Every town has a wizard. It’s been true since at least the medieval era, and it continues today. They don’t wear robes and pointy hats anymore, so they’re harder to identify. And they don’t conjure dragons or turn townspeople into newts anymore, but they are still able to make ridiculous dreams into reality. The person who built this six-wheeled steam-powered boattail roadster from scratch is a wizard. You may already know him as the ridiculous brains behind the Teslonda.
I first laid eyes on this massive steam machine in an undisclosed top-secret location in Reno, Nevada just minutes from my own home. I had to be blindfolded and tucked away in the trunk of a car so I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone where it was. There are some serious cars (and collections) in this city, and most of them stay hidden from sight 99% of their lives, but I was still startled to walk around a corner and see this steam punk sitting in front of me.
Every single detail of this machine was painstakingly crafted to be startling, eye-catching, and baffling. It’s got a good bit of sketchiness engineered into the base design, whether it be the four articulating front wheels, or that the rear wheels are driven by a chain that snakes its way between your legs. No pantaloons or dresses on this one, best to stick to equestrian gear, honestly.
The builder started with a bare 1928 Ford Model A frame and a two-cylinder, double-acting, marine-style steam engine, then built pretty much everything else custom for marrying the two together. It uses a 3.5-gallon boiler and a pair of 400k-btu burners to achieve steam, and it can whistle like a mother!
The seller says the steam engine is capable of around 5 horsepower, but in a fun way. “Imagine a 5hp Briggs and Stratton with 100lbs/ft of torque. Also, peak torque is at 1 rpm,” he mentions in the comments.
This car is totally street legal with a clean Nevada title, which basically means it has the requisite front and rear lights (powered by propane and kerosene, respectively), because that’s all Nevada cares about. Remember, it’s still the wild west out here. You want to know how sketchy this thing is? All braking is done through a single hand-lever-actuated Model A drum on the rear axle. Yeah, this rivals Mr. Toad’s coach for wildest ride.
Those of you who are worried about the range anxiety of a modern EV might be turned off by this car. The boiler takes about 45 minutes to heat up to full steam ahead. This involves the entirety of the car ahead of the steering wheel heating up to a too-hot-to-touch temperature. Once warmed up this ridiculous car will vaporise the 21 gallon reserve tank in about 3 miles.
The car was finished about 4 years ago, and while it doesn’t have an odometer, I’d wager it has not driven more than a few handfuls of miles in all that time. It’s more of a conversation piece than a car, methinks. But if you want to have some really bitchin’ conversations for 45 minutes, you can follow that up with a totally weird 3-mile ride with a chain slung right through your undercarriage.
If you want to own something this bonkers, it’s up for sale on Bring A Trailer right now with no reserve. It’s easy to tell that a lot of time and effort has been dumped into this car, but will the bidding value it as highly as I’m sure was invested? We’ll see. I would buy it, but you see I simply need more range than that, as I need the capacity to drive 17 miles one way on the third Friday of every leap year.
And for the record, before everyone jumps on me about the headline, no I am not advocating for a return to steam power as a way of reducing your carbon emissions. Obviously heating water through a coiled copper tube is not an efficient or low-impact way to travel. It’s a joke. You’d think that people would understand it’s a joke, but sometimes I’m forced to wonder.