Well, it is summer again as I continue to work on Sonic Wind LSRV. I don’t have any set build timetable and tend to build with what I can find in raw materials when I stumble over them surplus or can afford them when paying retail. I have a general overall view of the car in my head but the tiny details are always in flux as ideas evolve and I find better materials.
Recently, I acquired a bit of aluminum 6061 and 7075 sheet which I needed to build the bodywork. So I constructed about ½ of the body work. I built as much as I could and went as far as I could stretch the aluminum. Here are some photos of what the car body looks like now. I know it looks complete but I am sure it will still be quite a while before she will be completed and ready to run.
A friend came by to see it and as he watched me building this 55 foot long rocket car while working in the dirt he said…”Your story is like the World’s Fastest Indian only on steroids.” Denise saw all the body panels on the car and said…”It is starting to look big and scary.” I think it looks purposeful and powerful.
I recently acquired the 2 power cylinders I will need to suspend the front and rear ends of the car as well as the cylinder I will use to drive the movable vertical air dam structure. A big “Thank You” goes out to Carlos Guzman of Norton Sales in North Hollywood, California for supplying those to the project.
They are of fighter jet aircraft quality, constructed of exotic metals, super light and would have been quite expensive if I had to buy them. So now I will begin building the front and rear suspensions of the car.
The car will have a multi-phase suspension sort of like an off road racing car or truck. The wheels will be independently suspended and mounted on a single swing arm that will also be suspended by the aircraft cylinders. This gives a two stage shock absorbing interface between car chassis loads and track induced impacts. The idea here is as forces exceed the first shock absorbing system a second one comes into play to back up the first and take up residual forces. It is similar to a motocross motorcycle as a MotoX bike can go just about anywhere and jump over just about anything. Sonic Wind LSRV’s suspension will be built using similar ideas.
Most LSR car designs have suspensions similar to those used on high speed road cars or road race automobiles such as dragsters, Le Mans cars, F1 or Indy cars. I never understood that way of thinking as LSR vehicles run on a dried mud playa or salt flats course which has very different suspension needs than a road course. Something like a quick action MotoX bike or off road truck suspension is more what is needed here.
If you remember, I stretched Sonic Wind LSRV seven feet in length in order to carry more fuel. Because of that the overall look of the car has changed somewhat. It appears sleeker and leaner because of the change in the overall aspect ratio. I needed another scale model to do future wind tunnel testing at subsonic speeds. So I began building a solid wooden 1/12th scale model for that. I carved it from a single piece of 3 inch by 4 inch wide pine and here is a shot of me doing that. As of this writing the model is about 50% complete.
Speaking of models Steve Garcia contacted me recently and said that he and his friend Sam Chaloupka had begun building resin models of LSR cars in 1/43 scale. Their first project was the last rocket/turbojet design being investigated by Brit legend Ken Norris before he died. It is known as the “wedge shaped” car or the “arrowhead” car as that is what it looks like.
Currently Steve and Sam have no plans of mass producing these models for sale but Steve and Sam made a few of them and Steve gave one to me because he knows how big a fan I am of Ken Norris and his work. Here are a couple of photos of this fantastic sleek design in 1/43 scale with Bluebird like decals.
Believe it or not the first LSR design I was working on when I was but a freshman in high school (I was 14 years old) looked nearly exactly like this Norris design. The only differences were that I planned on using three rocket engines (in order to fill the blunt back of the car with high velocity gases to increase aerodynamic efficiency) instead of a large rocket and two smaller turbojets as Norris envisioned. Another difference was that I had the rear wheels located outboard in rectangular spats at the two apexes of the rear triangular body.
This arrow body design was the basis for a smaller scale design I submitted to the Fanning brothers of Stephenville, Texas for the first version of the “Instant Insanity/Concept 1” rocket dragster which they built and ran in the early 1980s. Instant Insanity/ Concept 1 was powered by a hydrogen peroxide rocket engine of 2,500 lbs. of thrust. Last I heard, Ky Michaelson owned the car.
The arrowhead car design is a highly stable rocket car concept but suffers from very high drag penalties. Then again if you have enough power to overcome the drag penalties of the design, stability is really what you would want to have precedence. This Norris design was never built but I can never help but wonder what if?
Here is another “what if” for you. It is a magazine article from 1931 depicting the proposed “Miss Los Angeles” land speed record car which was under construction at the time. Not much is known about this car after this bit of press proposed it but I would guess the “lack of financial support torpedo” sunk this project before it had a chance to run. It was to use two W 24 cylinder engines for power. That is a 48 cylinder car if you can imagine that!
Here are a couple of other aerospace and land speed “what ifs” for you ponder. First, I am sure most of you aviation buffs probably know who Dr. Alexander Lippish was. He was the designer of the famous German Me-163 rocket plane as well as many other tail less, delta wing, ram jet, turbojet and rocket powered planes of World War 2. Lippish was the guy who came up with the supersonic delta wing idea.
After the war he was absorbed into the American aircraft industry later working for Convair and developing the F-102 fighter jet, The F-106 fighter jet, The Sea Dart a sea launched fighter jet, the B-58 Hustler bomber and many other machines you will never know of because they are still in the black realm. Here is a concept he did for a rocket powered aircraft of the mid 1930s.
Lippish was a great aircraft designer yes, but did you know that he was also working with German liquid rocketeer Max Valier on rocket powered land speed record car designs in the 1930s? Check out these patent drawings. Take note of who the co- designers are.
Another “what if” I stumbled over recently actually went into the black world but probably flew in one form or another according to people I have talked to. While I was at Edwards Air Force Base doing some business for the Colonel Vernon P. Saxon Jr. Aerospace Museum in Boron, California of which I am the curator, I got a chance to go into the EAFB museum on base.
George Welch and Tony Moore (Moore is the author of the book “X Plane Crashes”) are the curators of that museum and both are endless supplies of aerospace history knowledge. Being at Edwards AFB where everything neat in aerospace was pioneered the Edwards Air Force base Museum has no shortage of fantastic artifacts to display. I was like a kid in a candy store of aerospace hardware while walking through the museum.
Here is a photo of a stainless steel supersonic wind tunnel model of the “X-15 Delta” which they have on display. It was to be a full fledged spacecraft which was to be launched from the back of a B-70 Bomber or from the top of a Titan 3 missile and was designed to fly right into orbit. It was engineered to have a much better lift to drag ratio than the famous original North American X-15 and some people have told me that the design was later rechristened the X-24C. A model of the X24C is in the aerospace museum at Pima in Arizona.
Supposedly, later the engine was upgraded in power to an ICBM Rocketdyne LR-105 rocket engine and then it was again renamed the X151 and was a manned space vehicle that flew up until the late 1990s probably under the project name “Blackstar.” Is it true? We will probably never know for sure but check this thing out and if you can get on base at Edwards do go to the museum there as it is so cool it will make your head spin.
While I was at Edwards Air Force Base, I also was allowed to check out the bone yard where the Air Force stores its historical artifacts. There were some amazing things in there. Navy crew chief Mike Glenn runs the bone yard and is restoring some historic aircraft there. Mike said that his sister claims they are related to famous astronaut John Glenn but Mike says…“No way as John Glenn was a Marine and there are no Marines in their U.S. Navy family.” Next month I plan to help him and his Navy crew out for a few days in order to get better acquainted with those guys. Here is Mike Glenn deep within the EAFB bone yard warehouse.
I was at the NASA Dryden research center having a meeting with Dr. Christian Gelzer who chronicles history for NASA and Steve Lighthill the director of communications for NASA Dryden. We had a three hour “sit down” chat and it was quite informative. Dr. Gelzer is literally a human computer and wealth of information on aerospace history. I could listen to him and quiz him all day.
I asked Dr. Gelzer about what he knew of project Blackstar and he looked me dead in the eye and said “I have no knowledge of that project what so ever.” That is NASA speak for…. “Stop asking about that one or we will have to escort you out” Like I always say “I may not wear a Rolex but I always know what time it is.” So we talked about other things.
Dr. Gelzer educated me on the computer system used on the first fly by wire aircraft an F-8 Crusader fighter/bomber which NASA experimented with which lead the way to the redundant computer controls incorporated in modern day fighter aircraft as well as the totally autonomous robotic flying drones we see today.
I in turn educated him on the British Miles M-52 aircraft whose design lead to the construction of the Bell X-1 supersonic aircraft. We all left enlightened….me more than them I am sure. Here is a photo of Steve, me and Dr. Gelzer in front of the NASA logo at Dryden or the “Meatball” as aviators like to call their logos.
With the help of Dr. Gelzer, NASA will be lending our Colonel Vernon P. Saxon Jr. Aerospace museum a few more historical displays in order to constantly update what we have to offer visitors to see and touch. Here is the website for the museum www.saxonaerospacemuseum.com and the address is 26922 Twenty Mule Team Rd. in Boron, California. We are open nearly everyday from 10 AM to 4 PM. So get on over there!
If you are ever near Boron don’t pass up a visit to this museum as I and docents Randy Ciapponi, Jay Bailey, Marie Henson, Peggy Bracket, Rick and Cathy Clabby and director Tammy Brown have worked long and hard to make the museum something you will not want to miss if you are in the area. How dedicated to that museum am I? Well, here I am giving our F-4 Phantom fighter jet a bath. Power washing and scrubbing it for hours left me covered in bird s**t.
One thing that makes our museum unique from any other aviation museum is that the famous aviator, gun runner and air racer Florence “Pancho” Barnes spent the last years of her life in Boron, California and the docents at the museum can even show you where her now abandoned stone house still stands. Florence Barnes got the nickname “Pancho” while running guns in Mexico for Pancho Villa. How is that for a bona fide female hard ass? Here is what she looked like in the prime of her life. And here is what her house looked like.
If you are real lucky Peggy Bracket may be the docent the day you come in and Peggy is the absolute walking, talking wealth of information on Pancho Barnes and the TRUE history thereof. At the museum we have a Pancho Barnes display containing some of her personal artifacts because she was an aviation and Boron, California legend.
My daughter Nicole Stachurski and grandson Torger James Stachurski visited the museum while down from Wisconsin Rapids this last month. They were amazed at the knowledge and stories Peggy told them about Pancho and her life.
Peggy worked for Pancho for 12 years as a bartender at Pancho’s “Happy Bottom Riding Club” which bordered Edwards Air Force base and was depicted in the Tom Wolf book and the movie “The Right Stuff.” Movies have been filmed about Pancho’s life where she was played by such movie stars as Valerie Bertinelli.
In real life Peggy knew Pancho pretty well. Some people called Pancho’s Happy Bottom Riding Club a “cat house or whore house” where air force personnel hung out but Peggy claims that there was no way that was true as Pancho would not let the women hustle and if they did they were out. “It wasn’t a cat house Waldo, but it weren’t no church neither.” Peggy and Randy have both told me.
Another one of our museum docents Marie Henson also known as “Big Mama” (that nickname I never understood because she is just a little thing) who has been known to have more than a few paranormal experiences in her lifetime, says that sometimes when she is alone in the museum she can sense the ghost of Pancho Barnes swaggering about the museum displays. Framed pictures have been known to simply fall off of the walls of the museum for no reason at all and sometimes docents have heard the sound of a strange raspy woman’s voice when the museum is empty.
I’d like to think the pictures fall down because of the passing freight trains which rumble right outside of the rear of the museum and shake everything or maybe they fall because of the constant sonic booms made by the fighter jets testing new aircraft technology at Edwards AFB only a few miles away. Maybe they fall from the vibration of the rocket engine tests being conducted at nearby “Rocket Ridge” only a few miles from the museums back door. You can clearly see all the rocket engine test stands from the museum property. I posses a scientific mind and like to give valid explanations for things I may not understand but this is the best I can do on this one.
Does the ghost of aviation legend and all around hellcat rebel Pancho Barnes haunt the Vernon P. Saxon Jr. Aerospace Museum in Boron, California? Come to the museum and find out for yourself. That is if you’ve got the guts.
Personally, the more I’ve heard about it all through the years, the less I know for sure. Hey, now here is a real case for those “Ghost Hunter” guys on television. Someone give them a call. They could bring in all their meters and infrared equipment and find out for sure once and for all.
One thing is for certain, boy. If you think you have met a few real characters in your day. You have never met anyone the likes of aviation legend and pistol packin Pancho Barnes, I guarantee you that. So, get out to the Colonel Vernon P. Saxon Jr. Aerospace museum in Boron, California and who knows, with a little luck you might even meet her in person…….Waldo