4 Jet Cars Made By the Most Unlikely Company
The motor industry in the 1950's was a time of prosperity and innovations. World war two was over and rationing was coming to an end. Especially for one important item. Steel. Once the rationing on steel got lifted, the motor industry could fully return to normal and start developing new models. Up to this point, most cars were pre-war models that hadn't seen much update since the mid to late 1930's. Now was the perfect time to also start looking into new propulsion methods.
Ford looked into nuclear power with the Ford Nucleon in the late 50's, but this never went further than the model stage.
Other companies looked into other methods such as gas turbine jets. One company started back in 1949 with a car called 'JET1'. This company was Rover! Yes Rover, the company that developed probably the most stereotypical 'old man' car known to man, the Rover 75.
Back in the 1950's Rover was a much more prosperous company. British Leyland wasn't a thing yet and nor was the strikes that gave them a bad reputation. What they did have was fantastic build quality, upper middle class stature and and damn good line up.
The P5 was Rovers flagship model at the time and it sold well, leaving a bit of cash in the bank for developing future models. Now like I said, Rover had a completely different reputation at this point. they weren't yet a company that was renown for strikes and cost cutting. Rover was really well known for making models that were right up to date and more importantly, Rover was known for being innovative. This is when Rover started development on the JET1, gas turbine car.
Development of the JET1 was actually started back in 1949. A gas turbine car in the style of a two-seat tourer, with the jet engine itself positioned behind the seats. Air intake was not from a traditional front grille but rather from some very sleek grilles on the side of the car. The exhaust was also in a strange position. Being on top of the tail, rather than underneath it.
The JET1 originally started out as quite an ugly looking test bed but thankfully received an update to be more aerodynamic in 1952. This gave the car it's signature streamline look as seen in the picture below.
This car, known as the JET1-R, is actually a remake of the original JET1 by Georg Mayr-Harting. Isn't it stunning!
Rover and JET1 went on to set a world speed record for a gas turbine powered car in 1952 with a staggering achievement of 152.691 mph! JET1 is now on display in the London Science Museum.
Watch a video of the replica JET1, the JET1-R!
1956 welcomes the Rover T3 Coupe.
Rovers 3rd gas turbine car, the T3, was developed in 1956. Similar in its exterior design to the JET1, the T3 had , De Dion suspension at the rear and four-wheel drive. Once again with rear mounted gas turbine engines, the T3 had a maximum rev limit of wait for it... 52,000 rpm! All of the technology that was found in this car was then cloaked in this gorgeous blue glass-fiber, coupe body.
Many ideas from the T3, found their way into the popular Rover 2000 (P6) saloon. Things such as the De Dion suspension at the rear, coil suspension all round and four-wheeled disk brakes. Even though paraffin consumption was unbelievably high (13-14 MPG), the car was fairly practical as a road car but the high consumption is one reason why they didn't catch on.
The Sixties roll around, and so does the T4
The T4 was a gas turbine saloon incorporating the developments made on the previous cars. Although this looks a lot different than the previous models, looking more like the Rover P6, the T4 was very stylish for the time.
Sadly, I cannot find much information on the T4 but I think it deserves an article of its own right in February, once I have visited the British Motor Museum again to get more photos and information. For now though, I did find this fantastic film from the early Sixties with the JET1 and T4 which I am sure will make you smile, like I did!
Rover's Holy Grail: The Rover-BRM.
In the early 1960's, Rover and BRM, set up a partnership together. They would jointly test, both Rovers gas turbine developments and BRM's racing knowledge. The Rover-BRM was built up from a chassis supplied by BRM, which used to be part of Richie Ginther's car from the 1962 Monaco Grand Prix (until he crashed it). It also features a gorgeous aluminium body. I mean, just look at it, it's wonderful!
This time the gas turbine engine would be mid-mounted, which when being driven by racing driver and Formula 1 champion, Graham Hill, he described it as follows: "You’re sitting in this thing that you might call a motor car and the next minute it sounds as if you’ve got a (Boeing) 707 just behind you, about to suck you up and devour you like an enormous monster.". This really was a beast of a motor car, and even the figures say so. Top speed was a quoted 142 mph, and the Rover-BRM even did the Le-Mans 24 Hour Race. Being the first gas turbine powered car to complete 3,600 km over the 24 hours at an average speed of 93 mph!
Rover really had a fascination with the gas turbine engine and if it wasn't for the buy-out by British Leyland and the woes that followed, you never know what could have happened. We could have had old people driving about in gas turbine powered Rover 75's instead!
Did you enjoy this article? What are you're thoughts on the Rover jet cars?