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SF Chronicle: When bugs fly

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An excerpt from today's San Francisco Chronicle:

Ron Patrick is approaching the age of 50, a time when many men begin thinking about minutiae like pensions and second homes and third cars. But Patrick is far more interested in telling you why it is that he has stuck a big jet engine in the back of a prosaic silver Volkswagen.

He's standing out in a parking lot, waving his arms with wild enthusiasm, pointing at the car as if he were a 15-year-old who's just had his first ride in a Corvette, his eyes spinning in delight. This car consumes him, he loves the completely outrageous idea behind it, and for a moment, his infectious mood makes you think, gee, anybody could do this and it sounds like a great way to spend a few years, not to mention $250,000.

Patrick is a 48-year-old Stanford-trained (Ph.D.) engineer who owns ECM (Engine Control and Monitoring), a Sunnyvale firm that makes electronic instruments used by auto manufacturers to calibrate their engines for performance, fuel economy and emissions. He knows cars. He knows how they work. He's an animated man who has a seasoned sense of humor, a wry view of the world, mixed with a dash of the absurd and an absolute passion for things like, well, jet-powered cars.

Patrick has had a lot of cars and he said that about five or six years ago he was getting pretty bored with the state of the hot-rodding car hobby in America.

"I'd been building cars for a long time," he said. "Drag cars, American muscle cars. The last one was a big hemi engine in a 1965 Dodge Coronet. I wanted something of the extreme of the extreme of the extreme. I was looking to buy a (ex-Soviet) MiG 15 or MiG 17 jet engine. I finally decided on the T58."

The Navy surplus General Electric T58-8F is that menacing, giant cigar-like item sticking out of the VW's hatchback. When he fires it up, standing next to it is a bit like standing next to one of the engines of a Boeing 737 or an Airbus A320 while the thing is about to back off from the gate. This, however, is a Volkswagen bug with a 1,450-horsepower jet engine sticking out the back, idling away at 13,000 RPM.

It's a perfectly street-legal VW, too, with current California registration and smog-approved gas-burning front engine made by Volkswagen. It's just this humongous big thing projecting 23 inches rearward from the hatchback that makes it different from any other bug. The "thing" is what Patrick describes as "essentially a baby Lear jet engine, a couple steps down from the engine on an F4 Phantom."

Full article:


There's an interesting 5 minute video, but unfortunately, they don't show the vehicle taking off.

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You guys should see the Top Gear Winter Olympics... they made a rocket-powered Mini go down the ski jump.

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I had a silver Bug like that, a '98. I bet this guy's is a tad quicker than mine was. I could only get it to 110 or so.

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You subscribe to the SF Chronicle and NOT the LA Times? Where are your loyalties, sir?

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You subscribe to the SF Chronicle and NOT the LA Times?  Where are your loyalties, sir?

I used to like the L.A. Times, but after the Tribune took it over, not so much. The Chronicle improved after Hearst took it over.

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