The following article was written in January 2021 by James Taylor, the well-known author of several classic Rover and Land Rover books. In particular, James' book entitled "Rover P4: The Complete Story" is the authorative account of the Rover P4 range of cars.
The P4 structure was used as the basis of the world’s first viable gas turbine-powered car. Known as JET 1 after the registration acquired for it soon after it was new, the car achieved a maximum speed of 152.691mph on the Jabbeke highway in Belgium in June 1952. It is now in the Science Museum.
Rover had worked on the secret wartime Whittle jet engine between 1940 and 1943, and out of this came the idea that a jet (gas turbine) engine could be adapted to power a road vehicle. Between 1945 and 1949 the company developed a suitable engine, and the easiest way of testing it was to adapt an existing car. The new P4 was the choice.
The engine went behind the seats, mainly to simplify the exhaust run, and Rover decided to make the car an open two-three seater. The body was modified by Salmons-Tickford (and inspired the later convertible and coupé P4s they built for Rover). In March 1950, the car was demonstrated to the RAC Technical Committee and to the press.
While further development went ahead, the RAC awarded Rover the Dewar Trophy for their pioneering work in January 1951. Then in 1952 Rover decided to gain publicity from some maximum speed runs and took JET 1 to Jabbeke. Spen King removed the Cyclops front end and designed a more aerodynamic one (those are not standard panels), and took a lot of weight out of the car. The first runs achieved just over 95mph, but the team re-governed the engine and fitted taller axle gearing to reach that 152mph maximum the next day. Spen King, who drove JET 1 for the record runs, said the car was still accelerating at that speed.
Please click HERE to see further pictures of JET 1, including when senior Rover engineers were reunited with the car.
JET 1 has been an inspiration to several enthusiasts from the perspective of recreating the original. Jools Holland even had one created! Guild member Georg Mayr-Harting has built an outstanding JET 1 replica. Please click HERE to read about Georg's recreation in his own words along with links to his YouTube videos: