Waldo Says: April 2010

     The time is flying by as it always seems to do and I have been hard at work. I have been working on the car doing a few reconfigurations and many changes. Our acting project manager found the project a very good engineer to help us and it is looking like he will be our chief engineer and he is very experienced and has been in engineering for many years. His name is Abe and I will tell you more about him as time progresses. Suffice it to say that he will be helping me with the aerodynamic refinements of Sonic Wind LSRV and some of the structural problems associated with a ground traveling rocket car. We are now evolving into a real team and not just me working alone. It is a great feeling to be working with accredited professionals who share my passion for the land speed record.



     Last month I also told you about our fabrication sponsor Accurate Arc industrial construction. Here is a photo of the principles of Accurate Arc Jonathon Kuczkuda, John Kuczkuda and “Bob.


     A couple of weeks ago I dropped off the nine foot long Sonic Wind LSRV model at Abe’s home so he could do a CFD study on it. CFD stands for computational fluid dynamics study. Essentially it is a computer program that illustrates virtual air flow around a CG or virtual model of an aircraft or vehicle. I am sure you have all seen those green, yellow and red cartoon like pictures of all the other land speed cars currently being developed posted on their websites.


     CFD programs are like virtual wind tunnels. I like wind tunnels better than CFD analysis because a computer program is only as good as its programmer and all it takes is one miscalculation to get largely erroneous data. A wind tunnel uses real air at real velocity and it is what it is and can be nothing else. So the data is real and unchallengeable. I would eventually like to get a university that has a supersonic wind tunnel to do testing on Sonic Wind LSRV for me but I have been to most of the schools in Southern California and no one has shown any interest in doing that for me. That is unless I have $1,400.00 an hour to spend for tunnel time. As it is, any spare money I have I spend on components for the vehicle or pay my bills like everyone else.


     All of the most successful LSR cars ever built never saw a wind tunnel or CFD program in their development and one that did and had a lot of CFD development time yawed entirely through the transonic range when it was campaigned. So I believe that CFD data can be only semi conclusive. The reason for that is the amount of computing power it takes to virtually simulate the movement of air molecules especially when you are talking about trillions of them per second which is the case at supersonic speeds.  


     CFD is getting better all the time as the programs and theories governing them get more complex and intricate as the technology builds. CFD is used on virtually all aircraft being designed today but we are still not to the point where we can design an aircraft on a computer and then build it and fly it without some or sometimes many anomalies. It is coming soon though and I can see it probably replacing the wind tunnel in the near future.


     In the past even a very good wind tunnel like the one at Langley could give you a very good design base to build an aircraft but you still needed a knowledgeable eye and at least 30 years of practical on hands experience to design and build an aircraft that flies well throughout its performance regime. Look at the new Joint Strike Fighter or the V-22 Osprey. They are still having problems with the JSF and the Osprey was notorious for many years as a widow maker. You couldn’t get me into one if you paid me.


     The reason I want this CFD data being compiled by Abe is because Abe has a lot of on hands experience and he will help me trim out the design and refine it to enhance its performance and efficiency. I know the concept is good as it is the culmination of over 40 years of land speed knowledge and on hands experience on my part. Now I want that academic touch to refine it and clean it up. I am crossing my fingers and saying a prayer that the data indicates refinements and not a major rework or it is back to the drawing board for me and maybe I will have to be humbled a bit.


     I also need this data because I am currently talking with Centerline wheels about helping me build the vehicles wheel hubs and metal tires. Ray Lipper the president of Centerline has told me that I will have to prove to him that the car will go straight and stay on the ground before he will hang the company name out there and help us.


     I have had a list of only four companies I would even consider to approach for help to build our radical new wheel configuration and Centerline was at the top of that list. Being more of a start at the top and work my way down sort of guy. I always call the president of a company first. The reason I do this is because I understand the corporate environment and know that when you start at the bottom as you climb up the ladder you may run into an executive that won’t like your project or like the guy who told him about it maybe because he thinks that guy is gunning for his job or maybe he doesn’t like the guys demeanor or whatever. And he will shoot your project down in flames even before ever hearing your presentation.


     Why is Centerline Wheels at the top of my list you ask? Well I am glad you asked…. In the 1970s Centerline Wheels supplied a new type of super strong and light wheel for many of the new very high powered dragsters as well as a few rocket dragsters and many of the fastest jet dragsters. Centerline Wheels invented that neat looking flat Aluminum disc wheel you see on all the really fast dragsters in Hot Rod and Drag racing magazines.


      I actually have one of those thin front wheels hanging in my shop on the wall as a sort of work of art and here is a shot of the wheels built for the Spirit of America. Like a David Smith sculpture they are simple, beautiful and strong. Centerline Wheels also make wheels for every type of race car as well as many different styles of smart looking wheels for nearly every street car and truck. These early Centerline wheels always I remembered resembled land speed record car wheels in my mind and when I would draw my land speed rocket car concepts or build models with wheels on them they always had Centerline Wheels on them.


     Centerline Wheels also made wheels for many land speed cars one of which was Craig Breedlove’s last Spirit of America jet car. Which is I might add still the fastest officially timed American car of all time. It was timed at 676 miles per hour. People will argue that the Budweiser rocket car was timed faster but it was not. The Budrocket was timed officially (if you want to call a 100 foot trap official) at 666 m.p.h. Also the Budrocket was a three wheeler so it is considered a motorcycle and sidecar to timing officials and not a car. So on that day in1996 the Spirit of America jet car was the fastest car on Earth having even eclipsed Thrust 2’s top speed of 650 miles per hour. So if you believe in timing and there is no reason not to, Craig Breedlove’s jet car the Spirit of America is still the fastest timed American car. Thus Centerline Wheels built the fastest wheels run on any American car, Period! I talked to Craig Breedlove last week and told him about this and he laughed. He also wished our project God Speed and told me God Bless you. The way I look at it God is already blessing me if one of my heroes is asking him to.


       Oh, I left out the fact that when Craig was timed at 676 M.P.H. in 1996 the car was sliding on its side. We talked about that and I gave him my theory that three wheeled cars with the rear wheels spread wide apart have lift issues. The Bloodhound team is just discovering this as I write this. The reason is because the rear wheel spats and the wings or struts that hold them on to the car generate small shocks that dam and slow air travel under the car and this creates lift. This is why my Sonic Wind LSRV design has its rear wheels pulled way out back near the rocket plume.


     Craig laughed and said…” That maybe so Waldo, but I think what really happened is that I made a simple mistake. I heard the radio report that the wind in the mile was 1- 5 miles per hour and thought that meant 1.5 miles per hour when actually it was blowing at 15 miles per hour and gusting to 20 miles per hour. So I took off at full power and lit the burner to get the record but getting near the mile I was going way to fast. I was way over the top and I didn’t want the car to go supersonic so I was going in and out of burner (afterburner on this modified J-79 turbojet engine produced a whopping 24,000 lbs. of thrust) to control the cars speed and keep it down. After all, I only wanted the land speed record at the time which was 633 M.P.H. held by Richard Noble. I didn’t want to come out of the measured mile going supersonic. As I entered the mile a side gust blew the afterburner destabilized car over and that was it. The moral of the story Waldo is… Don’t drive a land speed car in high winds”…


     The reason why Craig Breedlove and I chose Centerline Wheels for our cars is because of the special way they build all their wheels. They rotary form their wheels or slowly spin the Aluminum billet as they form the wheel so that the grain runs in a spiral pattern making the wheel much stronger than a simple stamped wheel like all the other wheel manufacturing companies will sell you. You can go on their website at www.centerlinewheels.com  and watch a video of the process. It is amazing to see how they integrate their racing and land speed record car expertise to build a wheel for the common street car. Centerline Wheels give you land speed record wheel strength for the street. Now if you are building a Hot Rod for the street or a flat out Bonneville racer what kind of wheels would you want to put on it? I think you know the answer to that one.


     Last week I had lunch with Bill Summers of the famous Summers brothers and the Goldenrod. Bill always cracks me up with his stories. He knows Craig Breedlove pretty well so Bill calls Craig “CB” and Craig calls Bill “BS”.  In case you didn’t get it, that was a joke but its Bill’s joke and I take no credit for it.


     He told me some secrets about his famous Goldenrod that I thought I would share with you. First the aerodynamic shape of the car which was designed by Walter Korf is unsurpassed to this day. Walter was the best at his craft of aerodynamic design and so much so that many years after Goldenrod set the wheel driven record of 409 M.P.H. in 1965. Bill lent Goldenrod to a fellow racer to do a CFD program on it so that he could copy its shape for his own land speed record car. Bill lent him the Goldenrod for two weeks for a cool $5,000.00.


     It took forty years for another car to match Goldenrod’s record speed which it set after running only a total of nine (9) runs. The guys that went gunning for Goldenrods record Al Teague, Nolan and Rick White and Don Vesco took between ten and seventeen years of constant testing and running to match or slightly exceed Goldenrod’s record. They also ran their cars on nitro methane and used superchargers. Vesco even ran a nearly 5,000 s.h.p. (shaft horse power) gas turbine engines. Goldenrod, shortly after setting its record of 409 M.P.H. in 1965 made another pass which produced a timed speed of 425 M.P.H. out the back door. She was never run any higher than 3rd gear as the salt was too wet to wring her all the way out. She is a four wheel drive, four engine, four speed car with a top gear ratio of 1:1. So in theory she could hit nearly 500 miles per hour. The engines used for the record runs were four basically stock 426 cubic inch Chrysler Hemis running on Methanol and fed by simple mechanical fuel injection.


     The engines were never dyno tested on Methanol or using the fuel injection. But the engines were dyno tested running on gasoline and carbureted. They produced 445,455,465 and 475 horsepower respectively. This is because although all stock automobile engines may look alike they all have a different personality. Bill told the press that each engine developed about 600 horsepower in record setting trim and this gave a total horsepower output of about 2,400 but he wasn’t really sure what they actually made. He said… “People wanted answers so I gave them one.” He did know that it would take at least 1,800 horsepower for the car to hit 400 M.P.H. so he probably wasn’t far off with the 2,400 horsepower guestimate.


     Even though Goldenrod didn’t have a vertical tail fin per say she tracked like an arrow and went wherever you pointed her according to Bill’s younger brother Bob AKA “Butch” who was the driver. Butch has long since passed away. Even so you now know more about the famous Goldenrod than even the guys who write the books about her. But stay tuned as Harvey Shapiro is working on a book about her and I will keep you updated on that. I will be involved in that book writing to some extent.


     I told you before that Harvey is finishing up a book on the 1960 land speed record contender the “City of Salt Lake Special” and her builder/ driver Athol Graham. I have been helping Harvey a bit and boy did I learn a lot about that deal. This last month I wrote the forward for the book as well as an analysis of the over all design as for its time it was well built and the design was pretty well thought out. Usually when someone crashes a car at Bonneville and perishes there is always ill talk about the car and them. Generally most racers are like that. Bonneville racers are the best and most generous and graceful in all of racing because land speed racing is mainly an amateur sport with little to no money involved. But racers are racers and they do like to talk about the competitions short comings.


     The car the City of Salt Lake Special is still around and is currently being rebuilt by Athol’s son Daryl AKA “Butch” Graham. Here is what it looked like when he first acquired it. and here are two shots of what the chassis and cockpit area look like now. You can see that its chassis construction was of thick wall, tall and wide Aluminum channel. The construction is almost standard to all the vehicles I have seen from the 1950s on up to the 1970s. The car even uses standard truck brakes and axles like a lot of Bonneville race vehicles still do. Notice the 1959 Chevy Impala steering wheel cut down to look like an airplane yoke.


     Why anyone would criticize Athol Graham and this car I just don’t understand. I don’t like to put people down although I will when they go after me but overall I am more of a bring people up kind of guy. I think when you run people down it probably says more about you than anything you can say about them. Just for the record let’s review this one thing about the City of Salt Lake Special. In 1959 a homemade car built by a simple garage mechanic went 344 miles per hour.


     50 years later no Nitro fueled dragster, funny car, jet dragster and only a few of the fastest rocket dragsters ever built in the 1970s have ever gone that fast. No NASCAR racer, custom exotic sports car, F-1 or Indy car ever even came close to achieving that speed. And here is the kicker… No more than one tenth of 1 percent of all the thousands of record seeking guys that run at Bonneville, El Mirage and in Australia on the dry lakes have ever gone that fast. So if Athol Graham didn’t know what he was doing what does that say about everyone else?


     Well, here are a few guys that do know what they are doing, my friends Stacey Becker and Randy Vilhauer. These guys are real bikers and salt flats racers from the Dakotas. Not to be confused with all the real “bikers” who trailer their bikes up to Sturgis every year. These guys built the body for Jo Amo’s bike which ran over 270 miles per hour on the salt last season. Stacey and Randy are building a new body this year to try and hit 300 M.P.H. on an open bike. I sent them a little aero knowledge care package as you are only as good as what you know and if you are smart you can never know enough. Here is a shot of Stacey working on the body. I worked on motorcycle streamliners or two wheeled cars as I like to call them for ten years. In fact I even once owned the 1970 Sam Wheeler motorcycle streamliner (the yellow Norton streamliner which was recently restored and put on display) as well as a pulse jet powered motorcycle streamliner.  And I knew and worked with the best of the bike liner guys at the time, people such as Kenny Lyons, Don Vesco and Bob George. There is not much one can say about a 300 mile per hour ride on an open bike. The only thing that comes to my mind is Wow!.......Waldo