Thanks for resurrecting this thread CFG! I missed out on it back in July and it slipped into the archives.
How inspiring for someone of the time to do such a thing, and not for racing purposes. People really knew how to pose for pictures back then (great photography of the day too)! We need more "Orville and Wilburs" like this gentleman, today.
Toecutter has an excellent point -- what in blue-blazes happened to aerodynamics in the 60's to Mid-80's (especially the boxes of the 70's)??? It's like they took a brick of clay in the design process and stuck parts on it.
RH77's First Car: 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham 4-door 350. Brown plaid, pillow-top interior and all the options that 1977 could muster.
Of course everyone loves their first car when they get it. Since it was as old as I was at the time it wasn't terribly reliable, but it coasted like a dream, aged very well, and got 18 mpg avg. Aside from the soft top, the rear "fastback" sweep probably improved its drag, but the flat front is classic 70's. It could have easily been imroved with a sloped grille/front clip (trust me, even with the 350 V-8, there was plenty of room in there for a slope)!
At any rate, facinating story Metro -- this gentleman should be a GasSavers member emeritus -- way ahead of his time.
I didn't mention this in the story, but did ask his son this question.
He was as much interested in efficiency as speed.
In one of his later cars (we're talking 50's or 60's) he installed an early "fuel consumption display" - in the form of a sealed graduated cylinder that held fuel. So he could watch the rate of consumption while he drove.
Is there any chance the son knew what type of gas mileage his father achieved with this aero mods?
Compared to the Model T's top speed of 45 mph (72 km/h), the streamlined & modified car would go 70 (113 km/h). Its fuel economy was also improved: 45 imperial mpg (38 mpg US) compared to the Model T's 30-36 imperial mpg (25-30 mpg US) - though obviously not at 70 mph!
25-30 mpg to 38 mpg though extensive aeromods and no other modifications sounds about right. And given the exposed wheels and axles, these aeromods really weren't that extensive.
Aerodynamics is the key to efficiency. Drop the Cd of today's cars to about .18 from today's .32, and 45 mpg midsize cars with 180 horsepower V6 engines that weigh 3,000 pounds, or to 35 mpg V8 musclecars of the same weight and 350+ horsepower become possible. Throw an L4 diesel of about 150 HP in such an aerodynamic car, and you'd easily have an 80 mpg midsize car that did 0-60 mph in 10 seconds. Reduce weight by about 600 pounds through cutting all useless fluff from the interior, acceleration would dramatically improve and city fuel economy would improve a bit as well.
With proper aerodynamics, it would actually be feasible to build a 150-200 mile range all-electric midsize sedan that used cheap flooded lead acid batteries, albeit it might weigh in the neighborhood of 4,000 pounds.
A Toyota Prius getting the fuel economy it does isn't rocket science; most of its gain isn't attributable to the hybrid drive so much as it is attributable to cleaner aerodynamics, a CVT, LRR tires, and a weight reduction of a few hundred pounds. That winning formula requires no fancy new technology, just a good design. But the auto industry would sooner drop dead than to actually deliver the best product it can, as it prefers to ration out advancements as slowly as possible to maximize profits on each one. As a result, advancements made in the 1930s have yet to see widespread use in today's cars(eg. aerodynamics). There is an exception to this rule: if it costs a lot of money and can fatten profit margins(usually to the expense of the buyer), the auto industry will adopt it immediately, as we have seen with today's integrated designs wherein one computer fails, you have to replace all parts associated with it(eg. 2001 and later Chevy Impalas).
Imagine how much less oil we would be consuming if 180 horsepower midsize cars got 45 mpg, instead of 27 mpg.