Utah’s Vesco family finally fulfills its longtime quest: Turbinator II hits 503 MPH on the Salt Flats

Paul Fraughton | Salt Lake Tribune Team Vesco's Turbinator II on the Salt Flats. photo credit Rikki Scott Monday, August 12, 2013

A 17-year quest by Utah’s Rick Vesco to build the first wheel-driven car car over 500 miles per hour ended Tuesday when the Turbinator II hit an exit speed of 503 miles per hour at the Southern California Timing Association’s World Finals on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

California driver Dave Spangler averaged 493.037 in the fifth mile of the fabled Salt Flats course.

The late Don Vesco hit 470 miles per hour in the original Turbinator in 2001 and thought the car could reach the elusive 500 mile per hour mark.

Don died of cancer the next year and the car sat idle until 2013 when Rick, the car’s owner and builder, began to upgrade the Turbinator at his garage in Springdale.

It has an internal combustion turbine engine with roughly 5000 horsepower. The engine power drives the four wheels.

This is different than the jet powered cars that own the World Land Speed record. The jet engines push those vehicles forward, but do not power the wheels.

The Vesco’s father John raced at the first Speed Week in 1949. Don Vesco is the only person in the motorcycle and automotive Halls of Fame.