A MODERN FUEL

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What was the budget going in, I mean what did you guys think you could deliver for?

PETE FARNSWORTH: We signed a contract I believe for $165,000.

Um hmm, so that’s almost a half a million by the time it was done?

PETE: It was a little more than half a million when it was completed run and a movie made about it. It was all part of the budget.

So I’m assuming the chassis’s 4130 chromemoly?

PETE: From the back of the driver to the front of the front wheels, structure in front that held the pressure tanks for the fuel systems was chromemoly 4130 and all the structure from the driver back was 4130. I heli-arced that whole thing together.

And the propulsion system, did they end up using the liquefied natural gas?

PETE: Um hmm. That was a bi-propellant engine, hydrogen peroxide, liquefied natural gas. We did break the primary injection system for the liquefied natural gas on one of the early runs and bypassed and ran the secondary system which we were going to put 3/4 of the fuel through the secondary injection system and 25% through the primary system. We broke the primary system and ended up only through the high speed, the high powered section of it.

Okay, so there was two injection systems but either one used a combination of the two propellants.

PETE: Yeah, yeah…

Because here’s the confusion, some people don’t think that there was LNG running through the car.

PETE: The gas industry insisted on that, there was definitely LNG running through the engine. It helped in creating heat in the combustion chamber on the run and we were way down on power. We went out there, the engine was designed for 22,000 pounds of thrust at full power; the first year we didn’t need nearly that much, we only were going to run the primary fuel injection system, with the 25% fuel flow. We ran it at that and we sunk a big steel post in the Union Grove (drag strip) down in their shutoff area way down at the far end. We tied the car to it and put strain gauges between the car and the post and the post was down in several yards of concrete below ground with a nine inch diameter steel post and, uh, tied it to the car with 5/8 steel cables and we were consistently getting 16,500 pounds thrust cutting the engines. That’s what we went to the Salt Flats with.

Okay I’m trying to understand what you said — The 16,500 pounds was strictly out of the primary injection system? Not even using the secondary?

PETE: We were not going to use the secondary system the first year. We had enough power, we were going to upgrade it the second year supposedly to go supersonic, but in order to do that we would have to have gone to Schenectady, New York and check out the rocket — the Lowell Rocket system on their rocket test — and check it for combustion instability and that would have been probably well, we’re not really even sure, but we think it would have been 50 or 60 thousand dollars additional just to test it in those days. 1970 dollars.

And so you guys wanted to go Mach 1 but the Gas Company just wanted to…

PETE: Well, they got the record and that was enough for them. They toured the car around the world it was the first car to exceed a thousand kilometers per hour in Europe. It was a tremendous hit, over there, Jesus, one thousand kilometers per hour on the ground, but it was just a number. Speed of sound… THAT was the number.

A physical barrier, yeah?

PETE: We were restricted the first year as well by Goodyear: no more than 700 miles an hour with the tires, till they could evaluate the design and take the tires, cut them apart, make sure that everything was all right. So we went 660 with it, with a broken motor, we ended up having 10,500 pounds thrust on the record runs. A very interesting project, but just heartache after heartache. But you know, (these were) experiences that you wouldn’t trade for anything, no matter what.

On one level it sounds like you got jobbed out of you know, going Mach 1.

PETE: No, no, we never said that. You know, we would have liked to have the attempt at it.

Okay, I mean basically that next year you wanted to break…

PETE: They never agreed that they were going to do that, (but to make) an evaluation after we ran the first year.

If the car hadn’t been repossessed and had you guys still had some cash or maybe derive some cash from the car, from appearances and in car shows and what have you, that potentially you would have gone out the next year.

PETE: Perhaps.

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