The engineering behind this little-known land speed record car
The history of land speed records is fraught with victory, jeopardy and tragedy. Nevermind grip or downforce – when humans decide to point a vehicle towards the horizon and chase speeds that are normally reserved for aircraft, people sit up and take notice. It’s almost like a daring space launch; the human race is nudging the needle of discovery that smidge further, and we’re all happy to proudly sit and watch some incredibly brave person give it a shot.
Will this thing go on to over 1000mph?
The news recently has been filled with the exploits of Bloodhound LSR, the British-built jet-powered bullet of a vehicle, with the aim being 1000mph. At the time of writing, Bloodhound has managed a 628mph run and therefore is roughly 140mph away from the current land speed record, from where the team looks to press on.
But while walking around the British Motor Museum in Coventry last weekend, I came across one of the coolest land speed cars I’ve ever seen. It had an MG badge on the front of it which may seem strange to some, but the MG EX255 is one of many speed record cars built by the legendary British marque.
It's safe to say this is no regular MGF
The MGF-based car was MG’s attempt in the late 1990s to surpass its own speed record of 254.91mph, a marker set by Phil Hill back in 1959. Built on a steel tube space frame chassis, this car was solely built to take the brand towards 300mph, using any engineering heft they could get their hands on to make that happen.
The car used standard MG doors and front wings, but the rest of the bodywork was fashioned from carbon fibre.
Check out those streamliner wheels
Behind the tight bubble cockpit was a 4.8-litre twin turbocharged V8, based on the old faithful Rover V8. The resultant 960bhp was sent through a six-speed sequential gearbox which then transferred that power to special high speed tyres. Add in some beefy brakes and a couple of parachutes and MG had a car that looked like it could surpass the record mark.
Taking a peek through the plastic engine cover, I spotted four air filters (two large and two small), baring the same name as the one found in my own project car. Each side of the engine had its own conical K&N filter, used to gulp in the huge volume of air needed to create about the same power as a Bugatti Veyron.
Induction = sorted
Each bank also had a smaller crankcase breather filter poking out of the cylinder heads. If the seal of approval was given for a car capable of over 250mph, I was very much satisfied that my Mondeo’s V6 was in safe hands in terms of sucking in air with its K&N panel filter.
That lettering is unmistakable
This wasn’t the first or last time K&N supplied filters for a high speed attempt. The legendary Russ Wicks piloted a stock car to a world record of 244.9mph, also at Bonneville, with the lightly modified racecar feeding its V8 via a set of K&N filters, with the company’s wrench-off oil filters also being used.
MG’s attempt was scheduled for Bonneville Speed Week in 1999 with Andy Green – the man that is setting the Bloodhound speed runs – behind the wheel. As it happened, constant clutch issues meant that the record never came to fruition, meaning the 1959 MG marker post still stands to this day.
Andy ready to rock, if it weren't for a dodgy clutch
Maybe some day an MG 3 or 6 will be morphed into a successor to the EX255 and will finally crack the now 60-year-old nut. But sadly, the most extreme MGF ever made still sits untitled in a museum, never able to explore its full potential. I wonder if he reaches 1000mph, whether Andy Green will still remember this V8 streamliner from back in the day.