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Turbonique AP supercharger, rocket drag axle and microturbo thrust engine

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Today many countries have become a "nanny state".

Wikipedia's definition of a nanny state reads ... "in general it is used in reference to policies where the state is characterized as being excessive in its desire to protect ("nanny"), govern or control particular aspects of society."

There are many people who are critical of nanny state rules - Jeremy Clarkson often comments about the nanny state mentality that exists in many countries today.

Rewind to the 1960's, and take a journey into the heyday of modifying and hotrodding, without the nanny-state rules (cue suitable time tunnel music here) ...

As the Iowahawk blog describes the racing and modifying scene in the '60s ...

"Not only did people do crazy shit back then; actual U.S. Senators cheerfully pitched in to help them do crazy shit."

In about 1962, a man who was reportedly a contractor to NASA's space program named Gene Middlebrooks founded a company called Turbonique.

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Turbonique had an incredible mail order catalog in the 1960's shown above.

The Iowahawk blog reports ...


"But there is one name that stands alone at the apex of the daredevilry supply industry: the Turbonique Company of Orlando, Florida.

Though the company no longer exists, mere mention of the name "Turbonique" still inspires a shudder of awe among drag racing enthusiast, the company's principle target market.

Even in the Wild West atmosphere of 1960s drag racing, Its products represented the zenith of no-compromise, crazyass crazy.

Recall Acme, that enigmatic mail order purveyor of catapults and jet skates to cartoon coyotes? Pikers, compared to Turbonique."


According to the Iowohawk blog, Middlebrooks' aim "was to to establish a consumer market for rocket technology ... Turbonique's product line consisted of three items: "AP superchargers," "rocket drag axles," and the legendary "microturbo thrust engines." All employed the same basic rocket technology, albeit in stepped grades of insanity."

The Turbonique Auxiliary Power Supercharger

The engineering thinking behind the Turbonique Auxiliary Power Supercharger is beyond brilliant.

Here is a photo from the Turbonique catalog of this amazing device ...

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The Turbonique Auxiliary Power Supercharger was shaped like turbocharger, had it's own spark plug, and a switch on the dash engaged it.

Unlike conventional superchargers (which are driven by a belt from the crankshaft and take some crank horsepower to run), and unlike conventional turbo chargers (which use the exhaust energy to spin up the turbo), the Turbonique Auxiliary Power Supercharger had it's own fuel source to power itself ...

When the switch was flipped, liquid oxygen and a rocket fuel named Thermolene were fed to the supercharger.

Reported testing in 1963 on a Chevy 409 showed a horsepower gain from 405 horsepower stock, to a mammoth 835 hp with the supercharger engaged.

The Thermolene fuel in itself had some weird properties. Almar.easynet.be reports ...

"It could be stored in jerrycans, in the shadow. It had, nonetheless, some peculiar side effects: it was irritating to the skin, it would melt most plastics, rubbers, etc. and it would react under certain circumstances if in contact with some metals, like mild steel, in the presence of water."

If the Turbonique Auxiliary Power Supercharger sounds amazing to you, bear in mind that the Turbonique AP superchargers were at the mild end of the Turbonique catalog.

The Turbonique Drag Axle

If the Turbonique AP supercharger wasn't enough power for you, then you could upgrade to the Turbonique Drag Axle ...

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The Turbonique Drag Axle (pictured above), was a diff centre section, with nothing less than a thermolene powered rocket nozzle mounted to the diff.

At the touch of a button, it would add an extra 1,300 horsepower (yes that's one thousand, three hundred).

The power was not purely thrust power like a jet engine on a plane - instead the power was passed through the diff housing to the rear tyres, which resulted in many cars smoking their tyres the whole way up the 1/4 mile on 1960's drag slicks.

See the photo at the top of this article for a photo of a Mustang fitted with a Turbonique Drag Axle. There are also links at the end of this article to other photos of cars with this incredible Drag Axle fitted.

Turbonique Thrust Engines

Most incredible of all was the affordability of Turbonique's extreme drag racing technology. Check out this Turbonique ad from the 1960's for example ...

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Talk about bang for the buck !! 1,980 horsepower for $199.50 works out at just 10 cents per horsepower !

Turbonique powered vehicles started dominating many drag racing events, and were eventually banned from many drag racing events.

Some say that part of the reason for the ban was the appearance of Turbonique rocket powered drag racing karts.

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A racer named "Captain Jack" McClure had a Turbonique-powered go-kart, and the performance was mind-boggling, with the cart bettering 150 mph.

As reported at vaiden.net ...

"McClure, who later ran 5.95 at more than 240 mph in a rocket-powered go-kart, reportedly had less than $2,000 invested in his Turbonique-powered cart."

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The page shown above from the Turbonique catalog reads ...

"The above cart, which is equipped with T-21-A engines, is considered unsafe for 1/4 mile competition as pictured. The thrust/weight ratio is such that speeds over 160 mph are reached within 4 seconds."

Incredibly, that twin engined cart still survives today. You can find a link below to a photo gallery of the rocket kart.

In Conclusion

So that's a brief overview of Turbonique's mindblowing 1960's racing technology.

It is very clear that Turbonique were carrying out some very interesting engineering and developed some incredibly innovative products ... and as always we like to see people pushing the envelope in engineering terms. Clearly Turbonique's products were for racing purposes on proper racetracks only.

The Turbonique story is an incredible one and the legend deserves to be remembered and kept alive. Ask most car guys if they've heard of Turbonique, and many will not have heard of the company and it's incredible products.

But that twin engined Turbonique powered kart and a number of Turbonique Drag Axle equipped cars live on today ... which brings a huge smile to our faces.

A certain cartoon coyote would no doubt also have been a fan.

More info about Turbonique

To learn more about the incredible history of Turbonique, check out these links ...

created on 2009-05-12 07:54:55 by adamr

updated on 2009-05-13 15:41:45