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Steam Car team claims record run

The British Steam Car project says its namesake vehicle averaged nearly 140 mph in two runs over a measured mile, good enough to beat out a Stanley Steamer.

British Steam Car
The British Steam Car spouts off as it gets ready to make a run at a 103-year-old land speed record.
The British Steam Car Challenge

The Stanley Steamer may have finally been dethroned.

After holding onto its land speed record for 103 years, the homegrown Stanley automobile from the early days of motoring has been overtaken by a late-model import. The British Steam Car team said Tuesday that, earlier in the day, in the two runs required to be considered for the record, the Steam Car averaged 139.843 mph over a measured mile.

Charles Burnett III
Charles Burnett III behind the wheel of the Steam Car. The British Steam Car Challenge

Tuesday's achievement still awaits official confirmation from the certifying agency, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile.

The steam-powered mark to beat was 127 mph, set in 1906 by Fred Marriott, driving that Stanley Steamer at Daytona Beach, Fla. (According to the FIA, the overall World Land Speed Record is 763 mph, a supersonic speed reached in 1997 by a jet-powered car, the ThrustSSC.)

The British Steam Car, a project 10 years in the making, is no jet, but it does have its share of modern trappings, including carbon-fiber construction. The 3-ton, 25-foot-long vehicle has 12 boilers, and its steam gets superheated to 400 degrees Celsius before being injected into the turbine.

In each of its runs, the Steam Car, driven by Charles Burnett III, actually traveled more than 6 miles on a dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. On either side of the measured mile, it requires a 2.5-mile stretch for acceleration and deceleration. In going for the record, the vehicle had to make the second run within an hour of the first--the steam team says it made the turnaround Tuesday in 52 minutes.

The vehicle's peak speed in the first run was 136.103 mph, and in the second, 151.085 mph.