, owner of Seattle-based Cosmopolitan Motors, rediscovered the Guinness world-record-setting but forgotten car in Florida.

The buzz of the automotive engineering circles in the early 1970s and winner of the Wood River Competition for the planet's top mileage car, the little Opel had been bought by the France family, owners of NASCAR, and gifted to the museum at Talladega raceway.

And there it sat, mostly in anonymity, until McMullen, 45, heard about it and made his move. He now owns the car and hopes to sell it, maybe to a technological museum at an auction in September in more

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