... a rocket powered Dart Kart from the mid-1960's.
Those Wild Rocket Karts!
There have been many wild and strange experiments throughout kartings history. Perhaps the wildest of all were the rocket powered karts of the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
Would you believe that in the mid-1960s the rocket-powered kart pictured above turned the quarter mile at over 150 mph? 0 to 150 in 7.3 seconds! That was Jack McClure with his modified 1963 Rupp Dart Kart powered by a pair of Turbonique T-16 rocket motors.
These motors, each producing 300 lbs of thrust, used a special kind of monopropellant which the company dubbed "Thermolene" (actually N-Propyl Nitrate). These engines powered the little kart to faster times than rail dragsters of its day. These engines, however, were also very dangerous and killed many users because under certain conditions they could explode like bombs. Those disasters resulted in the Turbonique factory closing and its owner landing in jail.
Rocket Karts in the 1970's
In 1967, a company called Reaction Dynamics built a record-breaking dragster powered by a 90% hydrogen peroxide rocket motor. This car was the inspiration for many rocket powered vehicle builders in the 70s, among them (back again!) Jack McClure with a hydrogen peroxide rocket-powered laydown kart. The kart, which resembled a Margay, was actually custom designed by Jack and built by Glenn Blakely of Tampa Florida. Jack fitted this kart with an engine built by Arvil Porter that produced 1000 lbs of thrust.
Jack McClure's kart with the 1000 lb thrust rocket.
Jack needed more speed (!!) however, and had Arvil build him a 1500 lb thrust version. This engine, crafted of stainless steel, was 10" long by 7" diameter. The hydrogen peroxide was forced through a catalyst pack made of silver and nickel screens. Superheated steam produced by the reaction at 300 PSI escaped through a 2 " diameter nozzle and produced enough thrust to push the little kart to over 215 mph in 6 seconds in the quarter mile. For stopping, the kart featured disc brakes (for below 100 mph) and a drag chute. The drivers suit was also fitted with its own parachute in case driver and kart became separated during one of those wild runs. The kart was later sold to Ramon Alvarez who raced the kart for a short time. The kart might still exist to this day.
In 1980, the karting speed envelope was pushed yet further by Australian Rosco McGlashan. Rosco, who at the time was living in the U.S., built and drove a hydrogen peroxide rocket kart that surpassed 253 mph!
Rosco's 253 mph kart!
"It was an incredible feeling sitting in that thing with fuel bubbling and gurgling just behind your head and then hitting the throttle" says Rosco with a smile. "It was truly an awesome machine."
Rosco continues to be heavily involved in drag racing and speed exhibitions and is today known as Australias fastest man. He is currently preparing an assault on the world land speed record.
Juan Manuel Lozano of Mexico, who supplied most of the historical information for this article, is himself an experienced rocket car builder and is currently constructing a rocket-powered dragster. After that, he plans to build a rocket kart. We will definitely want to see that!
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