Real men drive these
April 23, 2008 5:43 AM   Subscribe

Once upon a time in the postwar, before the advent of EPA and OSHA and the Consumer Products Safety Commission and weenies in bike helmets and multilingual warning stickers on stepladders, crazy people walked this earth. Good, fun-loving Americans who knew that "instructions" were something you threw in the trash along with the empty Falstaff bottles. A halcyon era filled with manly men who savored the wholesome virtues of a rugged game of un-seatbelted automotive chicken. One of these men was Gene Middlebrooks, who founded Turbonique.

Want a real bolt-on performance boost for your Chev? How about spending the weekend whacking a 1,000 horsepower "turbo drag axle" under the family sedan? Of course, this won't work on your modern namby-pamby front-wheel drive pretend cars - real cars only apply here.

Not enough room in the garage for one of these? How about a rocket-powered go-kart? Will 5.95 seconds and 240mph in a standing quarter-mile get your heart pumping?

Anything that has wheels, skids or a hull, it seems can be fitted. What are you waiting for?
posted by dg (50 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Wow. And they're all just bolt-ons!
posted by klarck at 6:03 AM on April 23, 2008

I loved the "STAND CLEAR" on the back on the rocket-assisted '64 GTO. You know, in case the flaming rocket exhaust wasn't sufficient warning.
posted by tommasz at 6:07 AM on April 23, 2008

Oh rocket-powered Goat, how I love you.
posted by sciurus at 6:12 AM on April 23, 2008

The STAND CLEAR is for when it hasn't yet started flaming. Which actually makes it seem a little insufficient. "Oh, btw, this car you are standing behind? Yeah, it's about to EXPLODE IN A FIERY FURY OF SPEED AND FLAMES so you might want to take a step back."
posted by DU at 6:12 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Aw Mom- all my friends have rocket-powered go-karts!
posted by MtDewd at 6:14 AM on April 23, 2008

Perhaps it was the feminization of culture.

posted by kuujjuarapik at 6:18 AM on April 23, 2008

Antidepressants in my water supply and estrogenic compounds in my food is depriving me of the turbo-fueled Detroit iron that was my birthright!
posted by ardgedee at 6:23 AM on April 23, 2008 [6 favorites]

Perhaps it was the feminization of culture.
posted by Brian B. at 6:23 AM on April 23, 2008

Opera and ballet are stealing my precious bodily fluids.
posted by DU at 6:26 AM on April 23, 2008

Rocket-powered [your application here], hell yeah, manly. Vrooom! Kaboom!!

But "Turbonique"? Sounds like Miele's latest precious canister vacuum for condo-dwellers.
posted by Artful Codger at 6:28 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Anything that occasionally results in the spectacular death of everyone involved is something I can really get behind. Western civilization requires more full-throttle mayhem, more "athletes" bursting into flames, more sporting events that are so dangerous you can only witness them via remote camera.

I demand no-limit all-fuel racing. Combat rock-climbing. No-harness slack-line racing.

The Youtube military is merely a monstrously inefficient, expensive and tiny-granulated-video way to get our fix of explosive death and destruction. Sporting events, on the other hand, practically print money. For $500, your seat at the viewing stand will be guaranteed to be within the secondary blast radius if we lose containment during the event. For $1000 we'll let you drop the flag at the finish line, from the middle of the track.

The sky is the limit. Let's set it on fire.
posted by aramaic at 6:38 AM on April 23, 2008 [13 favorites]

I note they used liquid oxygen as the oxidizer.

This is not terribly safe.

To put in perspective how not terribly safe LOX can be, here's how to light a barbecue using LOX as an accelerant.
posted by cstross at 6:41 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Always loved the rocket car in Hooper
posted by MtDewd at 6:45 AM on April 23, 2008

What's an "Oly Party Ball" and how can I get one?
posted by Challahtronix at 6:49 AM on April 23, 2008

240 mph go-kart.

posted by VicNebulous at 6:51 AM on April 23, 2008

OPE, POE something like that. An Oly party ball is a party ball full of Olympia, the worst beer ever brewed.
posted by Mister_A at 6:51 AM on April 23, 2008

Oh yes. Oh yes oh yes oh yes.

And we simply cannot let this thread continue without mentioning the only way to spend an inherited tobacco fortune.
posted by Skorgu at 7:23 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oly was a crappy beer, but they ran a great ad campaign starring Dick Farnsworth in the early 80s.
posted by buggzzee23 at 7:26 AM on April 23, 2008

Actually, you can add jet power to a front-wheel-drive car.
posted by adamrice at 7:38 AM on April 23, 2008

I note they used liquid oxygen as the oxidizer. This is not terribly safe.

Neither is connecting a 835 HP "409" to a 1963 Powerglide transmission, but goddamn.
posted by three blind mice at 7:40 AM on April 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

That was fucking awesome. Turn your engine into a two-stroke, heh.
posted by GuyZero at 7:40 AM on April 23, 2008

So here's the plan: We are going to get an old school Volkswagen Beetle, then we are going to mount a rocket supercharger, a drag axle, and a microturbo thrust engine.

After that, we are going to the salt flats, where there is nothing to get in our way, and we are going to set off all three at the same instant.

And then we are going to go back in fucking time, because that is the only possible result of that kind of insanity.
posted by quin at 8:06 AM on April 23, 2008 [3 favorites]

I am not a big speed guy, nor am I a guy who usually gets excited about old American heavy metal hot rods, but goddamn, I want that Tobacco King car!
posted by Richat at 8:17 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah I'm a Subaru whore with a fetish for old rally cars and I needed new pants after I saw that the first time. More pictures at Jalopnik.
posted by Skorgu at 8:31 AM on April 23, 2008

A guy did 168 mph in a VW bug.
posted by mecran01 at 8:41 AM on April 23, 2008

Yeah, but he totally killed that VW's resale value.
posted by LordSludge at 9:45 AM on April 23, 2008

Ah, I see- so it was the contents of the Party Ball that were dangerous and not the ball itself.
posted by Challahtronix at 9:54 AM on April 23, 2008

mecran01: A guy did 168 mph in a VW bug.

No. Heh heh. No, no, no. 168 is a lot for a VW bug, but not that far over what people did with them by refitting in the '60s. It is, I admit, kind of insane, but I got 140 out of my Porsche 914 once with the same engine in it. (This was outside of Albuquerque.)

No, see, what this guy did is 168 mph in a VW bug over an elapsed time of 9.36 seconds. He got in his car, turned the key, and was a quarter mile away within ten seconds. And would've been a full mile away from where he started 25 seconds after he turned the key if he hadn't pulled his chute.

This, that is, is a car that goes from 0 to 168mph in ten seconds. Jesus fuck.
posted by Viomeda at 10:07 AM on April 23, 2008 [3 favorites]

Nota bene: "same engine" = "stock four-cylinder VW engine," not "insanely demented rocket engine"
posted by Viomeda at 10:08 AM on April 23, 2008

I have a question or three. How is it possible to be a Democrat (me) and still get a serious charge out of this (me)? It must be the private irony and social solidarity thing.
If anyone out there needs to be first at something (in addition to being the first one at the scene of an accident), how about a rocket powered Segway? How far forward would you have to lean to engage rocket power?
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 10:21 AM on April 23, 2008

this is the greatest thing I've ever heard of. Also i miss Jarts.
posted by shmegegge at 10:26 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

so, one of the trackbacks for this article from a year ago is the following:

By the way, Iowahawk has a Turbonique supercharger, all parts complete. He\'s looking for the right vehicle to install it on. When he gets it up to speed, maybe Camille Paglia would like to go for the first real ride of her life.

wtf?! does this dude insert camille paglia into everything he says?

Mm, I love this hamburger! Maybe when I'm done with it I'll order one for Camille Paglia!
posted by shmegegge at 10:29 AM on April 23, 2008

mecran01: "A guy did 168 mph in a VW bug."

I have a VW bug (a real one) and 50 mph is scary in the damn thing. If you hit a pebble at 168 you'd be airborne.
posted by octothorpe at 10:54 AM on April 23, 2008

Also i miss Jarts.

I'm laughing and sort of crying at the same time. Because I miss my childhood summers, sort of, and Jarts, well, what can you say.
posted by docpops at 10:55 AM on April 23, 2008

And... they drove with LIONS in their sidecars, because they COULD. It's true!
posted by fusinski at 11:05 AM on April 23, 2008

Perhaps it was the feminization of culture.

Yeah, that is utter bullshit.

I'm a chick, and I want to strap one of those rockets to my ass, so that I can blast into space with my partyball.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:14 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I showed the lion picture to my partner, completely out of context from the post, and he said

"People don't do things like that anymore."

And it's true. As this entire post states.
posted by redsparkler at 12:06 PM on April 23, 2008

I have a question or three. How is it possible to be a Democrat (me) and still get a serious charge out of this (me)? It must be the private irony and social solidarity thing.

Fun and politics are two entirely different things. When enough people forget that, it results in all sorts of trouble, like soundbite news entertainment networks that do a worse job than comedy shows, or PR-centered presidencies that are only good at staging photo ops and playing CYA.

I want a loud & dangerous rocket car as much as the next guy, but I'm not going to conflate it with some sort of socio-political alignment out of some misguided idea that everything has to be political. Rocket cars are just friggin' cool.
posted by PsychoKick at 12:55 PM on April 23, 2008

Just as a side note:

when I was a kid, I used to live in a neighborhood with small backyards and houses right up next to one another. We had Jarts. We used to throw them up in the air as high as we could. Straight Up. Then we'd play "Dodge the Jart." I'm not kidding. Natural Selection can kiss my ass.
posted by shmegegge at 12:56 PM on April 23, 2008

redsparkler: ""People don't do things like that anymore.""

Yeah, that was what struck me when I came across this - just one of the things wrong with the world today is that people are too scared of getting hurt (or sued) to try anything not deemed safe by the appropriate authorities.
posted by dg at 1:55 PM on April 23, 2008

Turbonique was too manly for its own good. Pure awesomeness, without regard for safety or rationalization.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 5:53 PM on April 23, 2008

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

I was too young to appreciate it, I want the 1970s again.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:15 AM on April 24, 2008

"people are too scared of getting hurt (or sued) to try anything not deemed safe by the appropriate authorities"

Which is really a shame, because we need these pioneers and their future-vision to bring us the fun toys of tomorrow.

An acquaintance of mine (well, I went to high school with him) is building personal sized submarines of his own design. National Geographic even did a show on him. Know how he got started? One fine Summer day his freshman or sophomore year he wanted to see if he could build a submarine. So he started reading up, got a bunch of tools and materials together, and built a crude, rudimentary submarine in his back yard.

Know how he tested it? Late one evening he hauled it to our town's local pond (more like a very large pool), hoisted this bastard child over the calm glassy water, released the cable, and watched as his contraption sunk like a fucking stone. This is a 16 year-old kid, who just dumped a car-sized load of scrap into the municipal swimming hole. So he just went home and hoped it wouldn't get back to him.

It did, much later, for reasons so outrageous that he's now the stuff of legend in our school... but my point is, I guess at some point over the past two decades he got a lot of the kinks worked out, and he's nearing the point where he can mass-produce these little mini-submarines. That's terrific!

These days they won't let you bring more than two lighters on a plane. Shit... if you dumped a DIY submarine into a pond these days and they'll send you to Gitmo. Real pity.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:35 PM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Ah, he was 15 at the time. Here's the old Metafilter thread on him.

I could write a movie about Karl Stanley, but no one would ever believe it. Just because this is the Internet, and there's posterity at sake, and the statutes of limitations have probably expired by now, and he's in Belize the last time I checked... well, let me expound upon an anecdote from the previous thread...

Our high school was, like most high schools, located in the middle of town next to a bunch of houses. One of the streets that the school shared with the local residents was the source of many confrontations and much consternation. The local residents didn't care much for the students, so they enacted an ordinance that forbade parking on the street. They figured since they all had garages, it wouldn't be any skin of their back to just ban parking outright for the whole block--just to keep the teenagers off their streets.

The town, an upper-class New Jersey suburb, spared no expense--they set up a row of shiny new "NO PARKING" signs, all neatly placed every 20 feet, stretching the entire block. Well, 'ol Karl was a car-owner, and a high school student, and didn't take kindly to any of this.

So the first thing he did was drive out to the high school late one night and brought down all the signs. Keep in mind, these are proper, municipal signs--cement shoes, ten feet high--you get the picture. He did this alone, on a suburban street in an upper-class town with houses and nosy neighbors... an astounding feat in its own right. But that wasn't enough for Karl...

No, Karl's always been one of those guys that likes to take things to an extra level of crazy. So Karl got a bucket of yellow paint, and painted new parking lines on the street, and just to be a little extra irritating, he painted them at ninety-degrees from the curb. What had been parallel parking got turned into "regular" pull-in parking, essentially doubling the number of cars that could park there.

That naturally didn't last very long. Eventually 45 new signs were installed, and he was right back where he started. He eventually began a kind-of crazed guerrilla campaign over parking his car that would make even this story sound crazy.

Let's just say it involves duct-tape and grappling hooks, and ends with charges of terrorism.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:57 AM on April 26, 2008 [6 favorites]

Awe heck, might as well at least finish up the car story if anyone ever comes back to this thread.

Last time I wrote about Karl's battle-for-the-ages against our town's parking authorities. Taking down the signs was only the first campaign in a very long war.

The town eventually replaced the signs, and parking was once again banned from the street that ran along the side of our high school. Karl, not being a complete idiot, decided an encore performance would probably not end as successfully as the first. Now, most people at this point would pat themselves on the back for "winning"--at least in principal--and then find some place else to park. But not Karl.

Karl went to the library, and then to town hall, and read a few things about parking enforcement. Apparently one of those things was a stipulation--the exact phrase I never learned, but something to the effect of, "must be able to visibly identify car". Basically, Karl figured out that they couldn't ticket him unless they could actually see his car.

So every morning Karl would arrive at school early, open his trunk and pull out giant plastic tarps and bags and a giant roll of duct tape and would proceed to wrap up his car like a mummy. And after school every day, he would undo the whole mess, stuff it back into his car and drive away, ticket-less.

But the town hadn't thrown in the towel. No--they still wrote the tickets out each day, because they knew precisely who's car it was even if they couldn't technically see the plates. And after a week or two of this, the police department went down to Karl's place one day and placed a large stack of tickets in his mailbox.

That was a mistake. Karl found out that it's actually illegal for the police--or anyone else besides the recipient and agents of the United States Postal Service--to do anything to your mail. They should have mailed it, but they got sloppy. Round two: Karl.

But the tickets continued to pile up, and Karl was starting to worry about how much damage those tickets could do. So Karl decided to take matters into his own hands. Now, I have it on extremely good authority that the next part of this tale really, actually, no, man, for fucking-real happened.

Late one night, Karl went down to our town's police station. He removed a grappling hook from his backpack, then hoisted himself up the two stories (of our police station, remember...), entered the top floor, which was administrative offices that had closed after 5 p.m., where he then proceeded to the particular office where the files for tickets are held and destroyed them. I don't know if it was all of the parking tickets on file, or (probably more likely), just a very large portion of them to divert suspicion from himself.

There's a large gap in the story here, the important thing to note is that he was not caught up to this point... he most likely could have walked away and, as long as he promised to leave town as soon as he graduated, they probably would have left it alone. But Karl was, well, kind-of crazy. The kind of crazy as best exemplified by the topic of the original post. But I think in the end that we benefit as a society by keeping these crazy people around and out of prison, even if they do occasionally go a little nuts. Which is basically what happened...

The Fourth of July is a Big Deal™ in my town. It's even worse now after 9/11, but even before, we always had a big parade, some speeches by various local dignitaries, and it would all finish off with a nice fireworks display.

Let me take your attention away from the main story for a second to give you a better picture of Karl Stanley in high school. Karl was an average height, lanky build, had a short, smart haircut with a tasteful amount of hairspray, wore button-down Polos with khaki slacks, sometimes with a tie, sometimes with jeans. To all outward appearances, he fit the Young Conservative paradigm to a T. But Karl wasn't a Conservative, or a Republican. No, Karl wasn't even a Democrat. Deep inside, Karl was an anarchist.

For our town's 4th of July celebration, Karl had somehow rigged the fireworks display to go off prematurely in the middle of the mayor's speech. At some point before the mayor's speech, Karl was caught red-handed. Unfortunately, I don't know any more details about it then that. Perhaps Karl told someone who blabbed? Perhaps the cops had just been on him the whole time? Who knows. What we do know, is that right after arresting Karl, they got a warrant to search his house. And what should they find stacked neatly under Karl's bed? 45 neatly-arranged NO PARKING signs.

Well, that's enough stories about Karl for one thread.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:37 AM on May 1, 2008 [6 favorites]

dear lord that's the most amazing series of stories I have ever in my life heard.
posted by shmegegge at 1:20 PM on May 1, 2008

Awesome story! There's no doubt in my mind that the world would be better off if there were more people like Gene and Karl in the world. Something to help us tell the difference between crazy-dangerous and dangerous-but-mostly harmless. It seems that, these days, anyone who acts outside the bounds of a society defined by boring beige people living in boring beige homes driving boring beige cars and living boring beige lives is treated as a dangerous lunatic. The world is sometimes worse off for playing it safe.
posted by dg at 1:39 PM on May 1, 2008

Karl was an anarchist.

And for the joy that story brought me, today you are both personal heroes of mine.

I desperately miss being young and indestructible. For me, those two attributes, when mixed together, made me do very stupid things that I'm embarrassed (read as: secretly very proud) to admit to having done.
posted by quin at 1:45 PM on May 1, 2008

Well, I'm not embarrassed about the stupid things I did when I was young(er). In fact, I haven't really stopped doing them - I just don't have the great blocks of time with nothing particular to do that seemed to be the trigger for doing something with a better-than-even chance of injuring myself.

I don't feel indestructible any more, though, I admit. Some of the things I used to do I wouldn't do now because I am worried about being injured and not being able to work and support my family.

If I had the time, I would totally love to fit a rocket to the back of my car. I'd wear a seat belt, though.
posted by dg at 2:26 PM on May 1, 2008

I just don't have the great blocks of time with nothing particular to do that seemed to be the trigger for doing something with a better-than-even chance of injuring myself.

Well, that, and being broke. Most of the Stupid Shit™ I did growing up was due solely to being broke. Now that I can actually buy stuff with my own money (how novel!), and now that the penalties for said Stupid Shit would land me real jail time, I will happily take my admittedly more boring but less incarcerated lifestyle.

I don't feel indestructible any more, though, I admit.

I hear ya', brother. Getting old's a bitch. Years ago, I would have been giddy at the prospect of doing this (from a recent MeFi thread). Now I look at those photos and know I'd be completely petrified.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:51 PM on May 6, 2008

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