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Another Contender For the Land Speed Record 85

Posted by kdawson
from the however-temporary dept.
We've been following developments with the British-led Bloodhound SSC, a jet car aiming to hit 1,000 mph in 2011 and shatter the land speed record. Now reader Thea Chard writes in about a rival project from Washington state, one aiming at 800 mph before the end of 2010 — still plenty fast enough to break the record. "For the past 12 years Ed Shadle, 68, Keith Zanghi, 55, and their 44-man team have been racing to break the world land speed record with the North American Eagle, a converted 1957 F-104 Starfighter 'turbojet car.' Although the team is rushing to beat out their biggest contender, Bloodhound SSC from Great Britain, whose team leader holds the previous land speed record and has secured much more financial support for the project, Shadle and Zanghi hope to run the Eagle at around 800 mph later this year, breaking the sound barrier and setting a new world record for fastest land vehicle."
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Another Contender For the Land Speed Record

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  • by the_other_chewey (1119125) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @04:07AM (#31745770)
    I still think that calling all those aircraft-that-just-don't-lift-off cars is cheating. Keeping them on
    the ground is in itself quite a feat, I don't deny that at all - but to be called a car, they should be
    propelled by their wheels' friction on the ground, not by jet engines and rockets.

    I'm actually much more impressed by something like the Dieselmax [wikipedia.org], even if it is much slower.
    • I agree with you. Strapping a set of wheels on a rocket motor is pointless, even though the technical challenges are probably fantastic. In fact, generally speaking, breaking a record just for the sake of being in the Guinness book of records is pointless.

      I could understand if the technology they use to achieve the record could be reused some place else, like paving the way to faster high-speed trains for instance, but all they seem to do is apply clever design to make the body as non-lifting as possible, a

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Malc (1751)

        And how is that different to say Formula 1? All the high speed cars have little to do with the real world where we have speed limits, imperfect road surfaces and require time to react to pedestrians as we come around blind corners.

        • by somersault (912633) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @05:05AM (#31746028) Homepage Journal

          It's more fun watching fast cars navigate corners than watching fast cars go in a straight line. These cars are impressive, but not amazingly entertaining unless they crash. Actually I think the same of F1 when compared to stuff like Touring Cars, DTM and Rally Driving..

          • by Jurily (900488)

            What I find amazing is how fast those drivers react when shit happens. Seeing someone lose control of their car and getting it back in a fraction of a second is well worth watching all the boring parts as well.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by somersault (912633)

              Well, they do tend to have traction control and possibly even active stability control in modern F1 cars. They have massive slick tyres too so easing back on the throttle will quickly give you your grip back if you get into a power-slide (and that's basically what traction control and stability control do when they detect things are going slightly squiffy).

              Counter-steering also becomes hard wired if you do enough sliding around in real life, or play enough computer games ;) I panicked and stomped on the bra

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by richardablitt (897338)
                Formula 1 hasn't had traction control for the past couple of years, although they've gone back to slick tyres in an attempt to bring back overtaking.
            • by Drethon (1445051)
              I agree with that. This is one of the reasons why I like watching NASCAR as those cars have a better chance of recovery and some of those guys can really handle one of those heavy cars half way over the edge at 200MPH quite well.
              • by turgid (580780)

                NASCAR? Do they still have at least one fatality per race?

                • by Drethon (1445051)
                  Nah, they're down to about one fatality per decade. Their safety features since about 2000 have been pretty effective.
          • by rossdee (243626)

            "It's more fun watching fast cars navigate corners than watching fast cars go in a straight line."
            As long as the corners are different, right, left, hairpin, fast sweeper etc. Oval track racing is just as boring as watching cars go in a straight line.

            That is why I watch F1, and sportscars races, it would be nice to see more touring cars races from Europe, or Oz too.

          • by Skynyrd (25155)

            You are painting with a pretty wide brush.

            I've seen just about every type of racing on TV, and have seen in person (or participated in) in most forms of motorsports in the US, except NASCAR & the IRL. Land Speed Racing doesn't translate to TV at all. In person, however, it's a different experience. Certainly not for everybody, but there's nothing else like it.

            • Yeah I was generalising. Seeing a landspeed record attempt in person would be a pretty awesome thing, but I think that over time it would lose its appeal quicker than something like touring car racing, unless they made the challenge a bit more interesting than "get across this flat plane as fast as you can".

        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          We don't have a speed limit, our road surfaces are pretty good, and there are no pedestrians on the Autobahn.

        • by Drethon (1445051)
          Its called a test track, where you go to test theories with a minimal number of variables so you can later apply those theories to the real world. And Formula 1 may have perfect surfaces (?) and no blind corners (?) but have you seen an Indy road race lately? Some of those have nasty blind corners and terribly bumpy surfaces...
          • Formula 1 has a few road tracks with less than perfect road surfaces and Monaco is famous for being about as twisty and uppy and downy as you could possibly want it. Rubbish for overtaking but great fun when it rains.

            Generally, new tracks tend to be anodyne and now that the refuelling has been abolished, the new tracks are even less interesting.

            Getting back to the subject, how long before another person is killed attempting to break the record? I applaud pushing the boundaries of technology but is the

        • by jvillain (546827)

          Actually you do get engineering transferring from F1 to the real world. Honda's VTEC came from their F1 engines and one of the Ferrari road cars are using the KERS system from their F1 cars. The paddle shifting system came from their F1 cars. The Carbon brakes found on some Vettes were originally optimised for auto use in F1. etc, etc.

      • by MrKaos (858439) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @05:29AM (#31746092) Journal

        I agree with you. Strapping a set of wheels on a rocket motor is pointless, even though the technical challenges are probably fantastic. In fact, generally speaking, breaking a record just for the sake of being in the Guinness book of records is pointless.

        Serco, those guys are just everywhere. The biggest company you've never heard of.

        I could understand if the technology they use to achieve the record could be reused some place else, like paving the way to faster high-speed trains for instance, but all they seem to do is apply clever design to make the body as non-lifting as possible, and use big fins to plant the thing firmly on the ground. Nothing earth-shattering, impressive though it may be.

        I think this is the first time they have tried putting the jet engine on top of the rocket motor, in a car. The variances in air pressure on the uneven ground may make the research into the control systems that keep the nose on the car worthwhile.

        Just sayin.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Skynyrd (25155)

        I agree with you. Strapping a set of wheels on a rocket motor is pointless, even though the technical challenges are probably fantastic. In fact, generally speaking, breaking a record just for the sake of being in the Guinness book of records is pointless.

        So is playing baseball or watching a movie. Humans with extra time and money have hobbies. It could be anything from knitting to painting to riding bicycles to setting land speed records.

        Setting land speed records isn't your hobby, but it doesn't actually

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      I don't deny that at all - but to be called a car, they should be
      propelled by their wheels' friction on the ground, not by jet engines and rockets.

      I agree but wouldn't be so precise, to allow for innovation.

      I'd say that it has to be propelled exclusively by interaction with the ground, not necessarily friction.

    • by sznupi (719324) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @04:33AM (#31745892) Homepage

      ...especially when contender is a modified jet fighter, not a vehicle built mostly from the ground up.

    • by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @04:39AM (#31745912) Journal
      There is a record for wheel driven as well. There's room for both of these in the record books. And it's not like it's quite as simple as strapping a big thrust engine on the back of a roller skate so it's worth it as an exercise in engineering.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hughperkins (705005)

      Agreed.

      But even the Dieselmax can't start on its own: they get a tractor (!) to bring it up to 30mpg, before it can engage first gear.

      Which is fine and all, but personally I'd be more impressed with something that has that additional gear onboard. It does add weight, it will make the top speed slightly slower, and that is, I feel, why it is important.

    • by stiggle (649614) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @04:54AM (#31745992)

      I used to follow the North American Eagle when they were originally developing their car, but they came across as whining kids complaining about the Brits coming over to break the records in the US and taking the technology back with them, which is odd seeing as Thrust SSC was on the desert at the same time as the Spirit of America team and shared stuff with them. (The SoA should have had the time slot for the run when SSC broke the record, but they let the Brits use it as their car was performing better and they had a chance at the record).

      Probably just complaining because the Thrust SSC data wasn't made available to them to copy - although the Bloodhound SSC data is being made publically available. The thing to remember about Bloodhound is that it is a project primarily to get kids interested in science & engineering again and breaking 1000mph is just an extra.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by b4upoo (166390)

        Maybe we should teach the kids that too fast is just too damn dangerous and there are better things to do.

    • by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:17AM (#31746276)

      ...the land speed record for a wheeled vehicle is 10,400 km/h (6,462 mph) ..... on rails, unmanned

      Railed vehicles can go much faster than free wheeled vehicles and the manned speed record was for a railed vehicle ... the only reason they stopped the manned tests was that they did not have a reason for them to be manned ...

      Like the steam car record and the diesel car record the "land speed record" is very artificial, many vehicles have gone faster on land, many have gone much faster manned above it ...

    • by OzPeter (195038) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @08:05AM (#31746990)

      I'm actually much more impressed by something like the Dieselmax [wikipedia.org], even if it is much slower.

      I just read that and now I am impressed. 350mph, 2.7 tonne vehicle (yeah I'm mixing units) and a fuel tank size of 9 litres. And according to that article they only limited themselves to 350 as a safety precaution for the tires, and they weren't even in top gear!

    • by Skynyrd (25155) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:06AM (#31748344) Homepage

      There are many different record categories recognized by various sanctioning bodies. The ones that would probably interest you the most are the "wheel driven" or "piston driven" records, and not the "overall fastest".

      Wheel driven records have been set by turbine engines, with the shaft running into a differential, and driving a set of wheels.
      Don Vesco has the record at 458.443

      The piston driven records are set by a car with one or more HUGE V-8 engines.
      Al Teague went 405.976 in one such creation.

      They are also over 300 mph slower than the the jet powered cars. There are no rocket powered cars in real competition for world records at the moment,

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Tet (2721) *

        There are no rocket powered cars in real competition for world records at the moment,

        Apart from Bloodhound SSC, you mean? It has a jet engine, that's true. But that's only to take it up to 300mph or so. The rocket is needed to take it up to 1000mph. Although they're not looking to set any records, the Laffin-gas [laffin-gas.com] car is an interesting pure rocket car. They're only aiming for 400mph or so, but that's still pretty fast, particularly on their relatively small budget, and they have a nice setup that allows a fa

    • by DCFusor (1763438)
      I actually own and drive a car that does 200mph plus, stable -- but even the best interstate highway or local track isn't really up to that (even with some helpful cops clearing a path). I give out before the car does. One thing you gotta give these driver/pilots is they have large brass ones. Altitude is a pilot's friend! FYI, the car is a modded 2010 Camaro SS -- and it ain't you're daddies Camaro.
    • I'm sorry, but I don't think anything beats the World's Fastest Indian [imdb.com].
    • Actually because it's a 3-wheeler it's technically a motorcycle, one of the things about land speed records is there is something for everybody. If you strapped a weed-whacker engine to a street luge, there is probably a class for running it.

      425.050 MPH is the internal combustion engined, wheel driven record,
      458.196 MPH turbine engined, wheel driven,
      350.452 mph Diesel-powered speed record,
      321.834 mph Electric-powered speed record,
      152.2 mph Motor paced bicycle reco

  • Not the same race (Score:3, Informative)

    by verloren (523497) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @04:27AM (#31745858)

    Bloodhound-SSC isn't trying to break the land speed record, it's trying to break 1,000mph (which will, incidentally, give it the land speed record). Clearly Eagle needs to beat Bloodhound to achieve their goal, but it doesn't really matter for what Bloodhound is doing whether Eagle succeeds or fails. Hence they're not really in the same race.

    • by elvum (9344) *

      I think it's a bit more complicated than that - Bloodhound *is* direct competition for Eagle, but not necessarily vice-versa. So whether or not they're in the same race depends on your perspective...

  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @04:37AM (#31745908)

    They should've used an intercontinental ballistic missile.

    Just put it horizontal, add some wheels and sit on it.

    Screaming "YeeeeeHa!" as it starts is optional.

    The hat isn't.

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @04:38AM (#31745910) Homepage
  • ...holds the current record, not the previous record as incorrectly stated by kdawson.
  • by OzPeter (195038) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:22AM (#31746296)
    When the story about the Brits was run I pointed out *then* that there were 3 groups trying to break the land speed record. The Yanks will be doomed to be "also ran's" as the real competition to the Brits is the Aussies with the 1000+mph "car" Aussie Invader [aussieinvader.com]

    I'd plead for people to do *any* research on a story, but this is /. (and kdawson btw what is a "reaer", as mentioned in the summary. Is spell check too fucking hard now?)

    • by pangu (322010)

      Except the Yanks plan to break the record this year. So while they may not hold it for long, they will hold it assuming they succeed. I'd hardly call that being an "also ran".

  • Does the ejector seat work in the F-104? Would be logical to retain it. Even on a salt bed it's unlikely to survive a high speed crash.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The original ejector seat in the F-104 was designed to eject downward because of the high T tail. If you lost the engine on takeoff you had to roll it to survive ejection. Don't know if they changed that later.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by OzPeter (195038)

        The original ejector seat in the F-104 was designed to eject downward because of the high T tail. If you lost the engine on takeoff you had to roll it to survive ejection. Don't know if they changed that later.

        According to this F-104 Ejection Seat [ejectionsite.com] the reason for firing downwards was because they didn't have powerful enough ejectors to go upwards (which would help clearing the tail) but later on when they were available then upwards egress was used.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          According to this F-104 Ejection Seat the reason for firing downwards was because they didn't have powerful enough ejectors to go upwards (which would help clearing the tail) but later on when they were available then upwards egress was used.

          That still doesn't mean it's a zero-altitude design where the pilot can survive an ejection from that lack of height.

  • Tribute to a genius (Score:3, Informative)

    by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs AT ovi DOT com> on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @06:51AM (#31746414) Homepage

    Remember, the aerodynamic shape of the F-104 was designed by Clarence "Kelly" Johnson with a slide rule. No computers at all. Actually he designed the whole thing in about a month without any computer modeling.

    I wonder what it would take now, to do what he did.

    Let's not forget some of Kelly Johnson's other little projects like the P-38 Lightning, and the SR-71.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tx (96709)

      "I wonder what it would take now, to do what he did."

      To design a pointy tube with wings? Especially one that was a death trap [wikipedia.org] (nicknamed the "Flying Coffin"), that Lockheed had to pay massive illegal bribes [wikipedia.org] to get anyone to buy? I'm guessing there are harder things to do.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by R2.0 (532027)

        Regarding your first point, it should be noted that the postwar Luftwaffe was NOT the best air force out there, and was using the F-104 outside of it's original design intent - it was intended to be a high-speed, high-altitude interceptor, and not fly low altitude dogfights. The Canadians had some of the same problems. Other air forces had much better experiences with the plane.

        That being said, should the Germans have bought it? Probably not. But the bribes Lockheed gave at the time weren't illegal, as

    • by kimvette (919543)

      I wonder what it would take now, to do what he did.

      Lobbyists, kickbacks, and of course, hundreds of dollars' worth of budget overruns and years added to the delivery date.

      That is of course, if the project goes well. ;)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      Remember, the aerodynamic shape of the F-104 was designed by Clarence "Kelly" Johnson with a slide rule. No computers at all. Actually he designed the whole thing in about a month without any computer modeling.

      So what? It was a *very* simple aircraft with a fairly undemanding set of performance specifications - go fast in a straight line, carry a couple of missiles, shoot down bombers. (Not to mention every other project of the day was built with slide rules and without computers or computer modeling.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I wonder what it would take now, to do what he did.

      A proper education for our young engineers and scientists.

    • Beautiful aircraft. Maybe *the* most beautiful.

  • Speed of sound: done!

    The next attempt will be the land speed records for getting to youtube to see brains spread across the desert. Fortunately, not a lot of brains will be involved.

  • If these guys have run any computer simulations showing how the car will handle when it breaks the sound barrier on the ground. At that speed, they better know what to expect.
  • Choice of F-104 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JumboMessiah (316083) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @08:29AM (#31747206)

    The choice of the F-104 is by no accident. It's low altitude performance is well known.

    Darryl Greenamyer's [wikipedia.org] Red Baron F-104 did 998 mph (mach 1.30) officially and 1013 mph (mach 1.33) unofficially. At less than 300 ft, back in the '70's. The J79 has to be water/alcohol injected during runs like these, otherwise it will exceed it's maximum inlet operating temps.

    Say what you want about the F-104, but it was built to fly straight and fast, intercept and shoot down bombers. Another work or artfrom Kelly Johnson and company IMHO. Especially considering the timeframe.

  • 1kmph doesn't sound like a record!
    • by franl (50139)

      If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits eighty-eight miles per hour... you're gonna see some serious shit.

      Oh, wait. That was the Flux Capacitor not the Oscillation Overthruster. I always get those two confused.

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