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Motoring News

Fastest kettle in the world - from the garden shed

With its sleek, green features, the British Steam Car aiming to break the longest-standing official land speed record has been nicknamed the "fastest kettle in the world".

Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) carried in on-board tanks in the car is ignited to fire up burners producing three megawatts of heat - the equivalent of 1,500 kettles, or 23 cups of tea per second.

The three-ton, 25ft-long car is made from a mixture of lightweight carbon-fibre composite and aluminum wrapped around a steel space frame chassis.

But unlike some record-attempting outfits, the British team behind the effort are not bankrolled by multimillion-pound backers but instead have been described as a "garden shed" enterprise.

Based in Lymington, Hampshire, the team has busily prepared itself to break the current official record of 127mph set by American Fred Marriott in a Stanley steam car in 1906 at the Daytona Beach Road Course.

The British Steam Car has a top speed of 170mph. During five recent test runs it has recorded speeds in excess of 100mph, and on Saturday, in another unofficial run, reached more than 137mph.

It is equipped with more than 3km of tubing and uses one ton of water every 25 minutes. It also has a gas capacity of 60 litres and has 4 x 90ah batteries on board.

Demineralised water is pumped into the car's 12 boilers at up to 50 litres a minute, where steam is superheated to 400C which is injected into the turbine at more than twice the speed of sound.

The car, which underwent testing in the UK at the Ministry of Defence's Thorney Island facility in Hampshire, has four massive Goodyear Speed Eagle tyres at its front and back and a parachute to help it stop.

Seven miles of track is needed to help it break the record, which precluded it from taking place on British soil.

But one of the main obstacles the team has had to overcome is the sweltering heat in California.

Team members have had to rise at around 5am since arriving at the Edwards Air Force Base in the US desert because temperatures have reached more than 40C by mid-morning.

The heat has resulted in numerous problems, including causing the car's electrical components to overheat and liquid propane to vaporise.

Project manager Matt Candy said plentiful supplies of dry ice have been used, enabling them to cool the components without the need for using water.

The record attempt will be monitored by officials from the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) who will obtain the official recorded speed from two runs across the same distance within an hour of each other.