Al Inglis's son called him a hypermiler.
The 87-year-old Bluffton retiree laughs and says he has a different word for it: cheapskate.
Hypermilers, I discovered reading an op-ed piece by former U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, are people who wring every inch they can get from a drop of gasoline.
Extreme hypermilers may time trips to take advantage of tailwinds. They may resort to "rat running" -- cutting through side streets to avoid idling in traffic. They may redesign their cars to be more aerodynamic. They may even turn it into a sport. In a recent contest, a Honda Insight got 256 miles per gallon.
None of that fits Al Inglis, but he does like efficiency. He worked almost 40 years doing time and motion studies in a paper plant in Savannah.
"My 87-year-old dad in Bluffton, S.C., was into hypermiling before hypermiling was cool," Bob Inglis wrote in his essay carried by the Houston Chronicle and others. "It wasn't environmentalism that drove my industrial-engineer dad to get the maximum mileage out of a tank of gas. It was economic conservatism. 'Let off the accelerator as we pass by the Tarvers' house,' my dad used to tell us as he was teaching us to drive. 'Coast to our driveway. Don't wear out the brake linings. Don't burn up the gas.'
"Somewhere along the way -- while reacting against environmentalism -- we lost the conservation part of conservatism."
Bob Inglis goes on to say that the true cost of current fuels are disguised, and that holds back new and better ideas. Petroleum carries the hidden cost of national security in the Middle East, he said, and coal-fired plants impair the air and drive up hospital admissions.
"If we attached those hidden costs to petroleum and to coal, the free enterprise system could deliver the new fuels that (1) improve our national security, (2) create jobs and (3) clean up the air," wrote Bob Inglis, who was not considered conservative enough in South Carolina's Fourth District and was swept out of office during the GOP primary last year.
I suspect many of our fathers were hypermilers. My father, being a missionary, coasted down hills because we were always "running on fumes," which is closely related to running on "amazing grace."
Al and Helen Inglis paid 30 years of college tuition, so it's a wonder they didn't coast all over town, not just the quarter of a mile between Bill and Helen Tarver's place and the driveway to the their beautiful home on the May River.
"There was a book written along the 1970s about living within your means," Al Inglis said. "I tried to get all the kids to read it. None of them paid any attention to it."
But it did encourage the head of the household to spend less money.
While others were buying big boats and property, Al Inglis bought a series of used Chevrolet Vega cars for his kids. They drove the subcompacts well beyond the 100,000 mile mark, even, the father says, when they had to start putting heavier oil them, all the way up to the tractor's 80-weight oil.
"People say, 'Oh, my God, you had a Vega? That's horrible," Al Inglis says.
He looks back on it with a laugh, but he hasn't given up.
"I've thought of ways to try to sell economy in cars and on highways and I guess it's impossible," he told me last week. "People race up to red lights when they should take their foot off the pedal, coast up there and maybe the light would change.
"I guess it's freedom. I guess it's the pleasure or riding in a big new car down the road."
While his son worries about changing America's taxation system to encourage energy conservation and cleaner fuel, Al Inglis has a simpler solution.
"People could take fewer trips around town," he said. "We could put more people in each car to save trips. If we could eat into that, we wouldn't have to be worrying about running cars on water or air or something."
The old hypermiler calculates we need to get 10 percent of the cars got off the road, and those drivers could be home working in their garden.
I'm sure we'll put the brakes on that. It's too futuristic.