Did you ever put Turbine in your Go Kart?
I almost did. I got a S-6 Micro Turbo engine that put out 170HP. Turbine from Turbonique, My plans were to put it on a Rupp Go Kart So I drove up to Ohio where the Rupp Karts were built on the way stopped in Akron Ohio to talk to Art Arfons, and Doug Rose, seeing they were running the fastest jet cars in the nation, to see what I could learn from them.
Doug said I should streamline the Kart if I wanted to go faster. So when I got over to the Rupp Factory I asked Mickey Rupp and old Racing friend of mine, to have him build me a Streamlined Go Kart for the Turbine? Mickey said I will not build a Kart for you, if you are going to use that Micro Turbine motor. Because it will blow up and kill you.
To this day I am thankful for Rupp talking me out of using The Turbonique Turbine engine, because over the years a number of people were killed or injured because of those turbines blowing up.
Mickey took the original twin T-16 engines off my Dart Kart and the hardware then he throw the Dart Kart frame in the steel hopper. So they original Kart no longer existed Mickey then built me a beautiful lay down streamlined Kart. The fastest I ever went in the sit up Rocket Kart was 140mph; the streamlined Kart went 162 mph. I would Guess I made some were between 275 and 300 runs with the Rupp Turbonique rocket powered Go-Kart.
Did you ever have any close calls with the Turbonique Go Kart?
I never did run my Turbonique Go Kart on a NHRA Sanctioned track, so allot of the tracks I ran on, were short and bumpy I remember one time when I was running my Kart. This was in about March of 1963 I brought it to a racetrack up in Georgia. I never tested it before so this was a new experience for me. I fueled it up The kart had a dimmer switch on it start the Rocket Engine So when I pressed the dimmer switch for the first time I didn’t know what to expect there was allot of fire an noise The Kart would only about a 100 mph So the track promoter wasn’t happy. He said I hired you to go 125 mph and he wasn’t going to pay me so I took my 4 engine West Bend powered go kart out of trailer and ran 125mph so the track promoter would pay me. I needed the Rocket Go Kart to go faster if I wanted to make money with it, so I went down to Florida to talk to Gene in February of 1963 he said I should try two Rocket Engines on my Kart so we added another T-16 Rocket Engine to the Kart. We took the kart out to and old metal shack in back of Gene’s place that had equipment in it that could measure the thrust, and fuel flow. When we first test fired it Gene told me to stand outside with a fire extinguisher in case there was a fire. As I was standing out there I noticed there was a concrete and brick wall in front of the steel building so I started to wonder how safe were these Rockets, if you had to stand behind a brick wall.
This was the first time two Turbonique T-16 engines were fired at the same time. There was a small fire after the engines shut down. I went back into the metal shack looking Gene he wasn’t there so I went outside and found Gene hiding behind a railroad car. I asked him why he was behind the railroad car he said because I have a wife and two kids.
I also remember I did have a close call up in Nashville Tennessee, the manager told me I had better check out the track before I ran because the shut off area was real short, so I drove my van down the track. I soon found out the shut down area was really short. When I got down to the end of the track I was surprised to see there was a big drop off with a number of cars at the bottom of the 100-foot embankment that had gone off the track over the years. So the Track owners added safety nets at the end of the track so you would not drive over the hill. Well the first run I made I saw the end of the track coming up fast. I dint want to hit the Safety net so I locked up the brakes and slide into a 6” inch curb at about a 45 degree angle. I hit the curb so hard I bent the right side of my front axle way back. I was luckily I did not flip the Kart over.
Whatever happened to the twin lay down Kart?
Well, I took it to the General Motors Proving Grounds in Milford Michigan to do a static test in front of some General Motors engineers. When I fired the engine a fuel line broke. The whole thing caught on fire and burned to the ground. I brought the kart back to Chitwood’s shop and rebuilt it and put a new Monza Jr. Body on it. Chitwood sold it to Charley at Beach Bend Raceway, in Bowling Green, Kentucky . He blow up the motor brought it back to Tampa and I repaired it. Later on Chitwood was doing a show up the Beach Bend Raceway and Chitwood talked me into driving the Rocket Kart it had just rained out I hit the puddles of rain I felt like I was in a boat. We were doing a show on the on the wide world of sports it had two west bends I did stunt driving with it stunt mans championship left to Rt. Hap Roberts a Jack Dave Roberts haps son.
Tell us a little about the 1965 Z16 Chevelle.
We installed a Turbonique Drag axel in it that developed 850 hp. This thing was really fast, I would start out in third gear, fire up the rocket in the drag axel and car would smoke the tires for a eight of a mile and still run over 150 mph. The big problem on just about every run I would have trouble keeping the rear end together there was just too much power going through it. The last time I ran it the rear end locked up at a 150mph and I barrel rolled it 12 or 13 times. That beautiful car turned into a big ball of scrap iron so we just hauled the whole thing to the junkyard.