A bunch of U.K. enthusiasts are attempting to break the 102-year-old land speed record with a steam-powered car. The three-ton vehicle, described as a giant kettle on top of a camping stove, has almost two miles of tubes inside its carbon-fiber-composite/aluminum frame. The team is expecting the 25-foot-long car to reach 200 mph during its record attempt at Bonneville Speed Week in September.
The car — can I call it that? — takes eight minutes to get going, but has only enough fuel, air and water for a three-minute run. The water boils at 482°F due to the fact that there's 40 bar water pressure inside the boilers. It's then super-heated to 750°F, or "dry" steam, which passes through heavily lagged pipes and two industrial steam valves before ending up in a two-stage turbine. Outsize Goodyear tires and brake pads slow the vehicle down, and there's a parachute system that opens up behind in case the braking system fails.
There are 12 boilers inside the car, which from the front resembles the love child of a Fifties UFO and a Roomba. These boilers heat up the 37 gallons of distilled water needed to push the vehicle to its top speed. Onboard tanks containing Liquid Petroleum Gas fire up the burners that heat the boilers, producing three megawatts of heat. That's enough power to make 9,000 cups of tea — roughly what I drink each month.