The halls of drag racing history are filled with lots of little nooks and crannies. In those tiny spaces exist cars and people like the US Turbine 1 Dragster and George “The Stone Age Man” Hutcheson. This incredible creation was one bad pass away from permanent display at the Smithsonian, but instead lived to be raced around the country in front of hundreds of thousands of fans.
The truly nutty thing about this car was the power plant. Weighing in at 85 pounds and spinning at 72,000 RPM the car was driven at the wheels by a rocket powered turbine. Not to be redundant, but this car was NOT thrust driven (completely), you’ll see it smoke the tires and slide this way and that during the video. The little micro-turbine engine was developed as a rig to test bearings apparently and was obtained by the man who had the car built, Fling Traylor.
With respect to the Smithsonian, Traylor had tried nine different pro-drag racers in the seat of the car an none of them could get it down broadway. Enter George Hutcheson, the shop foreman at Race Car Specialties (the shop which built the car) and a very successful drag racer in his “Stone Age Man” dragster. Hutcheson was a great shoe and a pretty good showman, as you’ll see in the video, he ran a big plume of feathers in his helmet on every lap.
Hutcheson tamed the beast and then toured the country with it. The car could run with the big fuel dragsters of the day and really put on a heck of a show. It has been all but lost to history, but this video (albeit without sound) is an incredible window into one of the sport’s wildest creations. Hutcheson is still around and we’d love to catch up with him and hear some stories about this mother!
Pay close attention at about 1:15 into the video. There is a fixed camera at what looks to be the finish line shooting toward the start. It shows the car making a wild lap where the dragster yaws from one side of the lane to the other but Hutcheson never lifts! This is awesome stuff, even sans sound.