There are plenty of world records to tackle, but until recently the steam-powered land speed record stood unbroken for decades. Then a British team beat it, and now an American named Chuk Williams is taking his shot at the record.
Chuk Williams, of the U.S. Land Steam Record Team, has outfitted a dragster with a Cyclone steam engine that uses a patent pending design to produce quite a bit of power using water and any kind of fuel you want to feed it, including biofuels. The tiny steam engine in this dragster produces 860 ft-lbs of torque at 1 RPM. Wow.
Interestingly enough, the Cyclone engine can eventually spin up to 3,600 rpm, where it makes 100 horsepower and 140 ft-lbs of torque. Which kind of confuses me, as your normal ICE engine makes more power at high RPM’s before tapering off. I guess I don’t know as much as I’d like to about steam engines, but Williams expects his steam dragster to go 200 mph using the Cyclone engine. That’s awfully fast, even for a lightened dragster, and in part its because the engine only tips the scales at 336 pounds, and it is small enough to fit under the hood of just about any car (hmm…)
Chuk aims to bring the steam powered land speed record back to America after Britain’s “Team Inspiration” took the “worlds fastest kettle” and set a new land speed record of 148 mph. It was piloted by Don Wales, the same fellow who is gunning for the U.K. electric land speed record. Before that, the record was held by Fred Marriott who set a speed record of 127 mph…in 1906!
The big difference between the British “kettle” and William’s Cyclone dragster is that the kettle features complicated and intricate plumbing. The Cyclone is simple enough to retrofit to a modern car. Testing is under way, and its not clear when they plan to make a shot at the record. I don’t expect everybody to rush out and by steam engines to put under their hoods any time soon, but it does give us another option to help wean ourselves off of oil. And as I’ve said before, racing is a great way to show off different ideas to get around, and I wouldn’t mind a steam-powered car myself. That would stand out at the car show!
Would anybody here like to see a steam-powered project car, and what would you put a steam engine into if you had the choice?
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to Hemis. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.