Automotive

200,000-horsepower Aussie rocket car takes aim at 1,000 mph in 2022

200,000-horsepower Aussie rock...
The Aussie Invader 5R's custom-designed rocket engine is good for around 62,000 lbf of thrust
The Aussie Invader 5R's custom-designed rocket engine is good for around 62,000 lbf of thrust
View 12 Images
The Aussie Invader 5R's custom-designed rocket engine is good for around 62,000 lbf of thrust
1/12
The Aussie Invader 5R's custom-designed rocket engine is good for around 62,000 lbf of thrust
Don't worry, it's got nice big disc brakes
2/12
Don't worry, it's got nice big disc brakes
No-nonsense steering wheel
3/12
No-nonsense steering wheel
Rosco McGlashan has been chasing the outright speed record for more than 25 years now
4/12
Rosco McGlashan has been chasing the outright speed record for more than 25 years now
The roll cage will have its work cut out at 1,000 mph
5/12
The roll cage will have its work cut out at 1,000 mph
The tapered underside is designed to help deal with ground effect forces at transonic speeds
6/12
The tapered underside is designed to help deal with ground effect forces at transonic speeds
Each solid aluminum wheel weighs 140 kg
7/12
Each solid aluminum wheel weighs 140 kg
Where previous Aussie Invaders were powered by jet fighter engines, this one's going for a bespoke rocket making the equivalent of 200,000 horsepower
8/12
Where previous Aussie Invaders were powered by jet fighter engines, this one's going for a bespoke rocket making the equivalent of 200,000 horsepower
High and low speed drogue parachutes will deploy in stages as the car slows
9/12
High and low speed drogue parachutes will deploy in stages as the car slows
The Aussie Invader team hopes to break the outright speed record and chase 1,000 mph in 2022
10/12
The Aussie Invader team hopes to break the outright speed record and chase 1,000 mph in 2022
The Aussie Invader 5R is Roscoe McGlashan's fifth outright land speed vehicle, although he's got a long history of other crazy rides in his back pocket
11/12
The Aussie Invader 5R is Roscoe McGlashan's fifth outright land speed vehicle, although he's got a long history of other crazy rides in his back pocket
The car is basically a steel tube packed with rocket fuel
12/12
The car is basically a steel tube packed with rocket fuel
View gallery - 12 images

With the Bloodhound SSC team flat broke, and the North American Eagle destroyed in a tragic fireball in Oregon, Perth's Aussie Invader 5R is planning to take a run at the very elusive 1,000 mph (1,609.3 km/h) mark. In doing so, the team will need to smash the outright land speed record, which has stood firm since October 1997, when the ThrustSSC broke the sound barrier for the first time and recorded an official 763.035 mph (1227.985 km/h).

Rarely does a record last so long in this age of rapid technical advancement, but the insane resources you need to get past the sound barrier with even the slightest pretense of safety haven't changed at all. And it's not like a Formula One situation, where the team can perhaps spin out ideas it's developed on the racetrack for the good of future street cars; supersonic cars don't even put their power down through the wheels. The physics gets very different as you start approaching the speed of sound.

Still, there remains some people with the appetite and the means to attack a problem like this, and Australia's fastest man Rosco McGlashan is one of them. Operating out of Perth, Western Australia, McGlashan has been working on an outright land speed record attempt for several decades now.

Rosco McGlashan has been chasing the outright speed record for more than 25 years now
Rosco McGlashan has been chasing the outright speed record for more than 25 years now

In 1994, he set his current Australian land speed record at 500 mph (802.6 km/h). In 1995, he ran off course at South Australia's Lake Gairdner salt flats and hit some metal timing equipment at about 600 mph (960 km/h), just 30 mph (48 km/h) off the outright record at the time. The car was wrecked, but he walked away. In 1997, poor salt conditions prevented him from taking another stab with his third car, and he lost the race to the sound barrier to Andy Green in the ThrustSSC.

Now, he's back, and with some niggling tax issues apparently dealt with, he's got a ridiculous new powertrain he believes gives him a genuine shot at passing 1,000 mph.

The Aussie Invader 5R is powered by an "ablative B3 bi-propellant rocket engine" generating 62,000 lbf of thrust, or the rough equivalent of 200,000 horsepower. It's not an ex-fighter jet engine this time; McGlashan worked with famed rocket designer Bob Truax and Peter Beck of New Zealand's Rocket Lab to design something bespoke, fed by an orbital propellant charging module that'll stop the fuel from sloshing around and throwing the car off course.

Where previous Aussie Invaders were powered by jet fighter engines, this one's going for a bespoke rocket making the equivalent of 200,000 horsepower
Where previous Aussie Invaders were powered by jet fighter engines, this one's going for a bespoke rocket making the equivalent of 200,000 horsepower

If it makes it all the way to 1,000 mph, the process should take just 22 seconds. We imagine that'll be quite a 22 seconds from the cockpit, especially since the driver's turning 71 this year.

Since G-forces would tear any normal wheel apart, and the wheels don't have to deliver power to the ground, it runs four solid aluminum wheels with no tires, each weighing 140 kg (309 lb) and rated for rotational speeds up to 10,200 rpm, which would produce forces around 50G. Canard winglets on the front can adjust the weight on the front wheels as the car's center of gravity shifts.

Slowing the thing down will be a team effort; pure wind resistance will handle the first part as the rocket is gradually tapered off (cutting the throttle outright would cause the pilot to experience a rather bracing 16G of deceleration). Then a pair of strong metal air brakes will extend out from the back of the vehicle at around 800 mph (1,287 km/h), taking about 7 tonnes of force. A high speed parachute will deploy at 600 mph (966 km/h), followed by a "low speed" chute as things get down to a much more sensible 450 mph (724 km/h). And finally, yes, there seem to be hydraulic disc brakes on all four corners as well.

The car is basically a steel tube packed with rocket fuel
The car is basically a steel tube packed with rocket fuel

Basically, though, you're looking at a 40-foot steel pipe, 10 mm (0.4 inches) thick and weighing 2.5 tonnes all by itself, the vast majority of which is stuffed with 800 litres (211 gallons) of turpentine, 2 tonnes of white fuming nitric acid oxidiser, four big 4,000-psi gaseous nitrogen blowdown tanks and a dirty big rocket. A comically small section of the car is dedicated to human meat, canned up in a roll cage.

In an interview with CarAdvice, the Aussie Invader team has announced it's gearing up for a shot at immortality in 2022, with 1,000 mph being the ultimate target. We can't help but admire a life spent on such a singular and wildly difficult task – although as the years tick on, these land speed efforts are starting to look more and more indulgent.

Incredible minds, extreme courage and huge sums of money are being mustered to this cause, at the end of which a man will kiss his wife, strap himself into a rocket on wheels and proceed to risk his life to try to pass an arbitrary number larger than the last fellow's number, with his eyes firmly set on a nice round number. The payoff, in the best case scenario, will be personal glory and a helluva story to tell.

The tapered underside is designed to help deal with ground effect forces at transonic speeds
The tapered underside is designed to help deal with ground effect forces at transonic speeds

Given the very real challenges the world now faces, it's hard not to wonder how much else could've been achieved with that obvious talent and drive. But we don't choose our muses, they choose us, and Rosco McGlashan has been driven to chase this demon of velocity for most of his life. We can only wish this inspired madman good luck and godspeed on his journey.

Source: Aussie Invader via Car Advice

View gallery - 12 images
7 comments
Chris Coles
Always remember Art Arfons tying a jet engine to a tree and blowing away the chicken coop.
Bricorn
I fail to see how you can claim a land speed record for something that is basically a missile with some wheels bolted on. IMO, to be valid, a record should be set by a vehicle that's powered through its wheels like a car.
Pablo
I wish this guy the best... otherwise, he won't be like a bug hitting a windshield, it'll be a bug going THROUGH the windshield!
Nelson Hyde Chick
Oh boy, someone will be able to claim that went the fastest of wheels! Wow, this is a lot of time, money and resources blown on a vanity project.
Bill S.
I wonder if it has a CD player
Spud Murphy
I agree, what a waste of money to stroke someone's big ego. Imagine the good this money could do instead of being pissed away on this, and the many similar projects. It's not like this will add anything to scientific knowledge, as Bricorn said, it's just a missile on wheels, not a car.
ReservoirPup
Can't see much in the story, but a huge effort by Loz to be polite and civil. Good job Loz!