Test Report on Those Gas-Saving Gadgets

Jim Dunne and Charles Bishop plan the test sequence, with the various gadgets laid out on the test vehicle’s hood.

One-gallon fuel container is strapped to passenger seat, with fifth-wheel odometer clamped down in front of it.

Fifth wheel is hooked to the rear bumper of the Olds Cutlass by Bishop. PS team is ready for base-line test.

Glowing claims and persuasive arguments tempt new buyers of add-on devices every year.  Here is our latest on-the-car use report.

Does your mailbox now and then contain letters promising to cut your gasoline costs to as little as one cent a mile if you'll only send the writer a small check and fit his invention on your car? Or do you receive intriguing leaflets boosting products that claim to make your cylinders into miniature gas refineries and triple spark-plug life? Perhaps you have even been tempted to order and install one of these "miracle workers." If so, good luck.  If not, we have done it for you.

Here is a report on a series of uniform tests by the PS car-testing team of eight "gas-saving" gadgets.  It was run under strictly controlled conditions, though we cannot pretend to the same precision as in laboratory tests.  Our test technician, Charles Bishop, runs the repair shop for B. J. Corrigan's Gulf station at Bridge-hampton, N. Y.  He installed the gadgets on our test car, a '68 Olds Cutlass S with a 310-horsepower, 350-cubic-inch V-8, four-speed manual transmission, 3.23:1 final drive ratio, and F70-14 tires.  The engine was properly tuned and timed, and we never altered the settings.

How we tested.  We used the Bridge-hampton race circuit, where we established a test cycle by letting Norbye drive around the track at normal speed (while Dunne made notes), running at 60 m.p.h. on the straights and slowing to 45 on the turns, except for one turn at 30.  On the back straight, we made a full stop and let the engine idle for 10 seconds.  To eliminate any possibility of partiality toward any gadget, which might show up in the driving, Norbye did not know which one Bishop had installed.

We had a one-gallon fuel container inside the car; the exact distance the gas took us was recorded on an electric odometer (driven by a fifth wheel), giving us a miles-per-gallon reading accurate to within one-thousandth of a mile.  To cancel the effect of up or down gradient on the track, we braked the car to a normal stop (0.35g retardation) instead of letting it roll to a standstill when the gasoline was used up.

We also ran a 25-70-m.p.h. acceleration test (average of two runs in opposite directions) with each gadget to check its effect on engine power.  Our first test was to run the car in standard form.  Temperature was 51 degrees, humidity 40 percent, barometric pressure 30.9 inches, and wind velocity 1.5 m.p.h. from NE.  Gas mileage: 10.755 m.p.g. From 25 to 70 m.p.h.: 8.4 seconds.


Distributed by American Automotive Units, 550 Fifth Ave., NYC 10036.
Cost: $6.95.
Installation time: 1/2 hour.

This unit is inserted in the gas line between the fuel pump and carburetor, where it is supposed to level out pressure waves in the fuel flow.  The ads claim that it enables your engine "to extract more raw, blazing energy and more gasoline economy."  The car ran normally in the consumption test but power flattened out at 60 in the acceleration test, with all the symptoms of fuel starvation.
Gas mileage was 10.9 m.p.g. From 25 to 70 m.p.h.: 9.6 seconds.

Fitting the Gas-O-Miser on the intake manifold was an easy half-hour's jab, said Bishop.  This was one gadget that save a slight improvement in both the performance and the economy tests.


Distributed by Lempco Products, 5490 Dunham Rd., Bedford, Ohio. Cost: $15.95.
Installation time: 1/2 hour.

This unit is a vacuum-control valve designed to prevent gasoline from being sucked into the engine by a sudden drop in manifold pressure.  It mounts on the intake manifold and admits extra air whenever the throttle is suddenly closed.  The maker claims better acceleration, better winter starting, reduced oil consumption and engine wear, plus up to 25-percent savings on gas.
Gas mileage: 10.887 m.p.g. From 25 to 70 m.p.h.: 8.3 seconds.

Octa-Gane installation took twice as long as any of the other test installations, and called for drilling and tapping one hole in carburetor body.  The tank contains a 50/50 mixture of water and alcohol, which is injected into the carburetor throat according to manifold vacuum (engine load).


Distributed by J. C. Whitney & Co., 1917 Archer Ave., Chicago 60616. Cost: $29.95.
Installation time: one hour.

The Octa-Gane kit includes a separate tank for under-hood installation, containing a 50/50 mixture of water and alcohol.  An injector operating on manifold pressure allows the water/alcohol mix to enter the carburetor throat below the throttle valve.  This is claimed to stop pre-ignition, get high-octane performance from low-octane gas, cool the engine internally, and improve fuel economy.
Gas mileage: 10.65 m.p.g. From 25 to 70 m.p.h.: 8.7 seconds.


Distributed by J. C. Whitney & Co. Cost: $6.
Installation time: 1/2 hour.

This unit is a fuel-pressure regulator with a diaphragm designed to maintain a steady four-p.s.i. delivery pressure in the fuel line into the carburetor (against eight p.s.i. standard) - It has the added feature of an over-ride on full throttle, so that pressure can rise to a full eight p.s.i. for acceleration.  The maker claims improved fuel economy, prevention of flooding, stalling, and hard starting.
Gas mileage: 10.19 m.p.g. From 25 to 70 m.p.h.: 8.0 seconds.


Distributed by J. C. Whitney & Co. Cost: $11.92 per set of eight.
Installation time: 1/2 hour.

The Fire Injector is really nothing but a spark plug with six surface gaps.  The maker claims improved fuel economy, gains in horsepower.
Gas mileage: 10.6 m.p.g. From 25 to 70 m.p.h.: 8.55 seconds.

Three more gadgets remained to be tested at the end of the first day.  We resumed operations the following morning, when temperature was 55 degrees, humidity 48 percent, barometric pressure 31 inches, and wind velocity 0.5 m.p.h. NW.  Accordingly, we ran a new base-line test with the car before adding gadgets.
Gas mileage: 12.288 m.p.g. From 25-70 m.p.h.: 8.4 seconds.


Distributor: Albert R. Charles, Inc., 18 Marshall St., Norwalk, Conn. 06856. Cost: $9.95.
Installation time: five minutes.

This unit replaces the rotor in the standard distributor.  In addition to firing the right plug, it is supposed to "supercharge the gas-air mixture" by breaking up the gasoline molecules and speeding ignition.
Gas mileage: 11.44 m.p.g. From 25 to 70 m.p.h.: 8.25 seconds.


Distributed by J. C. Whitney & Co. Cost: $1.50.
Installation: 15 minutes.

The air-flow needle is designed to bleed extra air into the carburetor throat under high-vacuum conditions.  Maker's claims include better idling, reduced carbon deposits, faster acceleration, reduced oil dilution.
Gas mileage: 11.87 m.p.g. From 25 to 70 m.p.h.: 7.9 seconds.


Distributed by Em El Associates, 590 Main St., Monroe, Conn. 06468. Cost: $5.95.
Installation time: 1/2 hour.

This unit is a fuel-line pressure-control device, restricting delivery to three p.s.i.  The makers "absolutely guarantee an increase of at least 20 percent on gas mileage or your money back."  They also say the unit prevents vapor lock, gives smoother idling and faster starts, prevents flooding and stalling, and increases engine life.
Gas mileage: 11.784 m.p.g. From 25 to 70: 9.25 seconds.


Our main conclusion is that changes in the weather made more difference in fuel economy than any of the gadgets.  Beyond having negligible effects, some either improved performance at some loss of economy, or vice versa.

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