Brit Steam Car Gearing Up for 170 mph Run at Bonneville

THORNEY ISLAND, England — “No one goes round the back, there’s 360 horsepower of colorless death ’round there.”

    It was a statement that made nearby fireman at a secure military base here prick up their ears. The British Steam Car, a potential Land Speed Record breaker, wasn’t belching its intense fire when it revved up on a track for the first time today, so there was no need for the firefighters’ services. Still, loose talk about dangerous infernos from Matt Candy, the vehicle’s project manager, was bound to get their attention.

Beyond the cockpit its the LPG gas fuel tanks, the water tank, the firebox, the super heaters, the valves and then between the wheels, the two-stage turbine.

    The Jules-Verne-meets-Batmobile vehicle is being loaded up for a trip across the Atlantic, bound for the Bonneville Salt Flats and a potential rendezvous with racing history in late August. Burning liquid petroleum gas at 750° F to pressurize that 360-hp Curtis turbine, the 25-ft.-long Steam Car can turn 10.5 gallons of water a minute into some boiling-hot action for the record books—and wicked fast, with velocities in excess of 150 mph. That’s not much compared to the absolute land speed record of 763 mph, but it would be enough to top the 88-year-old international steam record of 127.66 mph . The target speed for later this summer: 170 mph.

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