Click above to watch a video of an early steam car run
Believe it or not, steam-powered cars were actually some of the fastest machines on four wheels in the early 1900s. To wit, a Stanley Steamer managed to hit a boiler-induced terminal velocity of 127.659 mph way back in 1906. The record still stands, but it seems likely to be surpassed in very short order by a team of madcap Brits who have just tested their steam-powered land-speed racer in preparation for an all-out assault on the record books next year.
The steam car certainly looks the part of a record-breaker, with its long, aerodynamic outer shell covering nearly two miles of plumbing and a 13,000 RPM two-stage turbine powering the rear wheels. A total of 12 burners run on LPG and heat 10.5 gallons of water per minute to temperatures as high as 750-degrees F.
Early testing has been promising but the car has yet to see the kinds of speeds and pressures that will be necessary to topple the longstanding record. If successful, the British Steam Car Challenge team surpass speeds of 170 miles per hour when official testing takes place at the Edwards Air Force Base in California. We wish them luck... one hundred years is too long for a record like this to stand.