If you’re into fast cars, you’ll have heard about Bloodhound SSC, the British-built land speed record car that promises to explode through the 1000mph barrier. You may not have heard about the second fastest LSR car that’s currently in development in the UK though. And you should have, because although it won’t be as fast as Richard Noble’s Bloodhound, in many ways it’s even more interesting.
The British Steam Car Project started life 10 years ago as an end-of-year engineering challenge at the University of Southampton. This June the car that project created will attempt to crack Fred Marriott’s 103-year-old land speed record for a steam-driven car, at Andrew’s Air Force Base, California.
If this car, which its makers have christened ‘Inspiration’, hits 128mph it will beat Marriott’s ‘Stanley Steamer’ and break the steam world record. If it hits 146mph it will also beat the ‘Steamin’ Demon’, which became the unofficial steam car world record holder in 1985, but only achieved the speed in one direction. And if it goes as fast as expected – 170mph – it will become the quickest steam-driven vehicle ever.
Sending a car like this to close to 200mph is no mean feat; even 180 years after Stevenson’s Rocket, boiling water still does not lend itself well to mobile applications. ‘Inspiration’ has 12 boilers that contain over three kilometres of 4mm tubing. It’s LPG-fuelled; the gas heats the water, and once the water’s been ‘superheated’ to 400 degrees, the water drives the car’s twin turbines. And the complication doesn’t end there.