Tale of the Supersonic Beetle | CD-adapco
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Although researchers claim to have cracked the formula for a supersonic car (SSC) capable of reaching a record speed of 1000 mph (1600 kmph) and the ability to cope with the aerodynamic characteristics of travelling that fast, I am here to say… “Meh - been there, done that.”

Unfortunately, there has been some debate regarding the veracity of my 1000 mph VW Beetle. Therefore, I am widening the audience to ensure that proper analysis of the photographic evidence can ensue.

I am sorry to disappoint you all, but I have photographic proof that the first car to break 1000 mph was my very own 1977 Volkswagen Beetle. It achieved this great feat circa June of 1988 on the streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland as I drove past my girlfriend’s house (her father took the picture).

I must say, that in the driver’s vinyl seat (with no airbag of course), watching the flat windscreen start to deform by the heat as I approached 1000 mph was a little disconcerting. Thankfully, the traffic lights turned red at the (rapidly) approaching intersection, forcing me to slow down. It was a good thing too because nothing had yet flown off the car (although the radio antenna was a bit bendy afterwards).

Noticeable in the photograph, on the roof of the car is the classic lambda shock pattern associated with such high speed flow. Interestingly, what is not seen is the expected detached boundary layer at the foot of the shock. This was thought to be due to the air-cooled engine intake on the rear of the car keeping the boundary layer attached and thereby reducing the drag. Also missing was the expected bow shock at the front of the vehicle, but this was obviously related to the shape optimization rules used on the front end geometry to mitigate sonic boom. The tires did suffer some deformation at the high speed as noted in the image but I managed to get another 5,000 miles out of them once they had cooled down.

It should be noted that this great achievement occurred in the days before CFD had reached Ireland, but shows just what was possible with some sound engineering judgment (the kind of which I implore our support engineering teams to use today), and, oh yeah...

the key to a supersonic wind tunnel lab.

Transonic VW Beetle