Nobody exemplifies “technological enthusiasm” more so than Ron Ayers. Although retired and in the twilight of his stay here on Planet Earth, Ayers was as active as any of the fresh-faced Mach 1 Clubbers on holiday from the university.

Nearly a month after the Thrusters had arrived and were continuing to creep into the transonic speed range, I eavesdropped on Ayers as he was explaining his theories on supersonic travel in a motorcar to a bewildered and besotted patron in the Miner’s Club. Ayers uses a shot glass as a prop that represents the Thrust SSC and gingerly slides it along the surface of the bar to illustrate his theories about subsonic, trans-sonic, and supersonic pressure waves and how they would affect the handing of the Thrust SSC.

The guy at the bar asks Ayers why don’t you Brits just put the hammer down and go Mach 1 and be done with it?

Ayers explains the SSC design teams rationale for chipping away at ever-increasing speeds: “The aerodynamic forces would be simply enormous, enough to lift the car and throw it around like an autumn leaf in a gale,” he says. “The crux of the problem is knowing how the flow would behave underneath the car at sonic speeds and what would happen to shockwaves in that region.”

The guy on the bar stool next nods as if he comprehends Ayers’ riff.

“The most important thing,” Ayers concludes as Bev the bartender repossessed the shot glass and put it to less theoretical use, “is that we don’t obliterate Ann-dee.”


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