Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Worlds Fastest Indian?

I've got an upcoming article in Make Magazine about Speed Week, a gathering of fast cars and faster drivers that happens once a year on the salt flats on the Nevada - Utah border. The salt is smooth and goes on for miles. It a perfect place to see how fast your car can really go.

The vehicles (cars and motor cycles) there don't race against each other and not against the clock either. They are simply trying see how fast they can go. And they do go fast.

What's most interesting to me is the incredible amounts of horsepower, and therefore speed that these guys get out of their cars. There are vehicles with 2-liter engines that go over 200 mph. How do they do that? By using fuels that have more energy in them than gasoline or diesel, boosting the pressure of the intake air with a blower, optimizing the engine tuning for speed (at the expense of say, gas mileage,) and streamlining the car body.

I spoke at length with Gary Calvert, a member of the Muckleshoot Indian tribe from Washington State. Really a knowledgeable guy -- he built his vehicle from the wheels up, taking a wing mounted fuel tank from a military airplane (it's large and aerodynamic) adding a Japanese car's V6 and turning it into a really (really) fast car. It burns fuel (nitromethane) and has an enormous turbo charger that radically increases the amount of air going into the pistons which does good things for horsepower.

This car, called a belly tanker, screams across the salt flats.

I sat in it for a while to get the feeling of driving a vehicle like that. I'd sure like to build one myself.

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