Clessie L. Cummins

Inducted 1973

Became the first American to build and install diesel engines in trucks, buses and passenger cars

Patented 30 products and processes including many fuel injection systems for his engines

Clessie Cummins proved that actions speak louder than words. By the time he was 12, Cummins had built and operated a steam engine. But it was his showmanship that distinguished him from other innovators. He founded the Cummins Engine Company in 1919 and began building marine diesels. Ten years later, when his bank threatened to liquidate his company, Cummins installed the first diesel engine in a car and demonstrated it to his banker. The banker was intrigued, and Cummins’ business survived and grew. Cummins later drove the same diesel-powered car some 800 miles to the New York Auto Show on just $1.38 worth of gas. The following year a Cummins diesel-powered vehicle entered the Indianapolis 500, placing 12th — without a single pit stop. Cummins’ efforts paid off slowly and diesel engines gained increasing acceptance, especially for long distance trucking. Cummins’ brother and colleague, Don, summed up their efforts saying “It was fun…we did it because it had to be done.”

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