All steamed up

Another land speed record for the UK. This time, it's the record for steam driven vehicles and one which has stood since 1906.

It's no surprise the record has remained unchallenged for so long, considering the complete lack of interest in steam as a means of propulsion. But the record has been challenged and captured.
What's interesting is the amount of technology that was needed to beat the record.
In 1906, Fred Marriott drove a Stanley Steamer at 127mph. Looking at the images, the Steamer appears to be little more than four bicycle wheels and an upturned canoe. A plan of the car would seem to imply the vehicle's boiler was located between the driver's legs.
According to The British Steam Car Challenge website, the Stanley Steamer was a technological marvel. The engine was a twin piston double acting type with a displacement of 3.1 litres; equivalent to a four stroke V8 with a displacement of 12.25 litres. The car was 16ft long, 3ft wide at its widest part and weighed 1675lb.
Step forward to 2009. Inspiration achieved an average speed of 139mph. Weighing 3tonnes, the car features carbon composites, a steel space frame chassis and more than 3km of tubing. It seems a lot of technology for a 12mph increment.
What would Fred Marriott and the Stanley brothers have made of it all?

Graham Pitcher

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