Monday, November 7, 2005

Like Hank Hill, only much faster

We (well, okay, I) hold these truths to be self-evident:

1. That hot rods are super bitchin'. Especially Ford-powered Model A's on Deuce rails.

2. That one day, if we keep suckin' back the gasolina like we were John Belushi in Animal House and it was Schlitz, one day we're gonna have a problem of some kind. Global warming, gas crises, billionaire Saudi terrorists, take yer pick.

Fortunately I'm not the only one who's noticed this dilemma. Behold, if you will, Wayne Greenwood's (under construction) '31 roadster on '32 rails, powered by a propane-fueled 289 Ford. Now, getting a big American V8 to burn C3H8 ain't a new trick by any means--taxis around these parts run propane as a rule, and they're mostly late-model Caprices, Impalas and Crown Vics--but propane has a reputation of being a poor choice, horsepower-wise. Greenwood figures it ain't necessarily so, though. In theory, propane should tolerate a much higher compression ratio than pump gas, and mix more easily with air, meaning power levels ought to be comparable to a gasoline engine if you build it right. Throw in the lower price and emissions from propane, and--ding ding ding! we have a winner!

And if that's not clean enough, or fast enough for you, James Heffel of the University of California, Riverside, has an even more impressive project--a 427 Cobra[*] that should make 400hp on hydrogen. The intent isn't just to look cool or anything, either, but to blow away the land speed record for hydrogen vehicles. So far it's run 135mph at El Mirage, but with gasoline power to test the chassis. If they've done a record run with hydrogen power, I haven't seen results, but I'd sure like to.

[*] Shelby CSX4000, to be exact, but if it's good enough for the Shelby American Auto Club, it's good enough for me.

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