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4 Gallons Per Minute At Full Chat
December 20, 2010 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Some 10 minutes after driving Chris Williams's Packard-engined Behemoth my hands were still shaking, my voice was croaking and the cool autumn wind was chilling my sweaty overalls. My face was cherry red from the infernal heat of the engine and my eyebrows singed from its 24 flaming exhaust stubs. In my entire career I have never driven anything as visceral, as physical or as sheer bloody terrifying as Mavis, the 42-litre Packard-engined Bentley.
posted by veedubya (47 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, we already have a frontrunner for the 2011 Bad Sex in Fiction Award.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:10 AM on December 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


50 mph at three hundred RPM ???!!!
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:11 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a rule, any English thing is nineteen times as strong and twenty-three times as heavy as it needs to be. The ’bus fills these requirements. It is a lumbering big ark, it weighs no one knows how much and it minds collision with an ordinary vehicle no more than a planet would. It is a pity they did not keep the first English bicycle; it must have weighed upwards of three tons. And if it ever collided with an express train, the remains of the train must have been a spectacle.

-- The Autobiography of Mark Twain
posted by theodolite at 11:12 AM on December 20, 2010 [14 favorites]


Give it to The Stig!

Seriously, this is screaming for Top Gear.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:17 AM on December 20, 2010


I have a feeling Top Gear would rip this to shreds. They have a poor opinion of cars that don't handle very well. Not only is this thing the size of a bus, it probably steers like one too.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:22 AM on December 20, 2010


Really? With that stiff steering and weak braking, it would bolt off the track in a straight line the first time he goes through Chicago, not to mention the hamerhead.
That is, unless the Stig is really the Incredible Hulk, incognito.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:26 AM on December 20, 2010


That is awesome - I mean that literally, awesome, awe-inspiring.
posted by Xoebe at 11:30 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hol-leey SHIT, that's what I want for Christmas. And birthday. And Easter. And Christmas again, to boot!
posted by Old'n'Busted at 11:32 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


> have a feeling Top Gear would rip this to shreds.

I don't know. They seem to have a soft spot for ridiculous things over at Top Gear, and this certainly is a ridiculous thing.
posted by pts at 11:32 AM on December 20, 2010


Sure, it'd be hell in traffic, but at Brooklands? Fantastic.
posted by Relay at 11:32 AM on December 20, 2010


Jeremy Clarkson would say that if you want a car that handles properly, get a Mercedes, but if you want a 21st century muscle car that's outright mental, get one of these. Then he'd crank the wheel all the way to the left, go "And on that bombshell..." and do doughnuts as the credits roll.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:37 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would just like to point out that a bowler is the only appropriate headgear for the owner of this thing, and this Mr. Williams is therefore correct.
posted by cmoj at 11:41 AM on December 20, 2010


Reminiscent of Jay Leno's Tank Car.

But Mavis—she's a beaut and I'd strap her on for some of the old in-out, in-out in a heartbeat.
posted by carsonb at 11:45 AM on December 20, 2010


3 1/2 liters/cylinder?! What, the 8-liter Bentley it's based on wasn't sphincter-declutching enough? You aren't driving it, you're taxiing it. No wonder they're at an airport.
posted by the painkiller at 11:49 AM on December 20, 2010


Good lord. A single cylinder has a greater displacement than the entire engine in my Maxima.
Someone needs to seriously open it up, though. Would love to hear it at full-throttle.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:55 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Of course, the underlying structure of everything in England is posh. There is no in-between with these people. You have to walk a mile to find a telephone booth, but when you find it, it is built as if the senseless dynamiting of pay phones had been a serious problem at some time in the past. And a British mailbox can presumably stop a German tank. None of them have cars, but when they do, they are three-ton hand-built beasts. The concept of stamping out a whole lot of cars is unthinkable—there are certain procedures that have to be followed, Mr. Ford, such as the hand-brazing of radiators, the traditional whittling of the tyres from solid blocks of cahoutchouc.
-- Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
posted by sidereal at 11:55 AM on December 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


I read an account years ago of a similar car, Rolls Royce chassis and aero engined, maybe even with a Merlin. Thing was, none of the car mechanical components aft of the engine could take the strain of full power. I suspect the same is true here, if you actually tried flooring it something in the back would die.

All that said, I have sent in my deposit. Of course, I don't think I can even afford one of the pistons.

When I think about being wealthy, this is what I think of. Get a wild hair to take a super rare 8-litre Bently chassis, worth probably 40,000 pounds in its own right just as a part, and buy a rare WW2 engine to stick in it on a whim, and then put the whole thing together...sigh. Be lovely!
posted by maxwelton at 11:57 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reminiscent of Jay Leno's Tank Car, indeed, and sharing the same name as Leno's wife. Coincidence?
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:01 PM on December 20, 2010


That, right there, in itself is the argument for "fuck steampunk"
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:03 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is stupid. It's like the guy who put a jet engine in his Volkswagen Beetle, except more expensive so it's more snooty upper crust British. What is next, powering a 1912 Stanley Steamer with heat froim a nuclear reactor?
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:03 PM on December 20, 2010


Do you have hobbies, charlie?
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:09 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is stupid.

Everything besides food and shelter is stupid. Some some stuff is stupid and fun.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:13 PM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Reminds me of Felix Leiter's Studillac.
posted by Eideteker at 12:20 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


What is next, powering a 1912 Stanley Steamer with heat from a nuclear reactor?

That would be indescribably cool. The Steamers were beasts of cars, able to do almost 130 mph in 1906. Light-weight, smallish reactors are in development. The Hyperion system claims to be able to fit onto a flat-bed truck. The 70 MW of thermal output from the Hyperion reactor would give you just under 94,000 bhp. That's a power to weight ratio of something like 3.5 hp/lb (assuming a 25 ton vehicle, a big mod for the Steamer, but), which about twice as good as the Veyron. That should be enough grunt for even even Clarkson.
posted by bonehead at 12:39 PM on December 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why not just build a flat-bed sized reactor onto an old steam locomotive and have a train that runs forever?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:43 PM on December 20, 2010


He keeps referring to "she" but all I see is a stupid old car. I feel ripped off. Do I have to opt in or something?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:54 PM on December 20, 2010


Why not just build a flat-bed sized reactor onto an old steam locomotive and have a train that runs forever?

What, another one? We did that back in '79.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:57 PM on December 20, 2010


Why not just build a flat-bed sized reactor onto an old steam locomotive and have a train that runs forever?

But then it would miss its stops :(
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:05 PM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


What, another one? We did that back in '79.

I was thinking more like this.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:08 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hm. I was thinking more like this.
posted by bonehead at 1:26 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The engine is a 41.8-litre, V12, with each cylinder at 3.5-litres. It has 'knife and fork' rods, four-pole magneto ignition and a supercharger the size of a dustbin, which runs at 2.4 times the speed of the engine. The inlet manifold diameter is about six and half inches, that's bigger than my house's septic tank system."

Ho-LEE SHIT! I'd love to see that thing in person!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 1:26 PM on December 20, 2010


I don't remember seeing thar car in A Clockwork Orange. Did it not make the final cut?
posted by MuffinMan at 1:32 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


4 gallons per minute at full throttle....

Contender for highest and best use of our limited hydrocarbon endowment. Sign me up.
posted by bumpkin at 1:33 PM on December 20, 2010


Did someone say "3 liters per cylinder?"
posted by Eideteker at 1:37 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


In fact Mavis was still misbehaving with her huge oil pump filling the cockpit and poor Duncan's trousers

You know, I thought I knew the basic essentials about cars, sexual euphemisms and poop jokes. But I have no idea what's going on in this sentence.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:39 PM on December 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Anyone know where I can get the goggles the guy is using? Preferably with prescription lenses?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 1:47 PM on December 20, 2010


The less practical the car, the more I want it. I'll let you do the math.
posted by tommasz at 2:05 PM on December 20, 2010


My Celica is 1.8 liters. I'm trying to even fathom the size of this engine. Amazing.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:31 PM on December 20, 2010


tommasz: "The less practical the car, the more I want it. I'll let you do the math"

Have I got a batmobile for you!
posted by dejah420 at 2:55 PM on December 20, 2010


I just want to pull up at a stoplight and lean out the side and casually mention to the guy beside me that "The engine's from a MOTOR TORPEDO BOAT!"
posted by Ron Thanagar at 3:00 PM on December 20, 2010


for those who might like to hear the thing
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:07 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


A couple of years ago I was walking along the South Circular in London, a route I walk almost every day, usually on autopilot, and there was this ROAR--

and a Bentley Speed Six--the little sister to Mavis, the car that won Le Mans two years running in 1929 and 1930--came barrelling round the bend, down the straight, stopped just long enough at the lights for me to gawp like the ten-year-old I had suddenly become, and was away. A mad anachronism, a streak of British Racing Green straight out of history, a thing of great power and great elegance--not beauty, but form following function, and I wanted to follow both of them as far as they'd go.

That damn Bentley's the wrong colour.
posted by Hogshead at 3:42 PM on December 20, 2010


It's nice to know that an old Packard engine can still pack a wallop. There's a 1947 Packard Custom Clipper Super 8 in my garage right now. I've seen grown men tear up at the sight of its engine, a monster straight-8 that can take a sharp turn in high gear without threat of a stall.

Too bad she only gets about 7 mpg. On the highway.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:14 PM on December 20, 2010


Wasn't that guy last seen driving a Durango 95?
posted by Daddy-O at 6:16 PM on December 20, 2010


Anyone know where I can get the goggles the guy is using? Preferably with prescription lenses?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 1:47 PM on December 20 [+] [!]


I've tended to get mine in Karol Bagh in Delhi (you can just make them out atop my head in my profile pic). Cheap ones are often also available in auto shops that cater to a vintage crowd in the west. You'd have to sort your own lenses. Better quality ones are hard to come by, but you might try these.

But that's not what I came here to say. I came here to say: my best mate's dad did this not too long ago.

It was the same basic idea too. The chassis is a pre-war Bentley, the coach work is bespoke but basically true to Bentley design (the owner's a Bentley fiend, and has the knowledge and means to rebuild bodies entirely). The engine is a Rolls Royce Meteor V12 tank engine. It's a slightly downgraded version of one of the Merlins used in Spitfires. And IIRC, the gearing might have come out of a Nissan Patrol (but been reversed or something?).

As far as I know it's only ever been out for one run. And just like the one in this post, it spews flame from the exhausts, it's a bitch to handle, and the driver expects to die at any moment.
posted by Ahab at 9:25 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


They have a poor opinion of cars that don't handle very well. Not only is this thing the size of a bus, it probably steers like one too.

They ran a diesel Ford Transit around the Nurburgring. It's one of my favorite Top Gear segments.
posted by zippy at 9:30 PM on December 20, 2010


Wikipedia's page on the PT Boat from which the engine in this car came is pretty awesome.

They had three of these 1500+ horsepower, supercharged V12 engines, planing hulls, and at over 40 knots could use up all 3000 gallons of fuel in 6 hours. They formed the mosquito fleet which could scream up to big ships, launch torpedos and scream away before being shot to pieces by superior firepower.
posted by morganw at 6:34 PM on December 22, 2010


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