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Hemmings Motor News Blog

Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.

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Fire Bug: Rocket-Engine Rear Axles

Posted July 09, 2009 12:01 AM by dstrohl

All kinds of crazy stuff can be witnessed in the ads found in old dragzines. This one dates back to 1966, from the pages of Drag Racing. It's an "after" photo of Roy "Mr. Pitiful" Drew, an exhibition racer from Kansas City, who concocted this sort-of Volkswagen called the Black Widow.

No 36hp mouse, it instead got its motivation from a rocket-engine rear axle produced by a once-infamous Florida company called Turbonique. Here, essentially, was how it worked: Turbonique geared an acutal rocket to a quick-change rear axle – you can see the Black Widow's monster rear hubs – using a Borg-Warner sprag clutch.

The whole thing was engaged by a flip switch, the driver holding a panic fuel-shutoff cord. It advertised an instant 1,000 horsepower, apparently truthfully – Drew, whose major claim to fame was beating Tommy Ivo's four-engine dragster with this thing, launched it in the lights on a test run, flying inverted through the beams at 183 MPH. Another early Turbonique ad identified a young Evel Knievel as a customer.

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Re: Fire Bug: Rocket-Engine Rear Axles

07/09/2009 1:05 PM

It wasn't a rocket- it was a single stage turbine, driven by Hydrogen Peroxide.

The turbine drove whatever kind of gearset to put power to the axles.

I'm sure the units weren't cheap, and the fuel wasn't cheap or fun either.

(full strength Hydrogen Peroxide decomposes to steam and free Oxygen)

Somewhere I have a magazine from that era with an article on the Turbonique units and some other interesting goodies. One configuration was to drive a second pinion in a differential. A car's standard engine would drive the original pinion for normal use.

Hit the button, and have instant extra horsepower driving the second pinion. Better than Nitrous - Yeee-haaaa!

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Re: Fire Bug: Rocket-Engine Rear Axles

07/09/2009 1:27 PM

oh- now I read the posted article - very cool.

- so they used stuff much nastier than Hydrogen Peroxide!

hmm - another case of the founder having too much fun and not paying attention to business. They got him for mail fraud, selling equipment that wasn't as advertised.

Not the safety issue at all, but he didn't provide what he advertised and charged for.

Interesting that there are street-ish cars that make that much power nowadays. Think 500-600 inch motors with blower or turbo, maybe also nitrous!

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