HE MIGHT have a few more grey hairs, but 68-year-old Rosco McGlashan has no plans of slowing down thanks to a fire in the belly that was lit when he saw Donald Campbell break the world land record as a kid. Already the fastest on Earth, with an official record of 500mph (805.5km/h) and a 638mph oneway run that was quicker than the world record at the time, Rosco’s not even close to satisfied.
With the Poms currently holding the land speed record at 763.035mph (1227.985km/h), Rosco wants to smash that and then be the first person to reach 1000mph on land. To do it, he’s moved away from his previous jet-powered cars and gone to rocket power.
We caught up with him at his shed in Mullaloo in the northern suburbs in Perth. Yep, like a lot of SM feature cars, this one’s been built at home in the garage. Admittedly, it’s a very long garage!
We’ve built a $3 million car with nothing. Wednesday is our big day, all the guys are here.
Yes, it’s taken us nine long years, but our car is now completed.
Cars become redundant; it’s been a problem all the way through and it happened to us with Aussie Invader 3. We built that to go 800mph and then the Poms went out and ran 763mph, so we thought the next car had to be a rocket because a jet doesn’t like supersonic airflow and has a lot of issues at ground level. We knew we needed a shitload of power – 62,000lb of thrust – more power than any car has ever had, with the ability to go 1000mph.
Richard Noble, who is spearheading the Thrust Bloodhound project, rang me up and said: “I wanted you to be one of the first guys to know that we’re building a 1000mph car.
Richard Noble and Andy Green have both stayed here at my place.
I’ve got some very good people behind me; the concept is mine, but the engineering is very complex. I’ve got two really good engineers. Johnny Ackroyd has done a lot of the work and the calcs and is really old-school. Paul Martin is a computer whiz and does all the FEA [finite element analysis] and CFD [computational flow dynamics]. The Australian Defence Force Academy has done a lot of CFD work, Frank Soto in Wollongong has done a shitload, Curtin University has helped too.
Even taking off on the salt, it’s scary as shit and skates around. Any steering input you put in, one wheel is slowing down and the other is speeding up and you’re always chasing it. We want the car to sink into the surface a little.
No, but I’ve been to Black Rock many times and done some testing. Funnily enough, the Poms put Black Rock on the map when they couldn’t run at Bonneville anymore, because they needed a softer surface. John Ackroyd was one of the guys that discovered it. Richard Noble set the record at 622mph back in ’83.
If you want to go to the moon, you start off with a cylindrical shape with a point at the top; you sit on the point and have a rocket motor out the arse end. So basically, it’s a space rocket lying on its side, but we’ve got to sit on the centre of gravity, so we sit in the middle of it.
No one has ever conceived anything where you’ve got a pipe and then you’ve got to somehow put a suspension on the front of it. Everything else you see has a really good structure for the suspension to mount. Some of the best suspension guys have looked at it and to get the caster right is a really tricky thing. It’s going to be one of those ‘suck it and see’ things; it may not even work, it might not steer, it’s never been done before! If we get to 600mph in this car and it’s not selfsteering going straight dead ahead, and if I’ve got to put any steering input into it, then I’ll have to shut it down.
It really depends on the sponsor. If we pick up American Red Bull, for example, we’ll run at a place called Diamond Valley near the Nevada-Utah border. If we run in Australia, it will be at the Bilpa Morea claypan in Queensland, but the big problem with that is that the nearest LOx [liquid oxygen] tank is in Mt Isa about
480km away. You can’t put LOx in the car and have it sit for a long period of time or it will freeze our mainframe up and it could snap.
We’re doing some testing with Interorbital at Mojave, and instead of RFNA [red fuming nitric acid], we’re going with WFNA [white fuming nitric acid] and turpentine as a fuel, but it’s a special mix that they have developed. It’s not hypergolic [self-igniting] by itself, so they’ve developed an inhibitor that you put in with the turpentine that makes it hypergolic. Everything is so guarded in America, so to pass on the secret of doing it can be considered arms dealing. We’re going to do a test with them, and if we’re happy with everything, then we’re going to use one of their 50,000lb thrust motors that they’ve already developed for their launch to get the car rolling, but still keep all the big tanks in it for the 62,000lb thrust motor. We’d possibly be able to run 800mph with that smaller motor, but there’s a bit to do yet. The record is 763mph, so 800 would get us on the drawing board.
Everything we’ve got right now is set up to run hydrogen peroxide, but because of how hard it is to source these days, we’ve got to go over to WFNA. If we decide to go with the Interorbital engine and fuel, then we have to go through the whole rocket system again and figure out what sort of performance we’re going to get out of the motor, what sort of flow rate we’re going to need and make sure we’ve got all the fuel side of it worked out.
The rocket is on rails, so we can change the motor easily. The big thing is the tanks; they have to be filament-wound out of a thing called Nitronic 40 stainless steel, and we need to confirm that the tank volume we have is sufficient.
The hardest part is trying to go down to Bunnings to buy a handful of nuts and bolts and you can’t get the money to buy ’em, but it’s never been any different. We sell a bit of real estate to pay the bills, but that’s about it; the financing has always been the biggest struggle. We really have to get an injection of cash pretty soon. Everything we’ve ever done, we’ve done it without any money – and I’m not crying; that’s the most exciting thing about what we do. I’ve been doing it for that long, must have ‘Professional Bum’ written on my head. Wherever I go in to get something, they’ll put the stuff on the counter, we’ll talk for a while and when ask what they’re worth, they’ll say: “Just take ’em, mate.
Shit like that happens all the time; that’s how we built the whole car.
I’ve said forever, I’ve only got to hold that world land speed record for a day and I’ll be a happy man. s
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