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Named as one of TIME’s 50 Best Inventions of 2009, the British Steam Car, aka “the fastest kettle in the world,” set new measured-mile (139.843 mph) and measured-kilometer (148.308 mph) records in August at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The previous mile record of 127.659 mph was set in 1906 by Fred Marriott in a Stanley Steamer.

The British Steam Car has 12 LPG-fueled boilers with over 3 km of tubing that produce 3 megawatts of heat — which the manufacturer’s web site equates to ~ 1,500 kettles, or ~ 23 cups of tea per second — and use 1,000 liters of water every 25 minutes. The 3-tonne (6,614 lbs) car is 7.663m long (25.14′), 1.7m wide (5.6′), and 1.7m tall (5.6′).

British Steam Car [Manufacturer’s Site]

9 Responses to It’s Just Cool: 151-MPH Steam Car

  1. But the important question is: can it brew a good cup of darjeeling?

  2. rick says:

    utterly useless… but so cool, would love to see a video of that to hear it go by! wonder wha tthe propulsion system looks like, probably turbine driven…

  3. Redrobert says:

    There are lots of pics on the website of the car which is


    Lots of design details and specs on the website.

    Also here is the link for the YouTube video:


  4. Brian Kelley says:

    Wait, 103 years of engineering later, and they only gained an extra 12 mph??

  5. Bill says:

    Maximum horsepower at zero R.P.M.

  6. Chris says:

    Brian: to be fair, about 85 of those 103 years were focused on the internal combustion engine, not external combustion engines 😉 Or, put another way, only some small fraction of a percentage of the engineering effort of the last 103 years has gone into engine development *other* than the IC engine.

    But yeah, I was a little disappointed by their inability to make it go faster, too. Almost makes you wonder if they would’ve been better served just putting a nozzle on the back and using steam pressure for propulsion directly :-p


  7. river1 says:

    i think from the design of the car they expected to go faster. most normal folk don’t relize the difficulty in going for a land speed record. as you go faster it is exponentially harder to go faster. as a pit crew member of a record holding racer http://purplesagetradingpost.com/sumner/hooley/hooley-index.html i’ve seen some of our and other teams trials and tribulations of going fast. they probably experianced some bugs that they’ll work out and will get the speed up to match the design of the car.

    good luck to them

    later jim

  8. For more information on this car and steam cars in general, check out The Steam Car Club of Great Britain web site at http://www.steamcar.net regards, Jeff.

  9. MattW says:

    As a long time fan of LSR vehicles, I will also admit to a bit of disappointment over the speed, as it sure looked like they were shooting for something over 170mph. That said, I recognize the difficulty, especially when there aren’t any relevant steam powered vehicles to even start development from.

    I think it also points out what a different time the early 1900’s were. Looking at Fred Marriot’s Stanley Steamer, it looks like an extremely marginal vehicle from any kind of safety persepective, and they were apparently running boiler pressures in excess of 1000 psi, at a time when locomotives ran something like 200-300 psi. That vehicle pushed at all the limits and there wasn’t much difference between hero and dead. The British Steam Car, on the other hand, didn’t really push at all and was just a solidly engineered and constructed vehicle that you could drive and stand a pretty good chance of surviving.

    That said, I agree that it is really cool, although it does point out what a pack of nitwits Time magazine are.

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