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Rover BRM Le Mans Gas Turbine Prototypes 1963 1965

The Automobile Club de l'Ouest (AC0) , organizers of the classic Le Mans 24 Hour race, had announced, in 1953, a special award for gas turbine cars participating in the event. The car was expected to cover at least 3500 km (2237 miles) in 24 hours which gives an average speed of 150 kph (93 mph). The gas turbine propelled racing car would run outside the qualification of the conventional contenders because there was no specific equivalence for this type of power unit.

Rover and BRM entered successfully a Rover BRM in 1963 and again in 1965.

  Rover BRM Le Mans Gas Turbine Prototypes 1963 1965  

 

Rover was the first automobile manufacturer to complete a car propelled by a gas turbine. It was the Rover Jet 1 prototype introduced in 1950. Rover was involved in gas turbine production as it was commissioned by the British Government to design and produce the gas turbine for the first British jet aircraft, the Meteor, in 1941.

In 1945 Rover started developing small gas turbines; one intended application for a car manufacturer was obviously automobile propulsion. Several gas turbine propelled prototypes were completed; among them the four wheel drive Rover T3 two seats coupe in 1956 and the front wheel drive saloon Rover T4. The Rover T4 even completed a few demonstration runs in prologue of the 1962 Le Mans 24 Hours.

  Rover BRM Le Mans Gas Turbine Prototypes 1963 1965  
  Rover BRM Le Mans Gas Turbine Prototypes 1963 1965  
  Rover BRM Le Mans Gas Turbine Prototypes 1963 1965  

Rover and BRM joined force to complete a Le Mans racing prototype for the 1963 Le Mans event. The chassis was based on BRM Formula One racing car modified space-frame and the gas turbine was based on Rover 2S/150 engine produced for industrial applications. It is a twin shaft engine producing 150 hp. The gas turbine 2S/150 weights 77 kg (170 lb.). The gas turbine mounted in the Rover BRM do not comprise any heat exchanger or regenerator. The open type aluminium body prototype was driven by Graham Hill and Richie Ginther and completed 310 laps in 24 hours or 4172 km ( 2592 miles) at an average speed of 174 kph (108 mph). The Rover BRM was not included in the final classification but its performance was near the one of the V8 AC Cobra driven by Bolton and Sanderson  to the eighth position. The Rover BRM registered an average fuel consumption of 40 litre per 100 km (7 mpg) similar to the one of the AC Cobra during the race.

 

Operating Principle of a Gas Turbine with Regenerator

 
 
Rover BRM Le Mans Gas Turbine Prototypes 1963 1965
 
 

The drawing above shows a simplified view of the operating principle of a gas turbine with regenerator. A gas turbine comprises only rotating parts which avoid vibrations. In a gas turbine, hot gases are generated in continuous in the combustion chamber; the combustion can combine a great variety of fuels with compressed air supplied by the compressor. In a two shaft gas turbine, the first shaft support to air compressor and is rotated by the effect of the combustion gases on the primary turbine. The same combustion gases propel a power turbine on the second shaft that is connected to the power transfer. The rotating regenerator recovers the heat from the combustion gases and transfers it to the compressed air for higher fuel efficiency.

 
  Rover BRM Le Mans Gas Turbine Prototypes 1963 1965  
 

This Rover 2S/150A free power turbine unit was designed to meet demands for compressed air, primarily for engine starting and aircraft cabin conditioning. The Rover 2S/150 gas turbine on this drawing is connected to a driven compressor (on the left). In the case of the propulsion of the Rover BRM, the driven compressor is replaced by a one-speed gearbox with forward and reverse gears and the power unit is connected to the rear differential.

 

For the 1965 edition, Rover and BRM prepared an upgraded car with a coupe aluminium body. The Rover BRM was enlisted this time in the up to 2000cc Class.  This time the gas turbine was equipped with a ceramic recuperator utilizing a new material prepared by Corning Glass. The car completed 284 laps or 3815 km (2371 miles) and finished in tenth position. It was driven by Jacky Stewart and Graham Hill. The average fuel consumption was  21 litre per 100 km (13.5 mpg).

The Rover Gas Turbines Limited attempt at automobile propulsion was stopped there. The activity was transferred at British Leyland Motor Corporation Limited for the development of a gas turbine for heavy trucks with the Bus and Truck Division in a potential replacement for Diesel engines. The attempt was not successful and today it is essentially for aircraft that gas turbines substituted reciprocating piston internal combustion engines. One explanation is the difference between modern aircraft engines and the small gas turbines considered for automotive field. For various reasons the largest airliners use engines that are relatively complex, with compressors working at higher pressure ratio of 24:1 to 30:1 and inlet gas temperature as high as 1200°C for the turbine. Such engines compared to equivalent reciprocating piston engines offer operating economy and extended trouble free life between overhauls together with lower volume and weight. They represent also a very high capital cost that can be justified for an airplane but not for automobiles or trucks.

Text and Illustrations Paul Damiens, Rover Gas Turbines Limited.

Reference article: Gas Turbines for land transport, Nöel Penny, Science Journal April 1970.

Wallpapers: Rover BRM Le Mans Gas Turbine Prototypes 1963 1965 (click on image to enlarge)

Rover BRM Le Mans Gas Turbine Prototypes 1963 1965 Rover BRM Le Mans Gas Turbine Prototypes 1963 1965 Rover BRM Le Mans Gas Turbine Prototypes 1963 1965
Rover BRM Le Mans Gas Turbine Prototypes 1963 1965
Rover BRM Le Mans Gas Turbine Prototypes 1963 1965 Rover BRM Le Mans Gas Turbine Prototypes 1963 1965

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