It took more than 100 years before the British turned their hand to securing the steam powered Land Speed Record, when the British Inspiration team completed two runs at an average of 148mph. The record, set in 2009, was taken from the Americans, and they now want it back.
Clearly irked by the British holding yet another record, the Americans have taken an incredible steam engine, modified a Ron Main chassis, and in five months with around $500,000, have created a car that it hopes will power Nelson Hoyos to 200mph early in 2013. Just to make sure the British don’t think that they can step back into the arena for another 100 years, the team has another engine that will take the car to 400mph.
Clearly the rivalry between the two countries is as chipper as ever – the car was displayed at the PRI Show in Orlando with 1777 emblazoned on the tail fin. For the Brits, this date is significant because it was the year that Dolly Pentreath died, the last fluent speaker of the Cornish language. For the animal lovers, it was the date that T’ui Malila was born, the longest living animal on record, a tortoise that died in 1965.
For the Americans, however, it is a date that holds interest because it was during this year that the rebels unsportingly tricked the British army into defeat at Saratoga, New York, a fact that Hoyos was delighted to point out to me at the show. So delighted was he, in fact, that he insisted that I become the first Brit to sit in his car. Clearly unaware of my reputation for breaking things, he allowed me to climb aboard and sit in the cockpit.
It smelled of defeat. And no, despite pushing and pulling various switches, I didn’t break anything. Even when I kicked the car. ‘You won’t hurt it,’ said Hoyos, with annoying satisfaction.
From an engineering point of view, however, it might work. The car uses a patented Cyclone system that uses water as both its working fluid, and lubricant, meaning that it can operate at extremely high temperatures without oil in the system. The water can be super-heated by virtually anything combustible, including kerosene, alcohol, gasoline or diesel. First designed for military use in a submarine, its designer Harry Shoell wants to raise the profile of his technology and linked with drag racer Hoyos to create a steam driven record car.
The compact engine produces 850lbs/ft of torque, is extremely compact, and produces 100bhp at 3,600 rpm. With this power, no transmission is needed. The bigger engine produces more than 2,000lbs/ft of torque and will require a bit more engineering, but as the chassis can handle 400mph, the team is confident that it can achieve this milestone comfortably.
This is a project that could be put into production. Who wouldn’t want an engine that is versatile enough to work underwater and power a land speed record car?
In the spirit of generosity, we at London-based Racecar Engineering, wish Team Steam USA luck with their record attempt. But for now Britain still has the fastest kettle in the world. Cup of tea anyone?