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Helicopter Engine Drives Car to World Record Speed

Better weather conditions could have seen the vehicle go up to 100 mph faster.

When engineers go so far as to create a bullet-shaped racecar named the Turbinator II that uses a helicopter engine to exceed 480 miles/hour, whatever follows is usually a let-down.

But that’s not the case here.

 Instead of relying on thrust from jet or rocket engines, Team Vesco’s vehicle actually transfers power to the wheels, like a conventional car, truck or SUV. In fact, it’s actually outfitted with four-wheel drive. This provides greater stability, but also demands more power, as the wheels don’t just steady the vehicle, they actually have to drive it. 

The original Turbinator was only able to generate 3,750 horsepower. So, with the goal of topping 500 mph, the team imbedded a Lycoming turbine engine from a Chinook helicopter that produces about 5,000 horsepower. The 36’ long vehicle also features a 21’ wheelbase and spun-aluminum wheels. 

After upgrading the engine output, the Turbinator hit the Bonneville Salt Flats in September and set a new world record for wheel-driven vehicles, hitting 482.646 mph. For most that record would be enough, but not for Rick Vesco. 

His father Don, who passed away in 2002, had a dream of seeing the Turbinator top 500 mph. So, earlier this month the team returned to Utah and registered a top speed of 503.332 mph. 

The only problem is that the lack of a second run that could be averaged with the first meant it was not an official record. The second run was cancelled due to wet weather. The team actually believes that if the weather is dry, and the salt beds hard, their vehicle is capable of reaching 600 mph. 

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