A steam-driven car hissed and gurgled its way to 80mph on a test run on a Ministry of Defence runway yesterday. Its British builders hope that it will break the record of 127.7mph for a steam car set in 1906 by a Stanley Rocket.
The 25 ft car, nicknamed the fastest kettle in the world, was driven at Thorney Island airfield in West Sussex by Don Wales, 48, the nephew of the late Donald Campbell and the grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell, a former holder of the land speed record. The driver for its record attempt, on the bed of a lake at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave desert in California in June, will be Charles Burnett III, a nephew of Lord Montague of Beaulieu.
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The car weighs three tonnes and uses a parachute to help it to stop. It is made from a mixture of lightweight carbon-fibre composite and aluminium wrapped around a steel chassis and has twelve boilers containing almost two miles of tubing. Demineralised water is pumped into the boilers at up to 50 litres a minute. Steam is superheated to 750F and injected into the turbine at more than twice the speed of sound. It is hoped it will reach 170mph during the record attempt.
Mr Wales said: “The car really did handle beautifully. As it was building up steam, you could hear it gurgling.”