Howmet TX Mk. II

The Howmet TX is a well-known turbine-powered sports racer that to this day remains the only turbine-powered car to win a race. While not the first turbine-powered car—for that you'll want the Rover Jet 1—the Howmet TX in (semi-)final "Mk. II" guise was the fastest.

This car, chassis #GTP2 evolved from an original, closed Howmet TX that had crashed at Le Mans. With more slippery bodywork, it was conceived after the Howmet Corporation decided to withdraw from top-flight sports car racing.

I picked this car for today because of a throwaway line on the Howmet TX Wikipedia page that begins, "On a road next to Talladega Superspeedway in August 1970, Heppenstall drove the TX Mk.II to six records recognized by the FIA…" 

"Hmm…" I thought, "I wonder if the road is still on Google maps."

 

think the records were probably set on the road located above the track, Speedway Blvd. They included: 

Class 2 (cars over 500 Kg and up to 1000 Kg)

  • Standing Start 1/4 mile - 11.83 sec. 122.41 km/h (76.07 mph)
  • Standing Start 1/2 Km - 13.48 sec. 133.53 km/h (82.97 mph)
  • Standing Start 1 Km - 21.18 sec. 167.97 km/h (105.61 mph)

Class 3 (cars over 1000 Kg)

  • Standing Start 1/4 mile - 13.87 sec. 104.41 km/h (64.88 mph)
  • Standing Start 1/2 Km - 15.74 sec. 114.35 km/h (71.05 mph)
  • Standing Start 1 Km - 23.92 sec. 150.50 km/h (93.51 mph)

Not bad for a turbine-powered car. With around 350 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque pushing 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb) around, the car was able to run in both Class 2 and 3 courtesy of a little ballast one way or another.

Returned to its original configuration during restoration, it still races in vintage events today. It's not the world's fastest wheel-driven, turbine-powered car: that honour goes to the Vesco Turbinator at 755 km/h (470 mph).