Late night funnyman Jay Leno presides over one heck of a car collection, featuring hallowed marques like Bentley, Maserati, and Bugatti. But one of the most interesting cars in his garage is one he built; a turbine-engine jet car.
Leno first fell for the jet-powered concept cars of the 1960s, and even owns one of Chrysler’s original turbine cars. Over four decades later, he decided to build his own—the EcoJet concept—and he showcased this stunning auto at 2006 SEMA show in Las Vegas.
The labor of love was built to run on renewable biodiesel and draws power from a 650-horsepower Honeywell LTS101 helicopter engine, which spins out over 500 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. The project took nearly three years to complete, and was largely built in Leno’s own garage, thanks to engineering and design help from General Motors. Take a look at the build process, below. To hear the beast power up, scroll over to around 12 minutes 25 seconds.
With a turbine wail to rival a banshee, the EcoJet isn’t exactly what you’d call subtle…but it is fast. Leno says the carbon fiber-bodied car can top well over 150 miles per hour, putting the power down through a four-speed Corvette automatic transmission. There’s more Corvette engineering underneath as well. The EcoJet chassis is based on that of the contemporary C5 Corvette, and it features Z06 suspension components and massive Brembo carbon ceramic rotors and six-piston calipers from the C6 Corvette ZR1.
It should go without saying, but there are a variety of mechanical hurdles that must be jumped when putting the engine from a Bell 222 helicopter into a car. Leno notes that the engine ate a number of clutches and a transfer case during development. The original bone-stock C5 Corvette brakes didn’t last long either. The exhaust? That’s rated for up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
The jet-powered car may continually remain a “car of the future,” but concepts like the EcoJet prove it can still function in today’s world, albeit with earmuffs on.