Real-Life JATO Car

Status: Strange, but real
image The JATO (jet-assisted take-off) car is one of the most famous urban legends of all time. (Man attaches JATO unit to the top of his Chevy Impala, fires it up on a deserted Arizona highway, and launches himself into a nearby cliff at 300 mph.) But the San Francisco Chronicle reports about a man, Ron Patrick, who has built a real-life JATO car. It's a silver Volkswagen with a huge jet engine sticking out the back. It's very cool. I want one. Patrick gave this description of turning on the jet engine while driving:

"You drive the car up to about 90 miles an hour and you spool up the jet, then hit it W.O.T. (wide-open throttle)," he said, fondly recalling one of his rides. "It's one of the finest feelings you can have in your life. In the rear view mirror, all you see is light and hear the thunder of the jet. It's like you're going down the largest hill you've ever been on." He said that a jet-boosted run will "pin the speedometer and that's at 140." He thinks that when it hits 160 mph -- he hasn't seen that ... yet -- the car will start lifting off the ground, but "the fun is not necessarily how fast you want to go. The fun is the sound of the thing. Just starting it up, it's like a (Boeing) 747 landing in your front yard."


Posted on Tue May 02, 2006


Where do you do this as to not kill yourself? Yikes.
Posted by Christine  on  Wed May 03, 2006  at  12:21 AM
Why on earth did he do that to a VW Bug???
Posted by Smerk  in  to mischief  on  Wed May 03, 2006  at  12:26 AM
Where do you store the fuel (or enough to even show off a little)?
Posted by Kosmo  in  trouble most of the time  on  Wed May 03, 2006  at  05:40 AM
Being pedantic, this is not JATO. It is a jet engined "Funny Car". JATO is actually a solid fuel rocket engine which, once ignited, cannot be switched off. Neither can it be throttled: it is either full blast, or off.

Putting a JATO bottle on anything would be a very dangerous proposition, but jet engines can be seen at drag strips on a fairly regular basis.
Posted by Richard  on  Wed May 03, 2006  at  08:50 AM
Smerk... The round shape of the Bug is so it will roll 1,000,000 times when it eventually flips ovah!

One Wild ride...lolol
Posted by oppiejoe  in  Michigan - USA  on  Wed May 03, 2006  at  10:43 AM
Where can you drive 160 mph?
He's likely to kill not only himself, but everybody else in the neighborhood.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Wed May 03, 2006  at  11:05 AM
I wonder if he could go so fast he goes back in time and runs over his grandfather.
Posted by Lonewatchman  on  Wed May 03, 2006  at  01:16 PM
I feel it's about time you got a Boesemobile to aid you in your heroic quest to bring news of hoaxes and unlikely real-life events to the masses - why don't you have a word with this guy about buying one?
You could claim it on your tax return like that stuffed Jackalope you mentioned, that would confuse your accountant...
Posted by Owen  on  Wed May 03, 2006  at  02:17 PM
Richard, it is JATO (although the "take-off" part may be open to debate), as it uses a jet engine. You're thinking of RATO, which uses rockets, and which is a good way to lose teeth.

I was wondering, too, where it is that he's using this thing. It certainly wouldn't be legal on any public road without permission from whomever is in charge of that sort of thing, so if he's just going out and doing this he'd better be careful that nobody from the Arizona Highway Patrol reads about his car.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Wed May 03, 2006  at  03:14 PM
There is no such thing as a JATO (Jet-Assisted Takeoff) unit. RATO (Rocket-Assisted Takeoff) units are solid fuel rockets used to shorten the takeoff run of aircraft.

The car is simply a Jet powered car. If the car was driven by a gearbox from the turbine, it would be a gas turbine driven car.

It is also a hideously inefficient way of propelling a car.

As for taking off, the lack of control surfaces, combined with a lack of symetry in weight distribution combine to put the center of lift and the center of gravity so far appart that if the car did lift off, it would probably flip over, cartwheel, and give anyone inside a dramatic death.
Posted by Cthelmax  on  Thu May 04, 2006  at  07:59 AM
Owen, I've always pictured the Museum of Hoaxes Official Car as something more like the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Thu May 04, 2006  at  10:32 AM
"There is no such thing as a JATO (Jet-Assisted Takeoff) unit. RATO (Rocket-Assisted Takeoff) units are solid fuel rockets used to shorten the takeoff run of aircraft."

Yes there are; instead of using a rocket, they use a jet engine. The idea is hardly ever used, though. A rocket is relatively cheap and easy to make, and so it can be dropped from the aircraft when it isn't needed any more.

A jet engine, though, is a lot more expensive and difficult to manufacture, and is also not used up in one take-off. So with JATO, you have the option of either having the aircraft jettison a perfectly good and expensive piece of equipment, or else keep the jet engine attached (even though it isn't used for the rest of the flight, and so just adds extra drag and mass and uses up more of the other engines' fuel).

So usually, RATO units are used rather than JATO; although sometimes for some odd reason the rocket ones are called JATO.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Thu May 04, 2006  at  11:54 AM
Cthelmax is absolutely correct. A JATO is a small rocket engine used to give a jet aircraft extra boost for short runways or heavy loads. It is a disposable rocket -- light it, it fires. No throttling, no re-use.

You might want to watch the Discovery Channel program "Mythbusters" as they "busted" the JATO/RATO myth a while back by attempting to construct a chevy like the one in the urban legend. It did work, but it required a LOT more preparation and modification of the car than implied by the legend. The sheer power of thrust would rip a stock car apart. And I had a VW just like that one. A JATO in the back would rip it apart.

What he's got in that car, if it's real, is a turbojet engire, like on a fighter plane. It's not a rocket, it's a regular jet engine.
Posted by Steve  on  Thu May 04, 2006  at  01:14 PM
Gary, I'm afraid that living in England I have significant gaps in my education and have in fact never seen this Oscar Meyer Weinermobile of which you speak.
Oh dear, where can I put my face?
To someone who hasn't got a clue what you're talking about, though, it sounds...intriguing...I shall have to Google it immediately
Posted by Owen  on  Thu May 04, 2006  at  03:22 PM
OK, I wants one...maybe we can kit it out with one of those and get the best of both worlds (once we decide exactly what it is he has stuck in the back, anyway)
Posted by Owen  on  Thu May 04, 2006  at  03:28 PM
Steve: I saw that one... Their first, if I remember correctly.
Posted by Ian  on  Thu May 04, 2006  at  05:02 PM
Reminds me of the urban legend. I remember that I once found a link of a website that belonged to a guy that said he actually did it in his youth. He and 2 friends JATO powered a mine cart It was a 7 page website... Now if I could only find it again and give you people the link... I'll look for it

Posted by DukeLeto  on  Thu May 04, 2006  at  07:11 PM
The only aircraft I can think of that routinely used JATO (not RATO) units:

JATO turbojet (not rocket) unit: (the sixth one down, Viper)

Definition of "rocket" (from
rocket -- any vehicle propelled by ejection of the gases produced by combustion of self-contained propellants. Rockets are used in fireworks, as military weapons, and in scientific applications such as space exploration.

Definition of "turbojet":
turbojet -- A jet engine having a turbine-driven compressor and developing thrust from the exhaust of hot gases.

Definition of "jet engine":
An engine that obtains the oxygen needed from the atmosphere, used especially to propel aircraft and distinguished from rocket engines having self-contained fuel-oxidizer systems.

So a turbojet is not a rocket. So the Armstrong-Siddeley engine is not a rocket. So the Arvo Shackleton uses JATO with jets, not rockets. Which makes it true JATO, and not RATO.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Thu May 04, 2006  at  09:14 PM
While cool, this is hardly new. There have been quite a few jet-powered cars built over the past couple decades. Two I know of off-hand are both a Mk.I and Mk.II Toyota MR2 for the Mk.II and for the Mk.I.

There are some nifty videos on Google Video of the Mk.II doing some high-speed runs:
Posted by Scott  on  Mon May 08, 2006  at  01:27 PM
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