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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This bug called "The Black Widow" driven by Roy Drew ran 9.36 at 168 mph in Sept.19, 1966, at NHRA Tampa Dragway.

Before it wrecked and totalled the car

In a match race with Tommy Ivo's Famous "Showboat" four engined Buicke powered drag car the Black widow beat the famous driver and car!!

The Black Widow : the exciting story of a record breaking VW loaded with speed, innovation and adventure.

What first stroke me when I started getting interested by this famous car was the absence of information on it. Her life was too short, she lived and raced like a lightning. Her origins and her final days remain a mistery.

The Black Widow was prepared to race on the simple basis of commercial advertisement. She was meant to show the flag of Turbonique Inc. on the racing strips.

Why was a VW oval chosen for this purpose ? Low cost would probably be the answer but the popularity of the model could also have played a role here. On more, Turbonique had developed the jet powered transmission for VWs, model S-10-A, a technical break through that needed to be tested neck-to-neck against more conventional propulsion set-ups. The other products of the company (go-karts, thrust engines, superchargers , etc.) were selling well in those mid-sixties and in the USA everyone in the racing community was impressed seeing Joe Vittone’s VW Inch Pincher sweep race after race (see Shorrock).

In this respect, the Black Widow might have shadowed the records set by VW race cars on the West Coast.

Unfortunately, in October1966, a bad crash left the Black Widow in a shape beyond repair and after that the trace of the car was lost. Quite probably it was scrapped. The company went through various difficulties and in a matter of months ceased to exist.Only the record remained, a flared 9.36 at 168 mph in Sept.19, 1966, at NHRA Tampa Dragway.

Given the very particular mode of propulsion, this car could only operate for short runs of approximately 20 to 60 seconds. The termolene fuel supply set-up was located in the front luggage compartment.

Unless nowadays jet engine dragsters and tractor-pullers who warm up their engines on the starting line before giving an all-out roar at the green light, the Turbonique powered cars had no warm up: start push and full throttle was all done at once. The crowds really turned wild when they saw the car pass from total inert and silent condition to record breaking speeds, leaving hi-powered competitors in embarrassing situations.

The Black Widow was a project launched in a more serious style than a white oval VW that preceded it and on which several trials were made.

As a result of this previous experience, the Black Widow had a parachute braking aid, large slicker tires and the suspension was reinforced. His pilot, Roy Drew, featured in an advertisement page of Turbonique Inc. in some motoring magazines of that time posing against the crashed dragster.

The fuel installation

The propellent installation for a Turbonique engine requires several elements, hereafter detailed in blocks:

A) 3 containers: a high pressure cylinder containing oxygen (needed for starting the flame only), another high pressure cylinder containing nitrogen, equipped with a regulator valve. This nitrogen is injected into the third cylinder so as to create a high pressure inside it that will expel the Thermolene towards the burner in the engine. The third cylinder (the fuel tank, so to say) is normally the biggest of all three and, once the pressure released, can be opened to refill with Thermolene. This third cylinder has to be upright all the time whilst the two other can be laid down on their side.

Thermolene was the trade mark under which Turbonique Inc. marketed N-Propyl Nitrate. It was sold in 8 pound cans at a retail price of $ 12. A 475 pound drum would have cost you $ 437 back in 1966. In itself not more hazardous liquid than gasoline or kerosene, it had, nonetheless, far more energetic yield.

B) High pressure solenoid valves and piping: An on-off solenoid valve placed on the oxygen line close to the turbine burner or the engine chamber. A hand valve to set the operation pressure inside the Thermolene tank. A solenoid operated valve to open or close the Thermolene supply into the burner spout (the shut-off valve). One pipe from the O² cylinder to the engine. One pipe from the nitrogen cylinder to the thermolene tank. One pipe from the Thermolene tank to the engine.

C) Electric wiring and switches. One switch sets the electrical system under tension in ignition stand-by, a second switch triggers the flame. Another device, called the control unit, is in fact a box containing the necessary solenoid contacts and connections to open the oxygen and the thermolene inputs and, after a preset time gap, cut the oxygen arrival. For the micro-turbo engine and the superchargers, the ignition was made using a mere spark plug that was, in the case of the chargers, plugged to the coil hi-tension output. This spark plug was placed right in front of the thermolene feeding spout, in the flame chamber. The continuous spark of the plug kept up a "flowing explosion".

For the correct and safe operation of a Turbonique propulsion system it is paramount that the electrical side be operated under generous current supply and that all cabling, connectors and moving parts be in optimal operating conditions.

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VERY few of the kits were sold.. a basic kit was still several hundred dollars... the systems with a VW intended tranasaxle setup cost as much an SS 396 with all the goodies... This at a time when a brand new t10 cost 188.00 a fresh from the asembly line 327/350 could be had for around 500.00 and a new bug ran 1765.00...gas was a quarter...
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