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1950: Gas turbine car gets road test
Car manufacturers Rover have unveiled the first car powered with a gas turbine engine.

JET1, a two-seater model powered by the same kind of engine used in a jet, will have its first public test drive at the Silverstone racing circuit in Northamptonshire tomorrow.

The model being tested is still only experimental. But the company hopes production models which will be ready in another three or four years.

JET1 has been built with the engine positioned behind the seats. There are air intake grilles on either side of the car and exhaust outlets on the top of the tail.

During tests, the car has reached top speeds of 90 miles an hour, with the engine running at 50,000 revs per minute.

The Royal Automobile club recorded an acceleration speed of 0-60 (97km) in 14 seconds.

Car designer Spencer King took the car out for an early spin for the benefit of the television cameras.

He said: "I should like to say first of all this car is very easy indeed to drive. I have driven it quite a bit beforehand and there is no difficulty at all.

"You have two pedals, one to start and one to stop with, and the car handles very nicely. It runs dead straight however fast you're going."

The car runs on petrol, paraffin or diesel oil, but consumption is still high - about five to seven miles a gallon (2km to 2.5km per litre).

Chief Engineer Maurice Wilks says he hopes the car will prove a success. "It is obviously the Rover Company's intention to produce a gas turbine engined car as a marketable proposition if and when that becomes practicable," he said.

"It will certainly be as good as, most probably better than, existing piston engined cars in respect of performance and weight. Probably though, it will not be quite so good in respect of fuel consumption, but to balance that the performance will be superb."

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Gas turbine car
Gas turbine car gets its first road test in front of the cameras


In Context
Rover first became involved in the development of gas turbine engines during World War II.

Rover and the BRM Formula 1 team joined forces to produce a gas turbine powered coupe, which entered the 1963 LeMans 24-hour race, driven by Graham Hill and Richie Ginther. It averaged 107.8mph (173km) and had a top speed of 142mph (229km).

However, it proved difficult to build an engine small enough to fit in a car, which was also fuel efficient, so the gas turbine powered car was never going to be a viable alternative to the combustion engine.

Rover went into decline in the late 1980s, in common with much of British heavy engineering. BMW took over the company in 1994. It was sold again in 2000 to Phoenix Venture Holdings.

The company began trading as MG Rover, but it struggled to make a profit and went into receivership in 2005.

JET 1 is now on permanent display in the Making the Modern World gallery in the Science Museum.

Stories From 8 Mar


 
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