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 The British Steam Car Challenge was conceived with the twofold aim of breaking the Land Speed Record for steam powered vehicles as well as creating excitement in the arena of alternate fuels. 

The layout of the car is rear engined, rear wheel drive. All four wheels are mounted on double wishbone independent suspension, with rack and pinion steering on the front wheels.  The braking system comprises disk brakes on all four wheels and a parachute 

The chassis is a cross-braced double ladder space frame, fabricated from square section aircraft specification steel tube with a bulkhead between the driver and the powertrain.  The body shell from the bulkhead forwards is carbon composite, while the rear panels are in aluminium. Construction of cars of this type generate large financial output. The average consumer looking to finance their vehicle through www.roadloans.com would find the discrepancy in cost between the average consumer automobile
and any vehicle competing for the land speed record astronomical.

Motive power is from a two-stage steam turbine, fed by a boiler fired on LPG. The turbine drives a gear train with a 5:1 ratio for a wheel speed of 3000 RPM at 200 MPH.  The boiler section is in the centre of the car directly behind the single seat cockpit.  For space reasons, there are four separate boilers, each capable of being run independently.  The steam from each boiler is fed to the turbine wheel via hydraulically actuated nozzles. The steam generation system is computer controlled using information gathered by an advanced data acquisition system.  Water for the steam generation system is carried in two nitrogen pressurised tanks.



Overall length

5.25 m


3.80 m

Overall width

1.70 m

Front wheeltrack

1.22 m

Overall height

1.10 m

Rear wheeltrack

1.30 m

Frontal area

1.1 sq.m

Drag coefficient



Tubular steel spaceframe with carbon composite front/aluminium rear panels



Goodyear L.S.R. - 270 mm rolling rad. X 140 mm width


Goodyear L.S.R. - 211 mm rolling rad X 165 mm width


Independent all round.
Coil springs and integrated shock absorbers.


Rack and pinion.


Twin front wheel disk brakes, twin rear inboard rear disc brakes, braking parachute.


Two stage Curtis type turbine.
Output: 325 b.h.p.

Output shaft gear ratio: 5:1
Differential: Epicyclic type with viscous couplings.


Four independent boilers of straight water tube type.


L.P.G. (Liquefied petroleum gas).

Working fluid


Design performance

Maximum speed 200+m.p.h.
Initial acceleration: 0.52g

The Challenge


Today, almost everyone associates Land Speed Records with jet powered monsters or cars with internal combustion engines of gigantic capacity.  The ‘alternative fuel’ car is seen as unadventurous and slow by comparison. It was not always so.

The first official Land Speed Record in 1898, and the next five records that followed, were held by electric vehicles.  It wasn’t until 1902 that the silent speedsters lost their domination … to a steam car.  
On 13 April 1902, the crowds at the annual Semaine de Vitesse, held on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice waited in eager anticipation.  The previous year, Leon Serpollet, had snatched the prestigious Henri de Rothschild Cup from the Mercedes team and was only 3mph slower than the current Land Speed Record of the day, which had been set at 65.79mph.  The crowd were not to be disappointed. Serpollet whistled through the measured kilometre in 29.8 seconds, setting a new record of 75.06mph.

Internal combustion engined cars regained the record later that year, and over the next three years, raised it by 33mph to 109.65mph.  Then, in January 1906, Fred Marriott dominated the annual Florida Speed Week, held on Ormond Beach.  Driving the Stanley Brothers’ “Rocket”, he outclassed the opposition, including the Land Speed Record holding 200hp Darracq.  Marriott set five records, won three trophies, and recorded a best speed of 127.6mph through the measured mile.  Incredibly the Paris Authorities did not recognise his mile record, but accepted the kilometre record of 121.57mph.

Regrettably this was the last time that steam powered vehicles dominated the outright Land Speed Record.  In 1907 the “Rocket” crashed at over 130mph.  Luckily Fred Marriott survived, but it was the end for the “Rocket” and the Stanley Brothers’ record plans.

Yet it was to be another four years before the Land Speed Record was finally wrested away from the “Rocket”, by just 3.5mph, and it took all 21 litres of the Mercedes “Blitzen” Benz to do it.

In Fred Marriott’s day, Land Speed Records were measured across a marked mile in a single direction and a single pass. The time was recorded and the record determination was made from the calculations of that time.  The record was for the fastest vehicle, no matter what form of propulsion.

Today, the FIA is still the sanctioning body and now recognizes Land Speed Records for different categories: steam, electric, wheel driven, and thrust.  They also now require two passes across a measured mile (or kilometre) in opposing directions within 60 minutes of each other.  The time of the two runs is then averaged to obtain the official recorded speed.  However, as this latter requirement was instituted in 1910, after Fred Marriott’s record was established, his achievement is still recognized as the official Steam Powered Land Speed Record.

The late entrepreneur William Lear ventured into the arena of steam powered vehicles during a 1969 program sponsored by the State of California that intended to bring about ecologically friendly steam powered city buses.  For this application Lear turned to Barber-Nichols Engineering to design a steam turbine and although the city bus program ultimately failed, several turbines were built in support of the program.

     In 1985, one of the Lear turbines found its way into a car which had been brought to the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah, USA, for an attempt at the steam powered Land Speed Record.  Over the course of several years the car progressed from 110mph to a measured speed of 145.607mph.  Unfortunately the latter was a one way run, a fire preventing the return run, and therefore was not recognized as a record by the FIA.

The British Steam Car Challenge intends to exceed the official record set by the “Rocket”, and the unofficial mark set by Bob Barber.  The Inspiration Team hope to set the official Steam Powered Land Speed Record at 200mph+.


Born in England in 1956, Charles Burnett was educated in South Africa and the United States.  As a legitimate tri-national - his mother was Canadian and his father American -  he inherited a love for travel and all things mechanical from his father, who raced hydroplanes and restored Hudson automobiles.


A long-time powerboat enthusiast, Charles set up Vulture Ventures, a UK-based offshore racing team, which soon became known as the world’s most successful team in the sport.  During this time, Charles took a variety of world records using catamarans and monohulls powered by diesel, petrol and LPG. He was included in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1999 for an offshore water speed record of 137mph.

Since then, Charles has been looking at ways of advancing environmentally friendly vehicles on land, water and in the air without sacrificing the "fun quotient" and, most importantly, the sales potential.

Racing Records and Achievements



World Championship UIM Class II


Fastest Offshore Outboard in the World (137.32mph)

1995 -

World Speed Record UIM Class II (137.32mph)

1995 -

World Championship Superboat Class B


World Speed Record UIM Class II - Bournemouth Pier to Boscombe Pier (121.04mph)


World Cross-Channel Records


World Speed Record – Isle of Wight


World Speed Record – Propane Gas Unlimited


Needles Trophy




European Champion UIM Class II




Fastest Overall Speed


Fastest Overall Speed


Speed Record 1.3 litre


Speed Record 6 litre


Speed Record Amphibious Truck




RYA National Championship

1995 & 1996

UKOBA British Championship

1995 & 1996

BTYJA Yachtsman of the Year (Runner-Up)

1995 & 1996



Born 24 January 1979 in Burnley, Lancashire, Annette finished her education with a business degree in Hull.  During her time studying at University, Annette completed a placement at high-tech engineering company PDS (CNC) Engineering Ltd and was responsible for the attainment of ISO 9002 with Lloyds Register and then Rolls-Royce Critical Parts Approval Certification for them.  She also spent part of the placement year within NASA’s Johnson Space Centre, Houston as a Monitor for the prestigious International Space School. 

As an officially appointed “Ambassador for East Lancashire”, Annette takes an active interest promoting the skills of the area and she has taken her involvement in local issues into politics where she was asked to be a candidate for local government in her home ward of the Calder Valley.  Her involvement in local politics has given Annette an awareness of the importance of finding ecologically friendly alternatives for transportation. 

Meeting Glynne Bowsher, Andy Green and the wonderful ThrustSSC team, and having the opportunity to watch the car take shape from the early days of that project, sparked her interest in record breaking. She went on to become involved in the engineering of Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand’s ICO Global Round the World Balloon Global Challenger Project and several other record projects 

She is currently engaged in high speed driving training as well as taking part in competitive motorsports events to prepare her for the Steam Car Challenge.



Glynne is a Senior Design Engineer who became involved in the design and specification of disc brakes and power hydraulic systems for non-mainstream vehicles. He also designed the test heads and power systems for a new brake test dynamometer, unusually powered by two Rolls-Royce compression-ignition engines.


Glynne’s first involvement with Land Speed Records came when he designed the brakes and power hydraulic systems for Richard Noble’s Thrust 2 jet car, and he was present at the Black Rock Desert when Richard took the Land Speed Record at 633mph in October 1983.


He was also the Mechanical Designer of Richard Noble's ThrustSSC, the current holder of the absolute World Land Speed Record and the first car to break the sound barrier on land.


He designed the brakes for rapid-transit systems and transmission brake proposals for the French TGV.

Glynne was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science from Southampton University.


Peter has worked in collaboration with a number of gas-turbine and associated companies in America and Europe. Working on projects such as the neutron spectrometer, high-speed bearing development, small gas-turbine engines and their installation many vehicles, including boats and aircraft.

He was also Project Engineer for the 24 Heures Du Mans in 1963 and 1965, and a project engineer for the Keikaeffer Corporation. He has owned and managed several small companies involved in small gas-turbines, precision and hydraulic engineering.


 Jeremy is a skilled electronic systems engineer who has gained experience through the aeronautical and motor sport industry.  He worked on the wind tunnel development of the Marlboro McLaren MP4 Formula 1 racing car, and was involved in the development of the unique and highly efficient intercooling system on the Lotus Esprit S3.

He was responsible for systems design on ThrustSSC, and is a consultant to QinetiQ, Rover Group, Bluebird Electric and the Automotive Group.


Frank is a qualified and experienced engineer, with a background in Prototype Vehicle, Speed Record, and Racecar design, development and build programs. 

His pedigree in the race car world stretches all the way back to 1965, since when he has been involved in race engineering / test driving / building and developing cars for most forms of motorsport, from Rally to Touring Cars, Historics to F1.

Frank is currently a Consulting Engineer specialising in automotive projects.  Previously he has held the posts of Race Engineer at Hexagon, Technical Director at Turbo Tork, Chief Engineer / Race Engineer at Janspeed Motorsport, Technical Engineer at Janspeed Engineering and Consulting Engineer at Powertrain Developments.

His vast experience in high speed vehicle development will be put to good use in the final phases of the vehicle build, testing, development and Steam Car Record attempt.


John has a long history in the gas industry. He holds several patents for LPG-powered engines and is responsible for pioneering some of the most advanced gaseous fuel induction systems currently on the market. John has engineered race-winning powerboat engines and is responsible for the gas system design of several marine world speed record-holding craft.

Currently, John is Technical Director of the Ecological Engine Company in the UK and Prins Autogassystemen in the Netherlands.




Shaun has a long history in the motorsport industry, rising through the ranks to become the chief mechanic within the same company during 26 years of service. His skills in rallying and circuit racing have led him to prepare many different vehicles in many categories and regulations, including: the first four-wheel driven car to win on a circuit in the Northern Hemisphere; British and European touring cars; and land speed record attempt vehicles.

Shaun has always been interested in alternative fuels and was approached to assist with the research and development of converting the Rover K18-series engine to LPG, with the implementation of the training infrastructure, and in the design and fabrication of many of the components required in the modification and introduction of this to the marketplace.



Jeremy Davey graduated in Computer Science from Cambridge University. After working on systems for the Trident submarine program, he moved to Dallas, Texas, for a number of years.

On returning to the UK, Jeremy joined Richard Noble's ThrustSSC Team looking after the Web Site and the project's satellite communications.  The Internet rapidly became a core part of that project as it sought to involve people from around the world in its successes and failures. The success of the site was only too well demonstrated by its appeal to the Internet readership, which saved ThrustSSC from financial collapse just before the successful Black Rock Campaign, which gave Britain the first Supersonic World Land Speed Record. At its peak in 1997, it achieved in excess of 3.5 million accesses/day - a figure that speaks for itself.

Since the record Jeremy has been getting on with the rest of his life, but has been tempted out of Land Speed Record 'retirement' by the British Steam Car Challenge.



Lynne is a director of the Steam Car Company, and has been trained and gained most of her knowledge in an accounting environment, owning a successful accounting and secretarial agency. Through the years she has diversified into other areas of an office environment making good use of her skills in sales, marketing and secretarial work. Lynne is a good all-rounder; she is a people motivator, and a good team leader, with an enthusiastic outlook on life






Kirsty joined the company in 1999 and has advanced to take on the role of Finance Manager within the company.  Kirsty gained her knowledge of accounts and other office practices by using her AAT qualifications, which she gained in 1996.  With her administrative skills Kirsty has become a valued member of the team.



 Bill is a retired maritime consultant, who ran his own practice from 1967 to 1997.  He first rode in a Stanley steam car in 1963 and, being an ex-marine engineer in steam driven ships, became hooked in this intriguing mode of transport.  In 1987 he acquired his first steam car  - a 1916 model 726 Stanley 20hp roadster  - and he has just completed the rebuild of a 1908 Stanley 20hp model H.5. gentlemans speedy roadster.

As well as being the Chairman of Team Inspiration, the supporters’ club for the British Steam Car Challenge, he is also the current Chairman of the Steam Car Club of Great Britain, which has an international membership of around 350.

Bill has been involved with the British Steam Car Challenge since its conception and is now on the Board of Trustees for the charity that is funding the project.



Steve was involved in the ThrustSSC project that captured the first supersonic Land Speed Record.  Originally a member of the Mach 1 Team, he gradually became integrated with the build team, assisting with the construction of support equipment.  During the record attempts, Steve’s responsibilities included press liaison, and assisting in the daily preparation of the car.

In the mid 1970s, Steve was one of the team that promoted drag racing in the UK, helping set up the first meetings at Long Marston (now Avon Raceway), and the early custom and hotrod shows in the Midlands. 

At one time he built and ran a 2000cc drag bike, and has constructed hotrods, customs and kit cars.

Steve gained his engineering background through military aviation.  He was senior technical author, writing operation, maintenance and repair manuals for aircraft such as the Tornado and Harrier.  He is currently the technical author for a laboratory equipment manufacturer in the petrochemical industry.


Barbie was a member of the Mach 1 Team, the supporters club for the ThrustSSC project, having volunteered to help with admin tasks, as well as producing articles for the ThrustSSC website.

Following the success record attempt in 1997, Barbie joined Richard Noble’s team, touring the country with the ThrustSSC Exhibition Crew, before moving on to Farnborough-Aircraft.com, Richard’s next project.  Whilst at Farnborough, she set up a new supporters’ club, the Farnborough Airforce, which gave members access to the company’s design and marketing activities.

Now Barbie spends her days working for an electrical and mechanical installation company, whilst helping  Team Inspiration in her spare time.

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