Some time in the past I featured the Howmet TX in an episode of The Petrolhead Corner. The Howmet TX is a turbine-powered Le Mans prototype from the 1970s, which featured a gasoline turbine engine from a helicopter. A comparatively easy wanting machine with fairly a little bit of unusual know-how beneath its swooping physique. I knew this wasn’t the one gasoline turbine-powered race automotive ever made, so how about we examine a number of different automobiles too? Welcome to a different bizarre Petrolhead Nook episode!
Turbine powered automobiles have a really peculiar attribute, one which I’ve but to expertise in actual life for myself. I’ve been to fairly a number of motorsports occasions in my life and regardless that I get pleasure from a screaming piston-driven engine as a lot as the following petrolhead, I’ve by no means heard a gasoline turbine-powered automotive whizz by on the straights aside from by means of the fantastic world of YouTube. However even then, I get a tingle down my backbone as a Howmet TX blasts by making that oh so uncommon sound (for a automotive not less than). The know-how in turbine engines is comparatively unknown to me, however most essential factor to know is that it’s a lot much less complicated because it might sound. One of many advantages of a turbine engine is sort of a number of much less transferring elements in comparison with an inner combustion engine, with the opposite being immediate energy supply. Maybe the largest disadvantage is the very fact a turbine engine isn’t constructed to decelerate, take a nook, after which speed up once more. It’s meant for fixed speeds mainly. That being mentioned, it didn’t cease fairly a variety of race automotive constructors and automotive producers to construct one and discover the know-how!
Earlier than we try a number of the automobiles it could be useful to make clear the kind of generators utilized in these automobiles. All of those are powered by a gasoline turbine, to not be mistaken with a jet turbine. A gasoline turbine is an engine the place air flows by means of a compressor turbine to extend the stress. The compressed air is then combined with gasoline and ignited. The ensuing high-temperature compressed gasoline is then fed by means of a turbine which turns a driveshaft. This driveshaft could be linked to a propeller, or within the case of automobiles to drive the wheels. A jet turbine’s most important distinction with a gasoline turbine is jet turbine makes use of thrust as a technique of propulsion. That is just about ineffective in automobiles aside from maybe land velocity report autos the place it doesn’t matter you probably have an enormous trailing plume of superheated air in your wake.
Rover Jet1 – 1950
Shortly after the Second World Conflict, which gave beginning to this new kind of engines and dramatically revolutionised aviation, plans had been made to adapt gasoline generators in highway automobiles. On the time the know-how was nonetheless in its infancy however as is widespread with a whole lot of new tech, new variations had been being investigated. A type of developmental initiatives led to the Rover Jet1, being inbuilt 1950. That is the very first automotive through which a gasoline turbine engine is used.
It took a few years to get it proper however in the long run, the automotive labored, and fairly effectively truly. It was fitted with a compact gasoline turbine engine within the again beneath a fairly easy wanting bodywork. The turbine produced about 200bhp at 40.000rpm. Intakes on both facet of the automotive feed air into the turbine, which was compressed and ignited driving the crankshaft and exhaust gasses being launched by means of prime mounted shops. In 1952 the automotive was fitted with an up to date gasoline turbine engine, which throughout a check run pushed the automotive to a prime velocity of 244kph. Regardless of promising outcomes two main drawbacks halted additional developments; gasoline inefficiency and gradual throttle-response. Just one instance has been constructed, which is on show in London’s Science Museum.
Info is scarce on the Rover Jet1, which isn’t onerous to think about with just one automotive constructed nearly 70 years in the past. Regardless of this, it’s featured on DriveTribe and Petrolicious.
Fiat Turbina Idea – 1954
A number of years onwards from the Rover Jet1 got here the Fiat Turbina Idea. Introduced throughout the 1954 Turin Motor Present, it garnered large consideration because it was solely the second ever automotive to be fitted with a gasoline turbine engine. Not solely did it incorporate a gasoline turbine engine however its design was additionally closely influenced by the jet age with a really streamlined physique in hanging white and crimson. The automotive was in growth from the mid-forties and with the turbine know-how being very new it was fairly a monumental effort to get it working. Fiat put in a three-stage turbine with two centrifugal compressors, three combustion cans and a single-stage energy turbine growing an enormous 300bhp in whole.
The hanging physique lacked options like headlights and taillights and the rear was adorned with airplane like fins and a big central exhaust. The form proved to be extremely aerodynamic and achieved a record-breaking low drag coefficient of zero,14 which stood for 30 years. It was an experimental automobile in each sense of the phrase. The extraordinarily spartan inside, with just one bucket seat, featured at least 15 gauges on the sprint to maintain monitor of the whole lot from rpm, velocity, temperatures and pressures but additionally bearing indicators and tachymeters for the gasoline generator and the facility turbine.
Throughout testing Fiat achieved a prime velocity was about 250kph however the theoretical prime velocity was estimated to be over 320kph though this was by no means examined. As soon as once more excessive gasoline consumption, paired with overheating points brought on the venture to be terminated regardless of promising outcomes at first. The automotive resides within the Museo Nazionale dell’Vehicle in Turin, Italy. Particulars about this automotive could be discovered on DriveTribe and Car Throttle.
Rover-BRM – 1963-1965
Up subsequent is a gasoline turbine powered prototype racer developed by Rover and British Racing Motors (BRM). We’ve seen unusual engines by BRM earlier than, with a bonkers 1.5 V16 grand prix engine and a fair crazier in-house developed H16 engine. Following their endeavours with the Rover Jet1 a couple of decade earlier, Rover determined it will profit their picture in the event that they developed their turbine-technology to go racing. Primarily based on a rebuilt chassis from a BRM Grand Prix automotive, crashed by Richie Ginther on the 1962 Monaco Grand Prix, it was fitted with an aluminium physique. At first it was an open-top racer however later it will be made right into a coupe.
The gasoline turbine engine within the Rover-BRM was a single centrifugal turbine producing about 150bhp and was additional improved throughout the years it was raced. Numerous enhancements had been launched, largely to make it extra environment friendly as an alternative of extra highly effective.
The automotive was entered into Le Mans in 1963, 1964 and 1965 and proved to be fairly profitable. The choice to take part at Le Mans adopted the stipulation prize can be awarded for the primary gasoline turbine powered automotive protecting greater than three.600 kilometres throughout the legendary 24 hour race. The Rover-BRM achieved this objective throughout their first attempt in 1963, protecting the required distance with hours to spare. As an experimental automobile it wasn’t formally categorized but when in comparison with a categorized competitor it will have completed in eighth place general.
In 1964 it was withdrawn from the race because of damages sustained throughout transport and technical points with the up to date engine because of an absence of time for testing. In 1965 the automotive was not entered as an experimental automobile and ran with the quantity 31 as an alternative of the earlier double-zero (for experimental entries). It competed within the 2-litre prototype class, primarily towards Porsche. Now piloted by Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart, the automotive completed a notable tenth general and seventh at school. Gas consumption was restricted for the Rover-BRM, so the brand new enhancements in effectivity had been very important. Technical points throughout the race restricted how onerous the automotive could possibly be pushed although.
After these three entries the automotive by no means raced at Le Mans once more however was in use till 1974 after which it retired. I haven’t discovered interval footage of the automotive there are numerous movies of the automotive beginning up (and a few even driving a bit of bit), together with this one:
Chrysler Turbine Idea – 1963
The unbelievable Chrysler Turbine Idea automotive, constructed within the early sixties, is featured in an episode of Jay Leno’s Storage as he owns certainly one of solely two automobiles in personal fingers. A complete of 55 automobiles have been constructed however most of them had been destroyed by Common Motors as they had been thought-about prototype autos and rendered ineffective after the event interval and the cancellation of the venture. However at 55 automobiles constructed, it nearly looks as if a real manufacturing run and even the design was impressed by the jet age however nonetheless very sensible for on a regular basis use. On the finish of the sixties Chrysler wasn’t capable of push this automotive in the direction of mass manufacturing because of monetary struggles and the truth that it didn’t show considerably higher of a automotive in comparison with inner combustion engine powered automobiles.
Throughout 1963 about 200 People had the possibility to check these automobiles for a 3 month interval to assist Chrysler with the event. It should have been wild to expertise a automotive like this pull up on the driveway, particularly contemplating the turbine engine idles between 18,000 and 22,000 revs! The specifically developed engine produced 130 horsepower. Not an enormous quantity however greater than sufficient to energy a automotive in on a regular basis use. It wasn’t meant for racing, or efficiency, however as a sensible machine for most people. The physique was completed by Ghia, an Italian coachbuilder, and had a comparatively easy design with references to the jet age on the again.
The advantages of the gasoline turbine engine had been the flexibility to run on nearly any gasoline that makes use of oxygen as an accelerant, so you might theoretically fill it up with Chanel N° 5 fragrance as Jay suggests within the video. One other large profit is the low service necessities. A turbine engine has so much much less transferring elements, which additionally put on out so much much less. A single sparkplug as an illustration, as an alternative of 1 or extra per cylinder, is a large lower in upkeep and prices. There’s additionally no warm-up interval wanted, begin the automotive and your instantly good to go!
The draw back nonetheless, the Achilles heel in all these automobiles apparently, is the excessive gasoline consumption. When even at idle the engine burns by means of an unbelievable quantity of gasoline. This finally brought on the demise of gasoline turbine engine growth with the intention of use in automobiles. It is just lately the idea is again on the drafting board, however extra on that in a future article.
When you try the intensive protection by Jay Leno from a number of years in the past, it contains interval materials from the precise automobiles such because the unboxing and a promotional video explaining the know-how of a turbine engine. Very cool stuff!