Clessie L. Cummins an Indiana automotive pioneer

Courtesy The Diesel Odyssey of Clessie Cummins
Courtesy The Diesel Odyssey of Clessie Cummins

Clessie L. Cummins’ automotive adventures started before finishing the eighth grade when he stated, “I want to be a machinist and make things.” He started his journey of achievements when he served on the pit crew of the first winner of the Indianapolis 500 mile race in 1911, Ray Harroun. Ten years later, he had incorporated the Cummins Engine Company in Columbus and received two patents for fuel injection on diesel engines.

Cummins introduced the automotive diesel to the United States in January 1930 in a 792-mile trip from Indianapolis to the New York Automobile Show. The trip required 30 gallons of fuel at a total cost of $1.38. In August 1930, a Cummins diesel-powered truck set a coast-to-coast record of 97 hours and 20 minutes on $11.22 in fuel. In 1931, the Cummins truck set a non-stop record around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 13,535 miles. The number 8 Cummins Diesel also started the 1931 Indianapolis 500 in the sixth row and finished the race nonstop. The diesel-powered car finished 13th with an average speed of 86.17 m.p.h.

In 1955, he launched Cummins Enterprises Company to develop his new ideas. He immediately patented the diesel engine brake. He also introduced new fuel injection metering pumps in the late 50’s.

Clessie Cummins worked on his mechanical dreams throughout his life. In a career spanning more than 56 years, his inventive genius garnered 33 U. S. patents and numerous honors for his pioneering achievements.

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