July 25, 2024

Adam Savage’s Favorite ‘Mythbusters’ Experiment: Transforming a Ford Taurus into a Golf Ball

Among all the episodes from its 14 years on air, “Mythbusters” co-host Adam Savage’s preferred outcome is the 2009 golf ball automobile attempt. This automotive experiment needed the team to coat a fourth-generation Ford Taurus in hundreds of pounds of clay and carve dimples into its surface to examine if it would enhance the Taurusgas efficiency. How could covering a car in dimples even start to enhance the original design’s aerodynamics? It works on golf balls, so why wouldn’t it work on a car? At least that’s what the myth suggested.

As a golf ball flies through the air, the dimples create turbulent air that actually forms a slipstream around the surface of the ball, allowing it to fly further than it would if it were smooth. The myth that the team put to the test was if adding the same dimples to the surface of a car would increase its gas efficiency.

Why “Golf Ball Car” Is Crucial in MythBusters’ History

Savage is especially pleased with this experiment because it was designed and executed using logical scientific methodology, where early in the show’s tenure the co-hosts were still discovering their footing as a science show. The “Mythbusters” collaborated with groups from the Academy of Art University’s automotive department, utilized NASA technology to test prototypes, and conducted elaborate tests to arrive at their conclusions. Savage regards this experiment as the “Mythbusters” team’s finest execution of myth busting, though the results actually validated the myth.

After a series of precise gas economy tests between the unmodified Taurus and the golf ball Taurus, they determined the golf ball car achieved approximately 14 percent better gas efficiency than the stock car. To put a 14-percent increase in gas efficiency into perspective, that would elevate a 25 mpg rating to 28.5 mpg, or a 30 mpg rating to a 34.2 mpg rating.

The “Mythbusters” findings were so significant that it even caught the attention of a Big Three automaker who tried the same experiment with a preexisting clay model, though they profess to have discovered different results. Savage mentioned it felt satisfying to waste a major company’s time and it felt satisfying to be influencing professional scientists. Thanks for your service, Mr. Savage.


1. What was the Mythbusters’ 2009 golf ball car experiment about?

The experiment involved covering a fourth-generation Ford Taurus in clay and carving dimples into its surface to test if it would improve the car’s gas efficiency.

2. What were the results of the golf ball car experiment?

The results showed that the golf ball car achieved about 14 percent better gas efficiency than the unmodified Taurus.


The 2009 golf ball car experiment remains a pivotal moment in the history of Mythbusters, showcasing the team’s dedication to scientific methodology and innovative myth-busting techniques. Despite the initial skepticism, the results of the experiment proved the validity of the myth, highlighting the importance of experimentation and thinking outside the box in scientific endeavors.

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