The aviation sector was booming after the Second World War. It was only natural, then, for engineers to experiment with aircraft technologies in automotive designs. Étoile Filante is a prime example of this endeavour.
The first turbine-powered car
Post 1945, Joseph Szydlowski, head of Turboméca and leading expert in turbine engines, began producing small power units for applications such as the infamous Alouette helicopter. Eager to share with the public what he considered a very promising technology, he approached Renault with an idea.
Renault chief executive Pierre Lefaucheux was convinced and assigned three experienced professionals to lead the project: Fernand Picard, head of research, Albert Lory, renowned engine manufacturer, and Jean Hébert, engineer and driver. Out of this collaboration arose Étoile Filante, powered by a 270 hp turbine engine housed in a tubular polyester-clad body.
An unbeatable speed record!
On 5 September 1956, the whistle of a turbine echoed across the Bonneville Salt Flats in the United States. Just moments later, Étoile Filante would set a new land speed record: 306.9 km/h over 1 kilometre, and 308.85 km/h over 5 kilometres! The record still holds today.
The turbine engine proved difficult to adapt to cars, and neither Renault nor any other carmaker would succeed in taking the technology any further. Even so, Renault Étoile Filante stands as a record-breaking, best-in-class machine.