Steam-Car British Team Sets Sights on 170 mph

August 12, 2013
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British Steam-Car Team Sets Sights on 170 mph

Steam-Car British Team Sets Sights on 170 mph

British steampunks have successfully tested a steam-car they want to see race across the California desert at 170 mph. They aim to break a record that has stood for more than a century.

The British Steam-Car made several low-speed runs last week before uncorking the car’s 12 microboilers and 360-horsepower turbine Thursday. There’s no word on how hard driver Dan Wales pushed the car, but early reports indicate everything went well.

British Steam-Car Team Sets Sights on 170 mph

The campaign continues a British tradition for speed that dates from the 1920s and ’30s, when Sir Malcolm Campbell set several records on land and sea. Of course, speed is a relative term in a steam-powered car. The goal is to hit 170 mph, which is nothing for a Ferrari but more than enough to shatter the record Fred Marriott set in 1906 when he reached 127.659 mph behind the wheel of a Stanley Steamer Rocket.

A buck seventy is nothing compared to the the current land speed record of 763.035 766.609 mph, but the challenge is no less daunting. Engineers are trying for a modest speed, but the technology they’re using is no shrinking violet.

British Steam-Car Team Sets Sights on 170 mph

According to Popular Mechanics, the British Steam-Car uses liquefied petroleum gas and a dozen microboilers to generate the 3 megawatts of heat needed to create a steam temperature of 750 degrees Fahrenheit. The steam flows through 1.86 miles of tubing and several giant valves to a two-stage turbine spinning at 13,000 rpm and drives the rear wheels. The system can turn 10.5 gallons of water a minute into steam at 40 times atmospheric pressure.

“It’s a total-loss system,” project manager Matt Candy told Popular Mechanics. “We’re not condensing the steam or anything. We just throw it out the back and, as a consequence, we’re only about 10 percent thermally efficient.”

British Steam-Car Team Sets Sights on 170 mph

After making a successful low-speed run last week, the Steam-Car made several runs Wednesday and Thursday. The boilers built sufficient pressure and the safety system shut the car down when it detected a minor problem, according to the Telegraph. The rules require vehicles attempting a speed record to make two runs within an hour, so the crew practiced launching the vehicle and turning it around quickly before freezing temperatures forced them to pack it in.

British Steam-Car Team Sets Sights on 170 mph

The team hopes to make its run for the record next year and has been talking to officials at Edwards Air Force Base in California about running on a dry lake bed there. It’s also asking the Southern California Timing Association to help survey the course and time the run.

British Steam-Car Team Sets Sights on 170 mph

Steam-Car British Team Sets Sights on 170 mph

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