By Jim Taylor, Editor, MACS ACtion Magazine
This one’s way off-topic, but still too cool to let pass without mention. Ya’ gotta’ like these guys.
For the last few years, both our industry and the general press have been abuzz with all aspects of alternate fuels and new powerplants. Right now electric drive seems to have credence, but vehicles powered by propane, CNG, bio-alcohols, hydrogen and even solar are being developed. Some is genuine new technology, while other developments are being drawn from revisiting old ideas. In some cases, very old technology.
Chuck Williams and his team recently announced their intent to go after the land speed record using an alternate power technology—steam!
Although the many of the very early self-propelled vehicles were steam powered, the speed record list for the class of vehicle is surprisingly short. It was initially established at 127.65 mph in 1906 by driver Fred Marriott in, yes, a Stanley Steamer at Daytona Beach. A few others tried to break that record, but the rapid development of gasoline engines pushed steam to fringes and that record stood unbroken for many years.
In the mid-1980s, a British team brought their steam car to the Bonneville Salt Flats, and cranked out a 145.6 mph run. But no joy for the record; their car caught fire after the first run and could not complete the required second pass in the opposite direction to establish the record.
It wasn’t until 2009 that the record fell officially, more than 100 years after it was set. Another British steam-powered streamliner ran 136.1 mph in one direction and 151.08 mph on the return, for an average of 148.31mph. That’s the target for the U.S. Land Steam Record Team.
USLRT is building its own streamliner, hoping to break the British hold on the steam-powered land speed record.
Their car will use the Cyclone engine, Harry Schoell’s intriguing external combustion device that uses water as both its working fluid and as a lubricant. Developers say it can operate at super-critical pressures and temperatures, and Cyclone claims their motor is capable of running on virtually any liquid or gaseous fuel, including 100% bio-fuels. The team is confident that with the assistance of their engineers and designers, 160 mph is quite possible from the engine/chassis combination.
Steam—from the past to the future?
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The 32nd annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Convention and Trade Show will take place January 18-20, 2012 at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.