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Published on August 20th, 2009 | by Joanna Schroeder

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‘Fastest Kettle in the World’ Racing to Break 103 Year-Old Steam Powered Land Speed Record

August 20th, 2009 by  
 

[social_buttons] After several set backs last week, yesterday the British Steam Car Team unofficially broke the 103 year-old world steam-powered land speed record. The speed record has been held for more than a century by American Fred Marriott, who in 1906, drove a “Stanley Steamer” car 127 miles per hour (mph). The teams own calibrated equipment measured the two way average of 137.14 mph and a 48 min, 52 second turn-around.

At the wheel will be tri-national Charles Burnett III, a multimillionaire born in England to a Canadian mother and American father. The car, which looks like an over sized rocket on wheels, is nicknamed the “fastest kettle in the world”.

In the pit will be Don Wales, the nephew Donald Campbell, who is the grandson of racing legend Sir Malcolm Campbell. Should Burnett be unable to race, Wales will take the wheel for the world record attempt.

Times change and as we get fatter and our cars get larger and heavier, the British Steam Car is not an exception. The car is nearly two-times the size and four times as heavy as the “Stanley Steamer” yet has been engineered to run at speeds just shy of 170 mph. The British Steam Car can pump out 8.8 gallons of steam a minute, and its boilers can go through 220 gallons of water in 25 minutes which is heated to temperatures of 725F to power the turbine engine.

The car has been in development for eight years and was built in Lymington, Hants and tested at the Ministry of Defence’s Thorney Island base near Portsmouth. However, the team chose to make its run on the speed record at Edwards Air Force Base in California because the track is longer.

The sanctioning body that will recognize the attempt is the FIA. A land speed record will be recognized as the average speed of two passes made across the same measured distance in opposing directions within 60 minutes of each other. The time of the two runs is then averaged to obtain the official recorded speed.

“It was an enormous achievement on Saturday and one we hope to replicate now that the FIA timing officials have joined us today,” wrote Matt Candy, Project Manager on the team’s website. The timing equipment is currently being set up cross the 6 mile lake bed. When we left England we knew we had a tough challenge ahead, but we had carried out all the testing we could. Since arriving in the U.S. the team has had to do a lot of preparations to the car with the effects of heat, altitude and the surface conditions.”

Vehicle Specs

Length                          7.663m

Width                           1.700m

Tall                               1.700m

Weight                          3 tons

Engine                          Two state turbine / 13,000 rpm max / turbine revs

Transmission                Rear wheel drive

Horsepower                  268 kw / 360 hp

Top Speed                    274 kph / 170 mph

Fuel                              LPG – Liquid Petroleum Gas / 3 megawatts of heat

Burners                        1500 kettles / 23cups of tea per second

Boilers                          12 – over 3 km of tubing

Superheated Steam       Flow rate 40 litres per min.

Temp                            400°C

Pressure                       400 kN/m-2 / 40 bar

Chassis                         Steel space frame

Steering                        Rack and pinion to front wheels

Body                             Front section carbon composite / rear section aluminum panels

Water Capacity             140 litres distilled water / 1,000 litres (1 ton) of water used every 25 mins.

Gas Capacity                60 litres

Air System                   30,000 kN/m-2 / 300 bar

Batteries                      4 x 90 Ah batteries

Tires                            Goodyear Speed Eagles 23 x 15





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About the Author

Joanna is a writer and consultant specializing in renewable energy and sustainable agriculture issues.



  • Interesting design. It’s amazing how a steam car can reach those speeds.

  • Interesting design. It’s amazing how a steam car can reach those speeds.

  • ChuckL

    Why so very slow?

  • ChuckL

    Why so very slow?

  • For more information on this car and steam cars in general check out my web site at….. http://www.steamcar.net regards, Jeff.

  • For more information on this car and steam cars in general check out my web site at….. http://www.steamcar.net regards, Jeff.

  • JTP

    Good for them! But I am way more impressed by the Stanley Steamer at 127 mph.

  • Steve Shurts

    What a monstrosity… 12 boilers with three kilometers of boiler tubes? That’s ridiculous. The Stanley Steamer could easily best that speed by updating the body to a streamliner, thus reducing the frontal area of the original, and by using modern components of carbon fiber, etc. Why do they need to put out 3MW? Sorry, but this design offers no advancements – just a gimmick…

  • Steve Shurts

    What a monstrosity… 12 boilers with three kilometers of boiler tubes? That’s ridiculous. The Stanley Steamer could easily best that speed by updating the body to a streamliner, thus reducing the frontal area of the original, and by using modern components of carbon fiber, etc. Why do they need to put out 3MW? Sorry, but this design offers no advancements – just a gimmick…

  • Jo

    @JTP

    I couldn’t agree more! Imagine how fast the Steamer would have gone with decent aero!! Something’s up with this kettle thing unless it hits that 170 number they mentioned, I think.

  • Jo

    @JTP

    I couldn’t agree more! Imagine how fast the Steamer would have gone with decent aero!! Something’s up with this kettle thing unless it hits that 170 number they mentioned, I think.

  • Why so very slow??

  • Why so very slow??

  • Erik

    It is so interesting!!! I’ve read something of the kind (found at http://filesmixx.com ), but this article made me understand much more!

  • Erik

    It is so interesting!!! I’ve read something of the kind (found at http://filesmixx.com ), but this article made me understand much more!

  • Rion

    I would just like to point out that a steam locomotive in 1938 went 125.88mph while pulling a train (wikipedia). Not too far behind this record…

  • Rion

    I would just like to point out that a steam locomotive in 1938 went 125.88mph while pulling a train (wikipedia). Not too far behind this record…

  • @ Rion

    EPIC find!

  • @ Rion

    EPIC find!

  • greg

    103 years and substantial improvements in support technology and the British Steam Car manages 10mph faster than a Stanley Steamer.

    Hmmnnn……

  • greg

    103 years and substantial improvements in support technology and the British Steam Car manages 10mph faster than a Stanley Steamer.

    Hmmnnn……

  • Steve Shurts

    Well, the beast set the record today… It reached a whopping (almost) 140 mph – with a mere 3MW of power. For those of you interested in such trivia, that is equivalent to 4020 hp. In the meantime, 500 cc motorcycles are required to run at least 163 mph at Bonneville to even qualify.

    What do you bet that they are no where near 4000 hp behemoths? Want to make any bets on fuel economy? This thing is crap. It doesn’t take any skill to throw more and more power to go faster – it takes a big wallet…

  • Steve Shurts

    Well, the beast set the record today… It reached a whopping (almost) 140 mph – with a mere 3MW of power. For those of you interested in such trivia, that is equivalent to 4020 hp. In the meantime, 500 cc motorcycles are required to run at least 163 mph at Bonneville to even qualify.

    What do you bet that they are no where near 4000 hp behemoths? Want to make any bets on fuel economy? This thing is crap. It doesn’t take any skill to throw more and more power to go faster – it takes a big wallet…

  • S.L. Lady Anne

    In 1907 Fred Marriott returned to Ormond Beach Florida with the Stanley Rocket to reset his first record. Engineers from M I T were there and set up timers along the measured mile. At the half mile point the Stanley rocket was clocked at just under 190 mph just before the car caught a berm in the sand and was sent airborne destroying the car and nearly killing Marriott. The Stanley Rocket was not a production car but a specially prepared car weighing less than 1300 lb. with an aerodynamic and streamlined body.

    At that time the speeds that were developed with the propulsion available were and are still truly amazing. Consider that even if the half mile time at 190 mph. was set as the established record careful calculations show it would have taken the British 425 years and a car weighing 12.75 tons to best the Yanks.

  • S.L. Lady Anne

    In 1907 Fred Marriott returned to Ormond Beach Florida with the Stanley Rocket to reset his first record. Engineers from M I T were there and set up timers along the measured mile. At the half mile point the Stanley rocket was clocked at just under 190 mph just before the car caught a berm in the sand and was sent airborne destroying the car and nearly killing Marriott. The Stanley Rocket was not a production car but a specially prepared car weighing less than 1300 lb. with an aerodynamic and streamlined body.

    At that time the speeds that were developed with the propulsion available were and are still truly amazing. Consider that even if the half mile time at 190 mph. was set as the established record careful calculations show it would have taken the British 425 years and a car weighing 12.75 tons to best the Yanks.

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