Ole Bardahl manufactures oil treatment for automobiles in 1939.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 4/28/2002
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3752
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In 1939, Norwegian immigrant Ole Bardahl (1902-1989) founds Bardahl Manufacturing Company and produces an oil treatment for automobiles. Bardahl developed a formula that increases the adhesion of oil in engines, improving performance and reducing wear. In the 1950s, Bardahl will sponsor a variety of racing vehicles including motorcycles, snowmobiles, unlimited race cars, and unlimited hydroplanes.

Bardahl migrated to Ballard from Norway in 1922, finding employment in sawmills. He learned English by listening to street evangelists and he eventually became a successful home builder. Bardahl was always interested in automobiles and wanted to improve the way motor oil lubricated and cooled engines. After several years of experimentation, he developed a formula that increased the film strength of oil. Engine wear was reduced by as much as 40 percent.

In 1939, Bardahl purchased a small Ballard chemical company and began producing his oil treatment. Sales for the first year were $188.53. By 1947, the figure was $200,000.

To test new products, Bardahl gave his formulations to local automobile racers. He expanded his involvement to sponsoring racing teams that fielded all manner of land, water, air, and snow racing vehicles. Bardahl unlimited hydroplanes won five Gold Cups and six National Championships.



Adam Woog, Sexless Oysters and Self-Tipping Hats: 100 Years of Invention in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1991), 162-163.

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