1968 Howmet Turbine

Much of the experimental engine is missing. Only ten were built, to win a government contract, so replacement parts are on intergalactic backorder

Throughout the past century of automotive progress, the turbine engine was perceived as a possible alternative to the internal combustion engine.
The two most famous American turbine programs are the Chrysler Turbine and the Andy Granatelli Paxton-STP Indy racers. Yet, the most successful and only race-winning turbine cars ever built were neither of these two, but rather the lesser known, but significantly more important, 1968 Howmet Turbine racing coupes.
The moving force behind the Howmet TX was racing driver and engineer Ray Heppenstall and his racing buddy Tom Fleming, vice president of marketing at Howmet. While running at Daytona in 1967, the two decided to build a turbine-powered race car.
Heppenstall discovered that Continental Aviation had designed a small turbine engine when they bid on a U.S. military helicopter engine contract. The contract had failed to materialize; so ten engines were left over. The unique powerplant weighed a mere 170 pounds, yet produced 330 hp. The only real modification required to convert the helicopter turbine engine for race car use was to design a turbine wastegate.
The original Howmet, bearing chassis number one and the very car offered here, was built based on a 1967 McKee Group 7/Can-Am car known as the Crosal Special. It featured a multi-tubular space frame construction with a fully independent, coil-spring suspension. The resulting 37-inch high Howmet TX was clothed in sleek, light aluminum and fiberglass bodywork and fitted with Halibrand cast-alloy wheels.
Apart from being repainted once in its original livery, the first Howmet TX race car remains in timewarp condition and still retains its original interior. No changes in specifications have been made and the Continental TS325-1 engine remains. Included in the sale are spare engine parts that were also purchased and saved by Jim Brucker. While not in running condition, it is thought the 1968 Howmet Turbine is missing only its combustion chamber and compressor; otherwise it is complete.

Thor Thorson

Thor Thorson - SCM Contributing Editor

Thor grew up in northern Iowa. His father bought a red Jag XK 150 in the late 1950s, and that was all it took; he has been in love with sports cars , racing cars and the associated adrenaline rush ever since. He has vintage raced for more than 20 years, the bulk of them spent behind the wheel of a blue Elva 7. When he’s not racing, he is president of Vintage Racing Motors Inc., a collector-car dealer and vintage-racing support company based in Redmond, WA. His knowledge runs the full spectrum of vintage racing, and he has put that expertise to good use for SCM since 2003.

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