A few minutes ago I devoured Gordon Cruickshank’s enthusiastic article about the Howmet Turbine. Of the two wins Gordon mentions, the more notable was undoubtedly the SCCA’s Marlboro 300 at Upper Marlboro, Maryland, just a brief drive from Washington. It made motor sport history as the only gas turbine car to win an endurance event. (The other victory came in an SCCA National sprint.) Ray Heppenstall and multiple SCCA national champion Dick Thompson drove the Howmet to an easy victory over a Porsche 911R and a modified Ford Cobra, among others, around Marlboro’s tight, 1.7-mile circuit.
As a pit marshal at that event I shot Super8 films, but my only regret is that sound movies were too expensive for this college student. Trackside fans dubbed the Howmet the ‘Electrolux’, because it sounded like the world’s most powerful vacuum cleaner.
Thompson drove the Howmet in some of the races you mentioned and made some notable comments about the Howmet at Daytona. At a meeting of the Washington DC SCCA, Dick related the story of missing braking points at Daytona, saying the team later realised that the power of the turbine increased significantly during the cooler evening atmosphere. The car was simply quicker when the air was denser.
Dick also claimed there was a notable lag when you pressed the throttle. “You really had to plan where to accelerate, but when it did spool up it was fast.”
Even with the limited optics of my movie camera, the heat waves coming from the Howmet’s exhaust were something to see. Steve Lloyd, Frederick, Maryland, USA