I was invited to see the unveiling of the world’s fastest car’s cockpit – Bloodhound SSC. On 13 June, I drove up to their facility in Bristol on a brilliantly warm, sunny day – a healthy revision break to say the least. I also took the opportunity to bring a very good friend, who also wants to take a career path similar to mine. We both love engineering, motoring in particular (obviously), so it would have been unfair to not let him come given that the opportunity was there.
And he had a DSLR camera, so win-win!
I was, understandably, rather excited. I had never been to such an event before and – whilst it wasn’t a surprise – it was striking to see the media attention the launch had drawn in: Sky TV were there, BBC News, a variety of motoring journalists and a few recognisable faces from the F1 world, and I hadn’t even walked through the doors of Unit 3, Avonbridge Trading Estate. Parking was scarce but we squeezed in behind an Audi – we were one of the last to arrive.
However the event had not officially started and we were bustled inside by Jules Tipler, who did an excellent job for the Bloodhound team in gathering everyone together for the occasion and who also allowed me to bring a guest, so big thank you to him. Such was the final flurry of arrivals that we didn’t even get to pick up a nice little ‘PRESS’ badge (although we got one at the end to feel important!).
We then passed through a small lobby – featuring a brilliant model of the Bloodhound itself – and into the main part of the building itself…
Immediately, the amount of light and space took me back. It’s a fantastic atmosphere to work in and the place was alive with excited murmurs and camera clicks. Up on the wall behind the image taken above sits a full 100kg Rolex clock, gleaming in the sunlight. Talk about sponsor perks…
I was then greeted by fellow motoring journalist Daniel Puddicombe who had already been inside for at least an hour, so I could imagine how annoying it was for him to watch us wander about and take in the factory whilst he had already seen it all!
And there, taking centre stage, was the car itself. It was far lower, narrower and shorter than I had anticipated. It peacefully sat in amongst the hubbub of media activity which, ironically, hardly struck the impression of a 1000mph powerhouse. Not necessarily a bad thing, as it invites you in to gaze at its meticulous detail.
Everyone was then gathered into about 40 or 50 seats which faced 3 TVs and a huge speaker stack for a presentation about the car. The talk was spearheaded by Chris Fairhead, Mark Chapman and, the driver himself, Andy Green. Chapman’s talk in particular struck a particular chord with me. Above you can see an image of what the team describe as the “Goat’s Head” – the machined 7075 alloy structure that critical components such as the suspension, brakes and hubs all mount to.
The reason behind its name is also interesting. The team stuck a virtual block of 7075 into a computer simulation software, considering the load requirements and minimum dimensions needed for the component to withstand and fit within the confines of the front bulkhead. The computer then erases all the unnecessary material to form as small-a-shape as possible. What came out was something that appeared to look like an animal’s skull, hence it was dubbed as the Goat’s head.
The statistics about this piece are absolutely staggering. In CAD form above it looks very complex but in raw form it’s beautiful simplicity. It is composed of three individual pieces that originally started at a total mass of 924kg, yet is now just 68kg thanks to the computer software mentioned above. It took 151 days to produce and can withstand about 30 tonnes of loading at top speed. Rest assured, Andy Green can have total confidence that the car will point in the right direction.
After the presentation – which also included a 100 decibel sound blast from the speaker stack to attempt to represent the cockpit noise Andy would be experiencing – we got to ask a few questions before taking a proper look round. I was curious as to whether the team had to develop a new tyre for runway testing as the Bloodhound is far quicker than its predecessor, Thrust SSC. The simple answer to that: no. They requested Dunlop to reproduce the tyres they used on the Thrust but to higher, modern standards.
As you’d expect we took plenty of pictures as we looked round so here are all the good ones with brief explanations of what each item is:
We then spoke to design engineer, Mark Elvin. He was really insightful and answered any questions we had. His background was, in my opinion, very interesting. Mark only completed one year of Sixth Form but opted to do a 4 year apprenticeship that then led him to work for Williams F1.
We discussed about A-Levels and university and that, in Mark’s opinion, getting to such a high level of education doesn’t prove much in terms of practical ability. We also found it odd that despite the demand for engineers increasing, the grades required to do engineering at university have also shot up. Listening about his experience in the industry and how he got there gave me a new view upon education as a whole. Should my exam results not be as good as I want them to be, there are still other options out there. So if you are reading this, Mark, thank you!
I hope you enjoyed this post and please leave a comment if you have any questions about Bloodhound SSC. I’d like to thank those who organised the event and I feel very lucky to have gone. I hope this post gives you a greater insight into the fastest car and, more impressively, fastest vehicle ever built in the world.