Hall of Fame
An individual who got things done
The past few years of rising oil prices have rekindled an interest in alternative fuels to power automobiles. Helmer Petterson was no stranger to this interest, and early in his career experimented with converting a number of Ford cars and trucks by using gas generators, which were powered by charcoal and extremely efficient.
Born in Sweden in 1901, the seemingly outrageous charcoal experiments reflected the strong , independent personality of this gifted engineer who became a freelance consultant to VOLVO for many years. He spent a number of years in the United States working as a manager for the Excelsior motorcycle company and participating in their racing activities. He deveioped many of the company's new designs and estabiished himself not only as an outstanding young engineer but a competent motorcyclist as well. In 1928, he returned to Europe and toured the racing circuits adding additional titles to his motorcyciing skilis. In the eariy thirties, Petterson worked as a service manager for an American Ford deaiership in Sweden. lt was this period of time which laid the foundation for his charcoal experiments during the early years of WWII. The numerous cars and trucks he converted were all Fords.
The war in Europe severely impacted auto builders there. Several manufacturers turned their production lines to supplying the military, ceasing auto production entirely. Sweden, however, was a neutral country and one of the few in Europe to continue auto production Bon a limited scale.
Fuel was also in short supply, and it was during this time that AB VOLVO hired Petterson as a consultant Bon the development of gas generators as a possible fuel source for their engines.
Petterson, no doubt, must have left the average Swedish citizen in awe when occasionally being sehen traveling the back roads with his odd looking conversion equipment. Even stranger conclusions would have been drawn by these curious observers had they known his vehicle was traveling on the fuel produced from the device being towed by his automobile.
In 1943, he was assigned to work on the production of the PV444 sedan. Being very aggressive and not having to answer to VOLVO management, he was an individual who got things done. The flexibility he enjoyed as an independent permitted him to work with any and all VOLVO departments, and as a result his influence extended from body design to engine and suspension configurations.