Click above to watch a video of the steam car in action
Has the time finally come to end the hundred-year drought on steam car design? Perhaps not, but the world may at least get a new entry in the record books, as the British Steam Car Challenge team has successfully put their land-speed record car to the test. The aforementioned record was set all the way back in 1906 by Fred Marriott, who drove a modified Stanley Steamer to 127.659 miles per hour. Early testing of the British Steam Car has been promising, though nothing up near the stated goal of 170 miles per hour has yet been attempted. The crew has plans to ship their car to Edwards Air Force Base in California early next year for official timed runs.
The car itself, appropriately painted up in British Racing Green, uses 12 boilers that get their heat from liquefied petroleum gas. These boilers heat 10.5 gallons of water to 750-degrees F, then nearly 2 miles of plumbing inside the car takes that pressurized steam to a two-stage turbine spinning at a stratospheric 13,000 RPMs.
While LPG is a gas that burns clean, relatively speaking of course, the land-speed car's system is a total-loss design, so it's not nearly as efficient as it could be. We wonder, though, if a new record might kick-start development into the good old steam engine and help it find a place in our ever-changing automotive world.