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Spirit of America Racecar
Spirit of America Racecar
Resource Typeimage
TitleSpirit of America Racecar
Coverage / Year1963 to 1953
DescriptionA jet-powered racecar. It has an elongated aerodynamic fuselage, which is supported by one large wheel in the front and two in back. The internal structure consists of welded tubular white metal welded onto a lightweight framework. The racecar is constructed with a welded full-truss chrome steel framework and aluminum skin panels. Its tailfin rises to ten feet, seven inches from the ground. The fuselage is six feet in height and four feet in width, and its length thirty-eight feet. The racecar's jet intake ducts are made of molded fiberglass and resin. A canopy of blue transparent plastic covers the cockpit. The exterior surfaces are painted metallic silver with metallic dark blue.
InterpretationThis jet-powered racecar, the 'Spirit of America, ' broke the land-speed record by becoming the first land vehicle to exceed 500 mph. Driven by Craig Breedlove, the racecar reached a top speed of 526.277 mph on the Bonneville, Utah Salt Flats on October 15, 1964. The "Spirit of America" was the first vehicle whose body design was created through the employment of wind tunnel testing and aeronautical design principles. Building one rear wheel of the 'Spirit of America' required as much effort and attention to detail as building an entire average racing car. The driver sits on a leather-covered foam rubber seat molded to fit his body and to cushion it from extreme shocks at speeds of 400 mph and above. He sits with his legs pointed almost straight out from his hips toward a foot throttle on right and a brake pedal on left. The driver uses an air breathing system at high speeds and has a steering wheel to control the vehicle's steering system. The engine and speed gauges are located so the driver can see them by lowering his eyes slightly from the racecourse. The windshield in the hatch cover is heavily tinted to cut down glare from the white salt raceway. The "Spirit of America" is designed to travel like an arrow, with the center of gravity or weight forward like an arrowhead and the center of wind pressure rearward as it is on the feathers of an arrow. This keeps the vehicle pointed straight along its course. Wind is kept focused to the rear of the "Spirit" by a vertical tailfin. At high speeds, however, the vehicle is deflected from its course by the side winds and rough spots in the raceway. To compensate for this, the steering wheel turns in unison with both the front wheel and a false fin, located in front of vehicle. The wheel is steerable through approximately two degrees, and the fin may be adjusted up to fifteen degrees in either direction. The General Electric J-47 engine used in "Spirit of America" is similar to that of a B-45 jet plane. Factors such as the air temperature and altitude at Bonneville affected the engine's power output. It had 5, 200 pounds of thrust at Bonneville in 1964. A minor modification - the addition of water injection - would have given the engine an additional thrust of 700 pounds. The racecar's high-speed braking system is done with drag chutes that are housed just behind the tailfin. A button attached to the steering wheel releases the drag-chutes, which also simultaneously cuts off the flow of fuel to the engine. The bottom section of the chute housing is made of stainless steel and titanium to withstand heat from the jet exhaust. Breedlove broke his earlier record on November 2, 1965 when with an improved racecar the "The Spirit of America-Sonic 1" reached the speed of 555.485 mph. Arthur Arfons beat this speed just five days later on November 7 when his racecar the 'Green Monster' reached 576.55 mph. Promptly rising to this challenge, Breedlove topped this speed on November 15 with 600.601 mph. For five years this record stood until, on October 23, 1970, Gary Gabelich bypassed Breedlove with 622.407 mph in his rocket powered 'Blue Flame' racecar. This new land-speed record lasted for thirteen years. Andy Green of Great Britain holds the current fastest land-speed record at 766.609 mph. This new speed record was set on October 15, 1997. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and Shell Oil financed the building of the 'Spirit of America' land-speed racecar.
Lesson Plans / ThemesHow we learn about communities;
Learning Standards16 History; 10-12 Science; 13 Science, Technology and Society;
Author or CreatorBreedlove, Craig
SourceMuseum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Accession File #65.9
Subject / KeywordsRacecars; Jet-powered racecars; Racing cars; Automobiles; World records; Speed records; Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah; Land transportation
Collection PublisherMuseum of Science and Industry, Chicago;
Further InformationFor any further information related to this record, please contact the Collection Publisher. See for more information about this project.
Rights Management Statement
Resource Identifier65.9
CONTENTdm file name65620151982002_BREEDLOV.jpg
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