A very rare prototype racing car took part in this year’s Concorso d’Elegance Villa d’Este, at least partially unleashing its unusual power. The car in question is a Howmet TX, which was designed and built in 1968 to explore the idea of a gas turbine racing car. It was a joint effort between racing driver Ray Heppenstall, McKee Engineering, which provided the chassis, and Howmet Corporation, which funded the project.
The Howmet TX is famous for being the first and only turbine racing car to date to win a real and official race. During its short one-year motorsport career, TX has won two Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) races and two other sprint qualifying victories. He also set six ground speed records after retiring from motorsport.
Originally, the TX had turbines on loan from Continental Aviation & Engineering, designed for a prototype military helicopter that never went into production. Two TX cars were built, each powered by a TS325-1 gas turbine with 350 horsepower (260 kilowatts) and 650 pound-feet (880 Newton-meters) of torque. More impressively, the red line was at around 57,000 rpm.
The race car was not equipped with a transmission and instead had a single transmission speed. However, the differential was able to quickly change gear ratios, thus allowing the car to be adapted to different race tracks. Additionally, the lack of a gearbox meant there was no reverse gear, and the car was eventually fitted with a small electric motor as the FIA required reverse gear to homologate it.
To our knowledge, the TX filmed in the video above does not have the original Continental turbine under the hood as it was not available when the vehicle was restored. Instead, an Allison 250C18 turbine was installed, however, we cannot confirm the information at this time. Regardless of the exact type of turbine used, the sound during acceleration is absolutely epic.