Motorsport fans enjoying the spectacle of the annual Knysna Hillclimb might have noticed a somewhat wistful bystander. Like many others, he was probably wondering what it would be like to thunder up the hill himself. In his case, though, thunder is an apt word. The man in question is putting the finishing touches to a – literally – firebreathing aero-engined car.
Preferring to be known simply by the nickname Rusty, he is inching closer to completion of his mammoth project. (The full story was covered in Popular Mechanics August 2013.) In his Cape Town garage lurks the Rothay Special, its tubular steel chassis and aluminium bodywork cradling a massive 27-litre World War II Rolls-Royce Meteor V12. Although not strictly speaking an aero engine, the powerplant is based on one: the Rolls-Royce Merlin. The supercharged Merlin powered countless aircraft, notably the Spitfire and Hurricane. The normally aspirated Meteor version was used for powering tanks.
A similar aero-engined vehicle, Lucy (see video here), has been entertaining audiences up north. One of its party tricks is its flame-belching exhausts.
We caught up with Rusty this week, to find that the car is taking shape. Which is to say, the rolling chassis we saw back then has grown some bodywork. That’s perhaps not a significant advance mechanically, but aesthetically it most certainly is.
Still to come are:
* Fitting of the step-up gearbox now manufactured
* Completion of the aluminium panelling
* Completion of the electrical wiring
* Fabrication of the front shock absorber top mountings
* Fabrication of the rear suspension thrust arms
* Fitting of the P100 headlights
* Trimming and carpeting of the interior
* Fitting of the aeroscreen
* Putting 20 louvres into each of the side sponsons
* Final painting of the bodywork in silver.
All of that is expected to take about three months. It is just possible that, come the Cape Spring, the Rothay Special will be ready to rumble. Again, literally. And it is a disease that seems to be catching, Rusty says. Word is that the ranks of local aero-engined monsters are about to increase. Another Cape Town enthusiast is planning to build a car around a WWI Curtiss 8,2-litre V8.
And Knysna? “I had been intending to do demo runs up the hill, but the car was not ready,” says Rusty. “Next year it will certainly be there.”
We can hardly wait…