A few months back, we wrote a piece on karting in the 1960s. In that story, we mentioned the Turboniques Rocket-Powered Kart that Captain Jack McClure campaigned at a bunch of drag strips around the country. Now one of those karts has been pulled out of a barn.
Over the last couple of days, the kart came up on a site called e-kartingnews.com. The story is amazing, from a guy named Steve Buffel who saw the thing in action when he was just a lad:
The first time I saw the kart was about 25+ years ago. You can imagine the WOW factor it had on me as a teenager. We couldn’t believe that this twiggy little thing could handle rocket power and be safe! Well, it turns out that they weren’t. The rumors I’ve heard is that a few people met their fate while harnessing the power of Turbonique. Apparently, if you backed out of the throttle, then got back into it you created a bomb. Copper tubing corrosion and bad solenoids were also an issue.
The post details how you actually start and drive this suicide machine:
1. Turn on the spark plugs just before the run with a toggle switch mounted on the steering wheel.
2. Step on an electrical switch mounted to the right fixed “pedal”.
3. This switch opens electrically actuated valves on the high pressure tanks. First, the oxygen is released directly into the rocket chambers, then the nitrogen pressurized liquid fuel is forced out the bottom of the fuel tank into the rocket chambers at around 600 PSI.
4. The ethylene oxide hits the oxygen rich atmosphere inside the chambers with the presence of a spark from the spark plugs. It immediately ignites causing back pressure which stops the oxygen flow. Oxygen isn’t needed at that point as the ethylene oxide is a monopropellant and brings it’s own oxygen to the show.
5. There is just a bit more than enough liquid fuel to complete a full power quarter mile run which was the length of a drag strip in those days. Do NOT back off then re-ignite part way down the track. It is theorized that the two fellows killed on these carts did just that, which caused some unstable combination of fuel and oxygen in the chambers resulting in the rocket motors exploding with disastrous results. This could have had something to do with the NHRA ban of Turbonique products.
The kart has come out of a barn somewhere and it’s in amazingly complete condition. “The kart is 100% original, 100% complete (minus the battery) and a bit dirty,” Buffel notes. “He’s motivated to sell it to a collector or museum that will give it the home it deserves.”
Absolutely incredible find from the era in the 1960s when anything and everything found its way down a drag strip at least once.
Thanks to BangShift.com’s Bryan McTaggart for the find on this one. Crazy.