A steam-powered Land Rover???

This thing is the very definition of “boys and their toys”.

With its array of pulleys and levers and great clouds of belching steam this contraption may at first appear to be one of the fantastical machines conjured up by the great cartoonist W. Heath Robinson.

But it is in fact a perfectly roadworthy Land Rover, whose petrol engine was taken out and replaced by its owner with a steam-driven engine.

So efficient was its conversion from petrol back to the steam age that Frank Rothwell now uses the car for his daily commute.

. . .

The custom-built motor works like a traditional steam train, with a coal fired boiler heating the water up to steam pressure in order to run the small engine. Driving for an hour takes around 100 lbs of coal.

. . .

At full steam the car, which is fully taxed and insured, is capable of speeds of up to 15 mph – which may give Mr Rothwell a thrill, not to mention a sense of personal satisfaction, but is no doubt rather irritating for his fellow road users stuck behind him on the Lancashire lanes of his journey to work.

There’s more at the link.

Here’s a video of the Land Rover under steam power.

It’s daft, it cost more than US $33,000, and it’s hardly practical . . . but I still want one!  Full marks to Mr. Rothwell for his ingenuity.



  1. That reminded me of Stanley Steamers, too….

    My physics professor, Douglas Sanders told a great story about them. His dad was given the chance to win one…. IF he would run it a minute (or maybe 90 seconds) at full throttle without backing down. He said the tires were slinging off the top of the rims well before the time was up, and his dad grabbed the throttle and slowed it down.

    No transmission, very neat cars. I'd like to resurrect those. Not sure of a coal fired Rover tho….

  2. Is that One Pull on the whistle or Two when you approach a crossing? 🙂
    Ditto on the Stanley Steamers and their HP to Weight Ratio due to no transmission. Jay Lenno has one in his collection. He has a YT Video Driving it-comments on its original speed capabilities.
    IIRC, the Smithsonian Magazine had a story on the Stanley Brothers and the Cars-on an attempt at a Land speed record on a beach in Massachusetts-?- the Vehicle went so fast the driver lost control and was killed, quite a blow to the Brothers. The Car had been custom Built and its streamlining may have caused a lift effect on the bottom of same. The Engine itself is pretty compact-and being steam it can deliver power on both strokes of Piston's. The draw back was always the Boiler and the size/heat of the condensers.

  3. I don't know what coal costs in Newcastle, but 100 pounds of gasoline equals about 16 gal., which for most folks equals at least 400 miles at 55 mph.
    Interesting exercise, but – as the author pointed out – economically daft.


  4. The Stanley brothers got one of their steamers up to 100 mph in 1903. Unfortunately, about that time it started acting like a wing and left the ground. The Stanleys stopped speed trials after that.

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