Land speed records absolutely fascinate me. While drag racing is fun and practical for most of us, land speed records require a lot more planning, power, and endurance. One of the most enduring records of the past century has been that for the Stanley Steamer, which set the land speed record of 127 mph back in 1906. It stood officially unbroken until last year, when a team of British engineers sent their Steam Kettle steam-powered car to a 148 mph run.
Now one American, Chuk Williams, is working on bringing that record back to America, according to Wired Magazine.
Chuk Williams is the man behind the project to bring the steam land speed record back to America, and he is a modern day steampunk. According to his website, he has built steam engines from a very young age, and seems quite enamored with them… and for good reason. America had a brief but inspired affair with steam cars until they died out prior to World War II. While, like any engine, they had their drawbacks (primarily the boiler) steam engines offered lots of power, reliability, and fuel efficiency during the age of bronze automobiles.
With two steam vehicles already under his belt, Chuk is gunning for the gold and the speed record. The project is called the Stream Liner, and he has just a rough mock up of the vehicle currently. But he also has two other operating steam powered vehicles. One is based on a Model T chassis and uses a V4 steam engine Chuk bought off of eBay. His other vehicle is a tubular-frame drag racer that has managed to run the 1/8th mile in about 9 seconds. Not exactly fast, but cool never-the-less.
For his land speed record car, Chuk plans on using a Cyclone steam engine. These external combustion engines have a thermal efficiency of about 30%, on par with many gas-powered internal combustion engines. The Cyclone engine can run on basically any gaseous fuel to superheat water into steam. The water also lubricates the system, eliminating the need for engine oil. Chuk is using a specially designed version of the Cyclone engine that should weigh around 200 pounds, make 180 horsepower, and has a starting torque of over 850 ft-lbs. Torque drops off to about 260 ft-lbs by 3,600 rpms. If the Stream Liner is light and slippery enough, that should be plenty of power to make it over 200 mph, which is Chuk’s goal.
Right now, he is looking for sponsors and donations on his website to make the land speed record happen. We’re rooting for for ya, Chuk!