I first became involved with this project when Dr. Neil Richardson, a senior lecturer in the School of
Engineering Sciences at the University of Southampton, asked me if I had any ideas for a group design
project for his Master of Engineering students in 1996. The idea of a steam powered car to take the
world record for a steam car which was 127.66 mph held by Fred Marriott since 1906 was put forward
Doctors Neil Richardson and Richard Bowen developed the idea and the first year 1996/97 was primarily
a scoping exercise. The second years group 1997/98 completed detailed design study and carried out
wind tunnel tests on a 1/5 scale model.
In November 1996 Doctor Richardson took part in the Centenary London to Brighton veteran car run as a
passenger in a 1903 Daimler from the Beaulieu Motor Museum, driven by the Hon. Ralph Montagu. During
the run Dr Richardson mentioned the steam car project and in the summer of 1997 invited the Hon Ralph
Montagu and his father Lord Montagu to the project presentation given by the students as part of their
In order to progress the project further and to build a record breaking car, funding/sponsorship was
needed. In the autumn of 1997 the Hon Ralph Montagu telephoned Dr. Richardson telling him that his
cousin Charles Burnett III may be interested in taking on the project. Dr's. Richardson, Bowen and
myself had a meeting with Charles Burnett III and the ball started to roll. Subsequently Glynn
Bowsher was recruited as design engineer and the resulting car has now beaten that earlier record
with a speed of 139.843mph.
At the beginning the project was named Team Inspiration, the idea being to inspire young engineers
to think outside the usual parameters and do something extraordinary.
The car ended up with a two stage turbine and 12 computer controlled mini bore boilers. The concept
was daring and bordering on the impossible but with sheer grit and determination the new record is
now proudly held by Charles Burnett III.
The car shortly after the final run on 26th August 2009.
On Wednesday 26th August 2009 at 8.22am (California time) Don Wales successfully set another land speed
record for a steam powered car. The car set the record for a measured kilometre – achieving an average
speed of 148.308mph on two runs.
After Charles Burnett III’s heroics on Tuesday 25th in breaking the record for a measured mile, test
driver Don Wales piloted the car for the attempt at the kilometre record and reached a peak speed over
155mph. Both new international records are subject to official confirmation by the FIA.
Don Wales said: "What a great feeling, the car felt better than ever today. We peaked over 150mph and
the car was handling beautifully. The team has worked so hard over the last 10 years, especially over
the last few weeks! Having set two FIA world records is an amazing achievement and no-more than the
team deserve after their perseverance”
Project Manager Matt Candy said: "It’s fantastic to set another record for the team and all that hard
work has been worth it. After Charles broke the record for the measured mile on Tuesday, we decided to
have one more run with the car and attempt the kilometre record. We took some of the inhibitors from
the boilers for this run and it helped get a bit more speed out of the car. The weather was perfect
today and the air temperature was just 62 degrees Fahrenheit, the team turned around the car in an
amazing 30minutes which is their quickest ever! Don has worked so hard with the team, it’s fantastic
that he should go home with a record too.”