At 503 mph, Turbinator II is the world’s fastest wheel-driven vehicle

You’d expect a car called Turbinator II to be fast. Sure enough, the bullet-shaped race car hit 482.646 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in September 2018, setting a new world record for the fastest wheel-driven vehicle. But that wasn’t good enough for the car’s creators, Team Vesco. The team recently went back to Bonneville and achieved 503.332 mph.

Turbinator II went faster, but it didn’t set a new official record. That’s because land-speed records at Bonneville require two runs; the average speed of the two runs is what counts. Team Vesco wasn’t able to make a second run this time because of wet weather conditions on the flats, Autoweek reports.

Many land-speed record cars, such as the Bloodhound SSC, use thrust from jet or rocket engines to propel themselves to insane speeds. But Turbinator II sends power to its wheels, just like a conventional car. It actually has four-wheel drive, which is probably a good idea given the amount of power on tap.

Turbinator II uses a Lycoming turbine engine from a Chinook helicopter, producing 5,000 horsepower. The car has been steadily developed and improved by Team Vesco over the years. The original Turbinator produced “only” 3,750 hp, which was enough to get it to 458.440 mph in 2001 in the hands of Don Vesco, who has since passed away. Breaking the 500-mph barrier was always a goal for Vesco, which had “Goal 500 MPH” license-plate frames made up 20 years ago.

In its current form, Turbinator II measures 36 feet long, with a 21-foot wheelbase that helps give it more stability at high speeds. To achieve 503 mph, Team Vesco made some modifications to the car, including lighter spun-aluminum wheels.

Team Vesco believes Turbinator II could go even faster, given the right conditions. Before the salt flats flooded, preventing Turbinator II from setting an official record, co-driver and crew chief Eric Ritter told Autoweek that the surface was ideal. A rock-hard surface is best, and that’s exactly what racers got this year. When Digital Trends visited Bonneville in September 2018, regulars said conditions were the best they’d seen in years. Ritter said 600 mph is “plausible” in the future, but floods like the one that scuttled Team Vesco’s official record this year are becoming a more common occurrence.


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