The world is more focused on green energy and saving the environment from our dino-fuel more than ever today. But, Opel and Shell had an experiment brewing back in 1973 that would put even the most fuel-efficient vehicles of today to shame. Meet the 1959 Opel P-1, not to be confused with the McLaren P1.
In 1973, the 1959 Opel P-1, an experimental Opel and Shell Gasoline prototype vehicle, shattered a world record for distance traveled on a single gallon of petroleum. That number was 376 miles to the gallon, and it still stands as a record today for its vehicle size.
The Opel P-1 is essentially a CaraVan station wagon with a chopped roof to be made into a pickup.
The stock pushrod engine was mildly modified by Shell to achieve the record in Wood River, Illinois. The four-cylinder engine is almost completely insulated, and mated to a two-speed chain drive. Air induction was dubbed “strange” due to its carburetor’s three-quarter bore, and its rear wheels are connected to the center of the axle.
Following its achievement, it found a home at the Talledega SuperSpeedways’ Motorsports Hall of Fame before being forgotten about entirely. Upon its rediscovery, as the entity began selling off assets, the Opel became the source of reignited news as a historic achievement. The vehicle was sold off by the Hall of Fame without recognizing its achievements before landing at a Seattle collector car dealer.
In 2008, the vehicle was brought to Doug Lemay’s attention, owner of the LeMay Family Collection Foundation. The Opel required zero restoration, and has been untouched since its record setting test.
The 1959 Opel now resides in the LeMay collection, and is open to public viewing to take in the incredible record Opel and Shell was able to accomplish.