Experimental Turbine & Boat Engine History

Don Edwards in 2013 with enhanced museum-quality engine display

A little history . . .
In the late 1960's, Don Edwards of Santa Barbara, California dominated hydroplane drag boat racing in the blown gas class. He campaigned a boat named the 'GOLDEN KOMOTION', built by the legendary Rich Hallett and powered by a Dave Zueschel blown Chrysler Hemi. It was dubbed "The World's Winningest Hydro".

Back in 1961, Edwards happened to be in Seattle, Washington and witnessed an unlimited hydroplane race known as the 'Gold Cup'. He was hooked! His dream was to build and race a boat of that type.

In 1967, Edwards comissioned Hallett to build the first ever unlimited hydroplane hull specifically designed to be powered by a turbine engine. He purchased a U.S. Navy surplus Allison T40 experimental turbine engine and gearbox to power the craft. The gearbox was extensively modified to provide a single output propeller shaft with a 1:1 gear ratio. The 30 ft. long hydro was completed in 1969 and licensed by the APBA (American Power Boat Association) as the U-29 'GOLDEN KOMOTION'. Unfortunately, the original engine was destroyed during a test run in the Hallett shop.

Edwards' vision and development of a hydroplane of this type was way ahead of its time. The swing to turbine engine power in unlimited hydroplane racing started in the early 1980's and prevails to this day.

Original Turbine Boat Model
Experimental Hydroplane

Muriel Cigars Advertising Sponsor
Santa Barbara Waterfront - 1968

Allison T40

The experimental T40 turbine engine shown here was developed by the Allison division of General Motors Corp., under a contract from the U.S. Navy. It was to replace the piston engines that powered fighter planes of the day. The design project started in 1945 with initial deliveries in the 1950's. Its unique design is actually two Allison T38 turbine engines combined into a common unit with a single fuel management system and an output combining gearbox. Only two hundred forty (240) engines were built. Specifications, such as horsepower, etc., changed as the design evolved.

WEIGHT: Approx. 3,000 lbs. - HORSEPOWER: 5,000 to 7,000+ - LENGTH: w/ gearbox approx.11 ft.

Convair XFY-1 POGO and Lockheed XFV-1 POGO - Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) planes.

Douglas XA2D-1 SKYSHARK - A planned replacement to the piston engine Skyraider fighter.

Convair R3Y & XP5Y TRADEWIND - Large four engine transport seaplanes.

Republic XF-84H - A turbine powered version of the F-84 jet fighter plane.

Except for the XF-84H's single propeller, these aircraft were driven by enormous dual counter-rotating propellers (some over 15ft. in diameter) which required a very complex power transmission system. None of the planes shown below were ever put into production.

Aviation as inspiration . . .

Convair XFY-1 and Lockheed XFV-1

Convair R3Y & XP5Y


Douglas XA2D-1

The T40 engine project was plagued by problems which inflicted self destruction due to shaft vibration and gearbox/transmission failure. The project was terminated by the Navy in the mid 1950's. Few examples of this engine exist today, as most of the surviving T40s were sold for scrap.

This website was developed in memory of:
Bob Edwards, Rich Hallett and Dave Zeuschel

Power Boat history buffs will also enjoy reading:

"What Were They Thinking?"
by Doug Ford

The history of prototype and experimental hydroplanes
Designs from the early days - Turning dreams into reality

Order your copy today - only $24.95

(206) 764-9453


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