Home Auto Blog Jay Leno’s Garage hosts the jet-propelled Howmet TX racing vehicle

Jay Leno’s Garage hosts the jet-propelled Howmet TX racing vehicle

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Howmet TX

A new installment of “Jay Leno’s Garage” shines a spotlight on an intriguing piece of racing lore. The star of the show is the Howmet TX (Turbine Experimental), a turbine-driven race car that was manufactured in 1968 and remains operational to this day.

Engineer Bob McKee was responsible for building four of these vehicles, with his portfolio of engineering works extending from Can-Am race cars to a prototype diesel-electric hybrid powertrain developed for the U.S. military. The current owner of this unique car is venture capitalist Phillip Sarofim, a figure involved with the revived Meyers Manx company who has a penchant for cars with unconventional engines. He had earlier introduced a Manx equipped with an aircraft radial engine to the show.

1968 Howmet TX jet-powered race car featured on Jay Leno’s Garage

Turbine engines were all the rage during the 1960s. Chrysler even constructed a limited series of turbine cars to evaluate the engine’s potential for everyday vehicles, and numerous race cars had been constructed by the time the Howmet TX was introduced, including the STP-Paxton Turbocar which competed in the Indianapolis 500. However, the Howmet TX was the only turbine-powered car to achieve a race victory, as pointed out by McKee in the video, even though it wasn’t as high-profile as the Indy.

Driver Ray Heppenstall commissioned McKee to design the TX, securing funds from the Howmet Corporation (now Howmet Aerospace), a company that manufactured components for turbine engines. The race car project was pitched as a means to market its products. McKee designed the chassis, incorporating elements from other vehicles such as the Can-Am racer fenders and a Porsche 906 windshield.

Turbine engines offer several benefits over traditional piston engines, including their high power-to-size ratio and their smooth, vibration-free operation. However, their fuel efficiency is typically subpar, and there’s notable lag when accelerating or decelerating. The startup procedure can also be somewhat complex, requiring multiple switches to be activated, and the car requires a slight nudge to start moving.

Even though there have been more recent explorations into turbine cars, such as Leno’s own EcoJet, these drawbacks render them better suited for airborne vehicles than ground-based ones. The Howmet TX does produce a phenomenal sound, however, which viewers can appreciate in the video.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Howmet TX

What is the Howmet TX?

The Howmet TX is a turbine-powered race car that was built in 1968. It is unique in the history of racing as it’s the only turbine car to have won a race.

Who built the Howmet TX?

The Howmet TX was built by Bob McKee, an engineer whose works range from Can-Am race cars to an experimental diesel-electric hybrid powertrain for the U.S. military.

Who currently owns the Howmet TX?

The Howmet TX is currently owned by venture capitalist Phillip Sarofim, who is known for his involvement with the revived Meyers Manx company and his love for cars with unusual engines.

What are some unique features of the Howmet TX?

The Howmet TX is unique for its turbine engine, which provides massive power for its size and smooth, vibration-free operation. However, it has poor fuel economy and there is significant lag when accelerating or decelerating. The starting procedure is also complex.

Was the Howmet TX ever featured on Jay Leno’s Garage?

Yes, the Howmet TX was featured on an episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage,” where its unique history and features were showcased.

Who commissioned the Howmet TX and why?

The Howmet TX was commissioned by driver Ray Heppenstall. He went to Howmet Corporation for funding, pitching the race car project as a way to promote the company’s turbine engine parts.

More about Howmet TX

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RacingFan_83 June 18, 2023 - 7:44 pm

Always loved Jay Leno’s garage, he gets to play with the coolest toys. Wish I could hear that Howmet TX live… bet it sounds crazy

PetrolPat June 18, 2023 - 8:04 pm

Fuel economy poor? No surprise there! Haha. I mean, it’s a race car after all… and a turbine one at that. Still would love a spin in it tho.

HotrodHarry June 18, 2023 - 9:21 pm

Wow! Can’t imagine the feeling of sitting in one of these turbine beasts on the track. Must be quite the rush!!

GearheadGreta June 19, 2023 - 11:25 am

Didn’t knw turbines were used in cars back in the day. thx for the info, cool to learn somthing new!

TurboTommy June 19, 2023 - 3:19 pm

McKee is a legend, he’s worked on everything! Can-Am, hybrid military stuff, and a freaking turbine racer?! guy’s a genius.

Speedster67 June 19, 2023 - 4:03 pm

Woah, turbine-powered race car sounds insane!! No wonder Sarofim got his hands on it, dude clearly has a thing for weird engines.

HistoryBuff June 19, 2023 - 4:18 pm

interesting to see how corporations like Howmet used racing to promote their products, not much has changed eh? Lol.


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