Watch this 1968 Howmet TX jet around Monza… literally

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1967 Howmet TX Gas Turbine flickr / David Merrett

A few years before Colin Chapman would finally accept that jet cars like his Type 56B didn’t work well around complex race tracks, American driver Ray Heppenstall managed to convince superalloy giant Howmet to finance his idea: McKee Engineering’s Group 6 chassis combined with Howmet’s new metals, and more importantly, with Continental Aviation’s prototype helicopter turbines. Once the ink dried on those papers in 1968, a pair of Howmet TXs rolled out of McKee’s garage: chassis GTP1 and GTP2.

While GTP1 was converted to turbine power from an existing Can-Am chassis, GTP2 was built from scratch, with Bob McKee later completing two spare frames known as GTP3 and GTP4. Following a bit of trial and error, and after two SCCA race wins and six FIA land speed records, the Howmet TX became the most successful turbine car effort of the era by a long shot—despite never reaching its full potential due to cut funding.

Once Howmet was out in 1971, the lease on the Continental jets expired, which pushed Heppenstall into selling both chassis. Since then, those original cars have been restored using Allison 250 C18 turbines. The car in the sweat-inducing video below is likely the first of the two newer McKee chassis, rebuilt to hit the track once again and save the precious original two.

The Allison-powered cars are distinguished by top-vented exhausts instead of the rear-exiting ones found on the other two. Conveniently, Allison is now owned by Rolls-Royce, so finding turbine maintenance is straightforward. With roughly 380 horsepower and a single-speed gearbox, they are still Ford-GT40-fast in the right hands, given enough straight track up ahead. 

The main straight at Monza happens to be 0.69 of a mile long…

Yes, the pairing of low-downforce straights and four-wheeled jet power is just awesome as you’d expect. The folks from Goodwood were there to capture what it’s like to floor America’s best turbine car during the Monza Historic. Soak up the glory below.

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