What is it?
The Howmet TX (TX stands for Turbine eXperimental) was an American sports prototype racing car designed in 1968. It was the only turbine powered car to ever win a race.
Why was it developed?
The idea was proposed by racing car driver, Ray Heppenstall. The use of gas turbines in racing was hiking up. Manufacturers like Chrysler, Rover and BRM designed many engines and put them to use but none tasted success. Heppenstall studied these engines and chassis and decided to improve in some areas to make them more competitive for racing.
What is Howmet?
Howmet Corporation had expertise in making investment castings of superalloys, aluminium and titanium. Ray and his friend, Fleming was successful in convincing the board of directors at Howmet to fund his project, lending their name to the car.
A bit more on the TX…
Built in a budget of only $10,000, the Howmet TX was a moonshot. The TX needed a smaller engine, so Heppenstall found Continental Aviation and Engineering Corporation. A system called ‘wastegate’ was added to minimise the effect of lag between the throttle and turbine producing power, improving engine response. The engine weighed in at a light 170 pounds (77kg). It had a displacement of 3.0-litre and put out 375 horses with a massive 884NM of torque. The TX’s chassis was derived from a Can-Am car McKee had made. It weighed just a shade less than 1500 pounds (680kg).
Did it win any accolades?
Yes it did. Back in America the Howmet TX finished its first race, the Vandergraft Trophy in West Virginia, it also set a new lap record. Next at the Heart of Dixie race, it won both the sprint and the feature race again setting a new lap record, same for the Marlboro 300. Heppenstall also piloted the TX in the 6 hours of Watkins Glen, where he finished 3rd overall and 1st in class.
Fate of the TX…
Chassis #GTP1 was brought in 2006 by Bruce Linsmeyer of Avon Aero who restored it to its original form. It won the Sebring Trophy at the 2007 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. McKee had turned the chassis #2 into its original, closed-cockpit form on the request of it new owner Chuck Haines. It was known by the name Howmet TX MKII. It now featured an Allison 250C18 turbine. It participated in events like Goodwood Festival of Speed, Le Mans and Classic Endurance Racing and now is a part of the ROFGO collection.