I’ve always enjoyed the antics of Jesse James, the motorcycle mogul who owns the custom bike shop West Coast Customs. He was the star of Monster Garage, where him and a team of equally-eccentric characters were challanged with creating oddball rides, such as an ambulance that does wheelies. That is one trip to the hospital I wouldn’t mind. But he isn’t exactly what I would call an “enviromentally concious” person, especially after last week’s episode of Jesse James Is A Dead Man, where Mr. James was tearing across through housing projects and golf courses in a nitrous-injected Camaro.
But apparently the idea of breaking the land speed record for hydrogen cars has been on his mind for some time now. Last Wednesday, Jesse blew past the current record of 185 mph and set a new record of 199.7 mph
It seems technically, Jesse James set no record, according to the Southern California Timing Association. What he did do was exceed the current land speed record, going 199.7 mph for a distance for 132 feet. While still impressive, it is not technically a new world record, as that requires two mile-long runs within one hour of each other.
After three attempts and much too much dust blowing into the cockpit, Jesse was stopped just short of the 200mph club on the flats of the El Mirage dry lake bed. On hand was Mike Cook, who currently holds four land speed records, including three at El Mirage. His vehicle of choice is a 1932-34 Hi-Boy hot rod powered by one of three Chevy small or big block engines. Taking a cue from Mike, Jesse adopted a former land speed racer, (take a breath) the Dees-Milodon Engineering-Davis B Streamliner. This car had gone as fast as 237mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats, but was converted for a much higher purpose by Jesse.
Jesse and crew started with a run-of-the-mill 572 Chevy big block V8, and then converted it to run on hydrogen gas. Not as easy as it sounds; whereas a normal V8 has eight fuel injectors, this one had 24 (three per cylinder if you’re counting). Since the point of Jesse’s show is to try and off himself, there certainly needs to be a dangerous element, in this case the potential for explosive engine failure. Should the hydrogen gas, stored in three 5,000 psi tanks provuded by Quantum Technologies, ignite back into the intake runners, there would be a very big boom. So long, low-profile intake runners were specially designed to fit into the silo-shaped race car. The nose was also filled with water and ice to keep engine temperatures below 170 degrees (the autoignition temperature for hydrogen is nearly 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, but why take chances?)
After solving the problem of excessive cockpit dust with duct tape and cardboard, they had to open up the air intake with snips, hammers, and a baseball bat. To make sure the car had enough oxygen, of course. The end result is the fastest land speed record for a hydrogen powered car that emitted no pollution during its three record attempts. While just shy of the 200 mph club, Jesse has raised my expectations for hydrogen cars. All we need now is an entire infrastructure and some committed car companies to make it happen.
Still, it makes me think about other, even more obscure land-speed records waiting to be broken…