( Reposted from my thread in the Vales/EVO2 forum...)
I created all this last night using text and pictures I have
collected over several days from various websites . I hope
you enjoy it as much as I did putting it together - BigDOGGe
Before there was nitrous for dragsters, there was TURBONIQUE
Portion of a somewhat worn original Turbonique catalog cover
Though the company no longer exists, mere mention of the name "Turbonique" still inspires a shudder of awe among drag racing enthusiast, the company's principle target market. Even in the Wild West atmosphere of 1960s drag racing, Its products represented the zenith of no-compromise craziness.
Recall Acme, that enigmatic mail order purveyor of catapults and jet skates to cartoon coyotes?......Chicken feed compared to Turbonique.
Turbonique Inc. was established in Orlando in 1962, reportedly an offshoot of a NASA space program subcontractor who was determined to establish a consumer market for rocket technology. Its founder was a Mr. Gene Middlebrooks. Turbonique's product line consisted of three items:
"rocket drag axles"
and the legendary "microturbo thrust engines."
All employed the same basic rocket technology, albeit in stepped grades of insanity.
At the mild end of the Turbonique product line were its AP superchargers (AP = "Auxiliary Power"), so named because they had their own power supply. Unlike regular superchargers (driven by a crank pulley belt) or turbochargers (driven by exhaust pressure), Turbonique AP superchargers operated independently of the engine and scavenged no power from it.
They appeared to be a spiral turbo with a spark plug, and were engaged with a dash-mounted switch - a sort of prehistoric Nitrous setup. When the driver threw the switch, the supercharger unit would receive liquid oxygen for ignition, and then it was fed a rocket fuel named Thermolene -Turbonique's trade name for N-propyl nitrate.
The exhaust thrust from combustion would spin a turbine impeller up to 100,000 RPM, ramming the engine with such intense boost that it essentially turned it into a giant two-stroke. Turbonique dyno-tested an AP unit on new Chevy 409 in 1963, increasing horsepower from a stock 405 to 835 hp -- backing up their advertised guarantee to "double your horsepower" -- although it came with a recommendation not to run the unit for more than 5 minutes and only with forged cranks, pistons and connecting rods.
A few Turbonique liquid fueled rocket-spun superchargers
A solid fueled rocket-spun supercharger (using replacable fuel cartridges)
For those interested in upgraded insanity there was the Turbonique Drag Axle, which appeared to be a center section for a quick change differential - but with a mutant spaceship tumor growing from its hinder.
That tumor was, in fact, a rocket engine providing direct drive to the rear axle. When not in use, the car would drive under conventional power through the front drive shaft. When the driver hit the "panic button," the rear mounted rocket would immediately engage and begin channeling One Thousand Three Hundred Thermolene-addled rocket horsepower to the rear tires. All this despite weighing a scant 100 pounds. It was advised that the driver keep his thumb on the switch during operation since, having no clutch or fuel metering, the only way to control acceleration was by shutting off the fuel supply.
Who would put one on his car? Quite a few nutjobs as it turns out....
Some Turbonique Drag Axle powered racers
And why use just one turbine? Talk about insanity on wheels!
Roy Drew is an African-American racer who defeated famous "TV" Tommy Ivo's 4-engine "Showboat" dragster with his Turbonique-sponsored "Black Widow" drag axle Volkswagen (seen on the catalog cover above).
Here's some shots of Black Widow, the VW's drag axle set-up and it's victory against Showboat, with the Bug clocking 9.36 ET at 168 mph.
Okay, so rocket superchargers and drag axles are all well and good, but what if you really needed undiluted, industrial-grade insanity?
You'd be in luck, because Turbonique also provided thrust engines. Not rocket powered superchargers, or rocket powered axles, but rocket-powered rockets - pure thrust engines for horizontal speed.
Here's a couple of trunk-mounted applications (single and double rockets)
And for the ultimate lunatic, how about rocket-propelled go-karts that gave full-size drag racers a run for the money? Some would reach 160 mph in 4 seconds!
The technology was also used for other applications, such as outboard boat motors, snowmobiles, propeller karts and even a rocket powered water pump! For more pictures of various appications of Turbonique hardware (5 pages worth), click the following link :
Evel Knievel even planned once to use a Turbonique powered motorcycle to jump the Grand Canyon! He never got permission to do so, and instead made an unsuccessful jump of the Snake River Canyon using a hydrogen peroxide-propelled machine that was more unguided missile than motorbike.
Unfortunately for the thrillseekers of today, those wacky days are long gone.
Turbonique seems to have ceased operation around 1969. Original Turbonique equipment is extremely difficult to find, in part due to their extreme heavy duty use, and possibly because of deliberate destruction to avoid liability judgments.
Details are sketchy, but it's been said that the company folded after a series of customer explosions/accidents/deaths and the subsequent lawsuits.
Even more depressing: Turbonique's "Thermolene" fuel trademark lapsed, and is now a brand name of a weight loss pill!
For more info and pictures, browse the following links:
"Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal" - Henry Ford