In the world of racing – whether it’s a professional competition or an amateur grudge match between the lights – there’s the adage in the minds of all competitors. No matter how fast you are, there will always be someone faster. That is, unless you’re Team Vesco and driver Dave Spangler, who drove the Turbinator II to 503 mph a couple weeks ago at Bonneville in the World Speed Finals. It’s the fastest wheel-driven car in the world, but sadly, it’s not in the record books. More on that in a minute.
The Turbinator II looks like your typical ultra-high speed racer, and it even sounds like one too. There is a gas turbine engine nestled in that long thin body, but it doesn’t generate thrust out the back. Instead, the Lycoming T55-L-712 mill produces upwards of 5,000 horsepower (3,728 kilowatts) that drives all four wheels, which are adorned with special Mickey Thompson tires. The car itself measures 36 feet long, with a 21-foot wheelbase and a weight of 4,950 pounds (2,245 kilograms). Naturally, it uses parachutes to slow down, and a traction control system helps the car accelerate on the notoriously slippery salt.
At full power, the Turbinator II turns a mile in approximately eight seconds. If that’s not enough of a shock for you, when this car finally comes to a complete stop after its run, 7.8 miles have passed in just 2 minutes and 19 seconds. The only way to go faster on the ground is with a full-on jet-powered land speed racer, but it’s propelled by thrust, not wheels. Here's another video showing the car on its blistering 500-mph pass.
The Turbinator II does hold the current record for wheel-driven cars, but that’s a lower number established a few weeks prior at Bonneville. In September the car set a national record of 482.646 mph with a top speed of 492 mph, but sadly the recent 503-mph blast couldn't be backed up. To make it official a second run must be made in the opposite direction, but rain washed out the remainder of the event so Team Vesco was only able to complete a single pass.
Still, there’s a time slip out there showing a wheel-powered car hitting 503 mph. Say hello to the new king of speed.