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

[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

Joanna Schroeder

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