Back in ’97, Andy Green piloted Thrust SSC to 763mph, making it the first car to officially break the sound barrier, but in the realm of speed there’s always room for improvement. Now the same British team that built Thrust and which has in fact held the world land speed record for the last 25 years has built a new car that will leave their old record spluttering on exhaust fumes. Bloodhound SSC is a masterpiece of automotive engineering that’s on the scent of an incredible new record: 1,000 miles per hour.
To reach its top speed of 1,000mph, Bloodhound SSC is fitted with not just a rocket engine, but also a jet engine – the same one used in the Euro fighter Typhoon which, incidentally, it would hammer in a flat race. Together, the engines give 47,000lbs of thrust – head-spinning power that will propel the car to its top speed in just 42 seconds.
Different materials will be used in different places, according to the demands at each zone. Bloodhound’s nose and cockpit is a strong but lightweight carbon fiber, like an F1 car. The rest is mainly steel and aluminum to withstand the enormous pressure and vibration, with titanium around the jet and rocket to resist heat.
When you’re driving at over 1,000mph, emergency stops are not possible. Deceleration begins by releasing the throttle, slowing the car to 800mph. Then aircraft-style air brakes are deployed, followed by a parachute at 600mph. Finally, comparatively conventional wheel brakes will kick in at 250mph. As the car slows, Green will experience 3G with the blood rushing to his feet.
It’s not quite a fighter jet, but nor is it a road car. Bloodhound’s low profile means Green will drive from a reclined position. He’ll have an aircraft-style steering wheel which includes a trigger for rocket ignition and a button to release the parachute. There’s a pedal for the throttle and one for the brakes. Three screens on the dash display real-time data about the car’s performance, although Green’s vision will be blurred at higher speeds.
To qualify for a land speed record, the car must be under the driver’s control, so automated steering is out. The wheel allows Green to drive in a straight line against cross winds or surface changes, but the narrow shape of the car means that steering is locked at five degrees, giving it a turning circle of 120m. That rules out doughnuts, we suspect.
Made from solid aluminum, the wheels are designed to withstand 10,000rpm and forces 50,000 times greater than gravity. At these pressures, any tire on the planet would explode so the car runs on solids. However, one of the greatest unknowns about the project is precisely how the wheels will react to the dried up lake bed in South Africa.
EJ200 jet engine
A simple combustion engine, albeit one that’s usually used on the Euro fighter Typhoon rather than your Toyota Corolla. It produces 20,000lbs of thrust and accelerates the car over 300mph. As the fuel burns inside the jet, the flame’s temperature will exceed 2,000C, but the air intake will stop the engine itself from melting.
When you’re traveling above the speed of sound, you’re going to feel every little stone or undulation in the surface. The South African test site was chosen for its smooth surface but with no tires the Bloodhounds springs and dampers will have to absorb every bump directly. Arranged in double wishbone configurations at the front and rear of the car, the suspension offers 100mm of give to keep the car stable.