Hyper-miling is nothing new - even in the 1960s, motorists looked for the best ways to save fuel (and money) on long journeys
Matt Burt
29 October 2015

A keen interest in fuel economy isn’t a recent phenomenon. Back in the 1960s, many drivers were just as obsessed with teasing as much as possible from every drop of fuel.

“A great many people, willingly or unwillingly, are feeding their cars with much more petrol than they really require to do the work demanded of them,” said Autocar, before going on to offer some advice on frugal driving, which “need not be boring”.

“It is hoped that they may save a few pounds a year, without lessening the enjoyment they obtain from their motoring, for reasonable fuel economy goes hand in hand with an efficiently maintained and well-driven car.”

Tip one was decent upkeep of your car: “Excessive consumption may be attributed to wear or neglect; in such cases, no amount of economical driving will help much. Any resistance to free motion will increase consumption, as the need to overcome it will require that much more power (and, therefore, petrol) for a given performance.

“Lack of lubrication and binding brakes are obvious examples. Under-inflated tyres, too, give a decided increase in rolling resistance.”

Next there were the common-sense driving tips: anticipate the road conditions and traffic ahead, avoid heavy acceleration, maintain a suitable cruising speed and take advantage of gradients on undulating roads.

“On long journeys there is a tremendous scope for fuel economy, and there need be little, if any, reduction in average speed. The principle is to remember that every time you use the brakes you are wasting petrol – by destroying momentum which has been achieved by burning fuel and which must be restored by burning some more.

“It is a case for smoothness, gentleness and anticipation in every movement, a steady, delicate right foot and as little use of the brakes as possible.”

Autocar practised what it preached: “By using these methods to a reasonable extent on a tuned Sunbeam Rapier, and keeping overdrive engaged throughout a 300-mile journey to the West Country, a figure of 35mpg was recorded, together with an overall average speed of 35mph.

“On another occasion, making an early start and driving hard on traffic-free roads, the same car recorded as little as 20mpg for an average of 50mph.

“In terms of time and money, using top-grade fuels at 5s per gallon, this meant that the journey cost £2 2s 6d at an average speed of 35mph and £3 15s at 50mph, so it cost £1 12s 6d (plus a fair amount of nervous energy) to save two and a half hours.”

Getting the engine up to temperature quickly was vital for saving fuel.

“Where a car is being used almost exclusively for short runs, a radiator blind can help in getting the engine to its running temperature quickly, but once this is achieved, be ready to return the blind to the ‘furled’ position, as wrapped-up engines are liable to overheat very rapidly in traffic jams.

“Incidentally, very little fuel is used when ticking over, so it is scarcely worth switching off in such conditions.”

Obviously no one had considered automatic stop-start systems back then. In any case, queues of traffic would have been infrequent enough that stop-start wouldn’t have been deemed necessary.

Previous Throwback Thursdays

4 March 1899 - Steam, electric or combustion engine? 

26 June 1906 - The first French Grand Prix

9 July 1907 - The beginning of Brooklands

14 February 1913 - 100 miles in one hour

8 April 1916 - Making post-war predictions

25 March 1922 - Caterpillar tracks are the future

4 July 1925 - Citroën lights up the Eiffel Tower

28 September 1928 - Engine tech takes a great leap forwards

2 February 1934 - The ethics of skidding

6 July 1934 - A tour of Cowley

1 June 1935 - Introduction of the driving test

22 June 1945 - Driving through post-WW2 Europe

21 January 1949 - Tidier tails

25 August 1950 - The evolution of transmissions

27 April 1951 - Frankfurt hosts its first motor show

24 April 1959 - Aston Martin enters Formula 1

16 September 1960 - The beginning of MOT tests

27 January 1961 - Ford Thunderbird road test

17 November 1961 - TVR Grantura road test

10 September 1965 - The birth of modern Audi

19 August 1966 - Four-wheel drive on test

6 May 1971 - Driving Ford's Supervan

12 June 1976 - Cars for under £100

10 July 1976 - Land's End to John O'Groats on one tank

8 October 1977 - Music on the move

13 May 1978 - Ferrari 512 BB road test

19 January 1980 - Talbot Horizon road test

13 February 1982 - 4x4s tested on the farm 

17 April 1985 - Secrets of a lost British supercar

4 September 1985 - Ford's electronic test bed

15 August 1990 - Giugiaro's vision of a 1990s Jaguar

28 April 1993 - BL's unseen concepts

16 March 1994 - Bentley's Concept Java

16 April 1997 - When Bugatti bit the dust

11 October 2000 - BMW X5 Le Mans

4 April 2001 - 0-260mph in 6.0 seconds

25 July 2001 - 180mph in a Chevrolet Corvette

Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:

Join the debate

Comments
4

29 October 2015
"Incidentally, very little fuel is used when ticking over, so it is scarcely worth switching off in such conditions.” Can't believe they went onto develop the biggest waste of all, Stop-Start! Need another button, electrics, software, testing, better starter motor, bigger more complicated battery etc all costing money which in turn would take over 10 years to repay itself, but only if the battery is never replaced in that time! People have the shock of their lives when it comes to replaceing BMW stop-start batteries

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

29 October 2015
But it is very effective on the current EU test cycle. Given that cars are sold on their official MPG and CO2 figures (and not their battery replacement costs), it is inevitable that car manufacturers adopt these systems.

29 October 2015
Interesting article and I agree that many economy oriented 'innovations' are a waste of time which add tot he whole life cost of a vehicle rather than saving any money.

What caught my eye was the picture at the top - I'm happy to be corrected but it doesn't look much like the interior of a 1960 Sunbeam Rapier to me........

29 October 2015
In attempt to improve the fuel economy of the second car I owned a Vauxhall Viva HC, I fitted a fuel flow device that was supposed to even out the flow of fuel and improve the fuel efficiency. I was not convinced it made any difference and had it removed after it saved a 100% of the fuel going through it and left me stranded on the side of the road. Which was not too unusual an occurrence in a 1970’s Vauxhall

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Hyundai Kona
    First Drive
    18 October 2017
    Hyundai's funky-looking Kona crossover with a peppy three-cylinder engine makes all the right noises for the car to be a success in a crowded segment
  • Citroën C3 Aircross
    First Drive
    17 October 2017
    The Citroen C3 Aircross has got funky looks and a charming interior, but it's another small SUV, and another dynamic miss. Numb steering is just one thing keeping it from class best
  • Skoda-Karoq 2.0 TDI 4x4
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Diesel version of Skoda’s junior SUV is unobtrusive and undemanding, but we’d still go for the silkier petrol version of the Karoq
  • Audi Q7 e-tron
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Expensive and flawed but this understated diesel-electric Audi Q7 has a lot to offer
  • Citroën C3
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Is the third gen Citroën C3 ‘fresh and different’ enough to take on its supermini rivals? We spend six months with one to find out