Lately, I’ve been looking at things powered by turbines that would normally be powered by something else. While researching yet another turbine-electric train, it hit me that at some point you could buy a motorcycle powered by a helicopter’s turboshaft. The MTT Turbine Motorcycle is a 250 mph, car bumper-melting monster with a 420-horsepower Rolls Royce-Allison 250-C20 turboshaft from a helicopter. And the best part? You can still buy them brand new today.
As you all probably know by now, I love writing about ridiculous transportation projects. Learning and writing about colossal planes, crazy powerful trains, custom motorcycles, and novel RV concepts brings me a lot of joy. I even love weird boats. The MTT Turbine Motorcycle combines aviation and motorcycles into something that resulted in Australian Motorcycle News writing “It’s bloody mad and extremely scary. I’ll tell you what it feels like: it feels like bungee-jumping, except with the bungee pulling you forwards and not upwards. The sheer sense of uncontrollable acceleration building and the wind noise rushing up to meet you.” And I’m somewhat surprised that I haven’t written about this thing before.
Turbine All The Things
Marine Turbine Technologies specializes in adapting turbines for industrial applications. MTT will happily sell you a turbine-powered water pump capable of 60,000 gallons per minute. The company says its turbines are great for offshore fire fighting, mining, and even flood control. MTT will also sell you turbines for fracking, turbine-powered airboats, and turbine-powered generators.
The Louisiana-based company has a portfolio of turbines for marine use from a turbine outboard engine to a turbine-powered speedboat. But MTT’s work with turbines hasn’t stayed on water, and the company has created some wild land-based vehicles.
Inspired by the Chrysler Turbine Car, in 1998, the company combined a Chevrolet S-10 with a Rolls Royce-Allison 250-C20B turboshaft.
In the Turbine RetroROCKET, propulsion comes from the 420 HP turboshaft driving the truck through an automatic transmission. Perhaps more amazing than powering a truck with a turbine is the fact that the truck still had working air-conditioning, power steering, and cruise control. MTT says that the truck can go 900 miles between fill ups and back in 2016, the truck even had a few thousand miles on its odometer.
The company would later create a turbine-powered Mini. Yet, neither of those cars are the wildest MTT creation. That designation goes to the Y2K Turbine Superbike.
Turbine Power On Two Wheels
As the name suggests, this motorcycle was launched in 2000, and back then, it had technology that would be fresh on a motorcycle here in 2022. This is a bike that broke records. Its Rolls-Royce-Allison 250-C18 was good for 320 horsepower at 52,0000 RPM. And unlike some turbine builds that use thrust, this turboshaft delivered power through a three-speed Toyota Corolla automatic converted into a two-speed with a chain drive. That power, combined with its $175,000 price, earned it the Guinness record for most expensive and most powerful motorcycle.
It didn’t just break records as it broke journalists, too.
Australian Motorcycle News visited Superbike owner in Arizona for a test ride, and I’m not sure I’ve seen someone more excited in a motorcycle review. Here’s an excerpt:
MTT archived the whole review and I highly recommend reading it. Contained in that review is the starting procedure, itself something notable. It starts with turning the ignition on and letting the computers boot. And as the motorcycle’s color display shows you gas and oil temperatures, the rear-facing camera turns on and displays what’s going on behind you on a center display. Then you hit and hold the start button. As the turbine spools up to 15 percent speed, fuel starts getting injected. You have to keep holding it until the turbine reaches 50 percent N1, and only then can you let go of the start button. By now, the turbine is making a deafening roar, drowning out any chance at a conversation with people nearby. And the exhaust temperatures are 1,000 degrees and higher.
In an interview with Cycle World, famous Y2k Superbike owner Jay Leno describes the experience:
“Imagine a Harley idling at 2500 rpm-all the time,” Leno yells over the deafening roar. “That’s what it’s like.”
Despite McIntyre’s claims of 320-plus horsepower and 425 foot-pounds of torque, the Y2K is remarkably docile at slower speeds. “At idle, it’s making 10 horsepower,” Leno explains. “Once you’re rolling, though, it’s like the hand of God pushing you in the back. It’s frightening. You have an engine that’s meant to lift a 10,000-pound helicopter pushing a 460-pound bike, so your power-to-weight ratio is goofy.”
Leno goes on to describe how operating the turbine is way different than a piston engine. For one thing, when you let off the throttle, it doesn’t start slowing down. And there is no engine braking. If you want to stop, you have to put it in neutral then let the Brembo brakes bring you to a stop. As for that exhaust? Leno claims that it’s hot enough that if you’re not careful, you’ll melt the bumper of the car behind you at a red light.
And that’s not all. It has an 8.5-gallon fuel tank, which would normally be huge for a motorcycle. However, the turbine is a drinker, and will empty the tank in 60 miles on the highway or just 20 in the city. Thankfully, when you run out of fuel, you don’t have to find an airport to fill up.
Ted McIntyre II, founder and CEO of MTT, says that his turbine motorcycles will run on anything that burns. The turbine will run on diesel, gasoline, Jet-A, or even tequila. Talking with CNBC, McIntyre says that the motorcycles are set up to run on diesel, so keeping the fun going shouldn’t be too hard. Plus, you’ll almost certainly get looks from people as you fill up on diesel, as if the sound of a helicopter on the ground wasn’t enough. Listen to this:
Perhaps the coolest part about these reviews is that they mention that the motorcycle is pretty easy to ride at slow speeds. The Australian Motorcycle News review notes that at low speeds, the motorcycle is so slow that you’d get smoked by someone on a Vespa. And cranking the throttle at low speed doesn’t do much. It also handles like the 500-pound monster that it is.
And top speed? MTT says that the fastest recorded speed on a Y2K Superbike is 227 mph, but the company believes that it could go 250 mph or even faster. Apparently, the motorcycle needs something longer than a runway to really stretch its legs.
The Superbike Gets Even More Power
Chances are, you’ve probably known about this motorcycle for a while. But what I didn’t know is that these motorcycles are still being made today.
Nowadays, they’re called the MTT Turbine Superbike. And it’s more than just a name change, as the updated Superbike has new bodywork and a Rolls Royce-Allison 250-C20 turboshaft making 420 HP at 52,000 RPM. Like the first-generation Y2K Superbike, you get a tubular aluminum frame, a color display, rear-facing camera, and an ignition system that won’t let you destroy the turbine. The 420-RR “Race Ready” is the current version, and it’s the same 420 HP powerplant, but in a sleeker package.
McIntyre said in 2017 that it takes about three months to build one of these aluminum-framed motorcycles, and the turbine costs $125,000 all by itself. The CEO goes on to note that there’s another $25,000 in computers just to keep the thing cool.
The company isn’t buying new turbines, but getting them used after they’ve spent time in helicopters like a Bell 206 Jet Ranger. The turbines then get overhauled and slapped with a lifetime warranty from MTT. Today, the company will build you one for the price of $270,000, or $300,000 if you want it as a trike. The company is big on customization, too, just check out this paint:
I tried to find some on the used market and unsurprisingly came up empty. MTT builds just a handful of them a year, and some of them go out to clients in other countries. But if you have the cash, and the bravery, Marine Turbine Technologies will gladly take your money and give you a roadgoing helicopter. As with many of the vehicles that I write about, I’d love to have even just ten minutes with one of these.
(Photo credits to MTT unless otherwise noted.)
I want that startup sequence as the boot-up/ready sound on my EV.
That trike is a Big Beefy Boi
So, anyone remember a film by the name of ‘Torque’….. (ducks for cover)
Unfortunately yes. Although I remember noting about it besides the fact that I watched it will really jet lagged and it happened to be on.
Somewhere in Fayetteville, North Carolina, there’s an E-4 reading this article and thinking “yeah, now there’s a good first bike for me!”
“You have an engine that’s meant to lift a 10,000-pound helicopter pushing a 460-pound bike, so your power-to-weight ratio is goofy.”” ~Jay Leno
Yes, we need more vehicles with goofy power to weight ratios. So much YES.
Turbine engines are finicky and high maintenance, and even if you could mass produce them to get the purchase price affordable, I’m not sure the maintenance cost ever will be.
In this regard, a microcar or performance motorcycle using lightweight ebike parts is the next logical step. A decade ago AMZ Technologies demonstrated a 7 lb hubmotor that could output 50 horsepower peak, but they aren’t available yet. There are off-the-shelf ebike controllers from PowerVelocity and others that weigh only a single pound that could do that 50 horsepower peak. Batteries to handle that kind of power in a deliciously light package also are available off the shelf, thanks to Lone Star Battery, among others. Unlike a turbine engine, all of this stuff is low manufacturing cost and low maintenance.
Who wants a single-seater vehicle that can make more than 1 horsepower per pound of vehicle? That would go beyond goofy, into totally retarded.
And that’s a good thing.
Melt the bumper of the car behind you? An evil grin has crept upon me.
Needs one of those Yosemite Sam “Back Off” mudflaps.
Wasn’t the “Widow Maker” 2 cycle Kawasaki Triple bad enough? Sheesh..
Dunno. No torque. Kinda like an Orange County Chopper. Neat to look at and ride to burger cruise night. But that’s about. If I was filthy rich, sure. Else, I’m satisfied reading about it…
But I’d love a turbine upgrade for my Cherokee…
So the reviews seem to indicate, the only way to get torque out of the turbine is to ride the motorcycle completely balls out. Which…might quickly shorten your lifespan.
Does the repurposed automatic mean that it still has the torque convertor? Because I seem to remember one of the major complaints about Chrysler’s Turbine Car was its off the line response as well, and that you pretty much had to brake torque it everywhere. I assume similar for this, although it puts rear bumpers everywhere even more at risk.
Holy shit that startup sound, I’m sitting here cackling just reading about this thing
My day is better knowing this exists.
Turbine engines are both wonderful and terrible things. At extremely low loads with reasonably good fuels (i.e. ULS diesel) that lifetime warranty is a lot more than a statement of confidence. The shop that does my engine NDT also does turbine NDT for aircraft parts as well as [redacted]. (No, seriously. There’s stuff they have to cover up if I come in sometimes.) Even the slightest sign of a fatigue microcrack is enough to send a turbine compressor to the scrapheap.
The problem is if anything should go wrong with it, holy fuck are they complicated. Just the fuel injection system is insane, because it doesn’t use injectors, it uses combustors. A single combustor is approximately as complicated as a complete pre-ECU engine. I am not joking. It’s an entire internal combustion system in and of itself, and we haven’t even talked about how to get the fuel there, how to keep something that runs at 2500+ degrees internal temperature cool, how to lubricate it (hint: 5W30 ain’t on the menu,) any of that at all. $25k in computers? They’re getting some fantastic prices, because I guarantee you that nobody makes an off the shelf control unit for this, and they’re using at least some Bell 206 electronics.
That’s why the system starts at 24.5V and is in alarm until over 23.2V. I looked it up. The Bell 206 uses a 27.5VDC 400Hz system.
… I’m gonna need one for home and one for the office.
Don’t threaten me with a good time. 🙂 At least it comes with a warranty! Though, I wonder what that warranty entails.
Now…as for where I could find give or take $270,000….
Honestly, at $270k+ with a recertified aircraft turbine using avionics systems? I’m gonna go ahead and guess the warranty is “if this shit breaks, we will come out to you with a whole damn bike.”
As to finding the money? Tell Beau you need to do a long-term test Motortrend style.
The 206 really didn’t have much electronics. The oil pressure sensors were mechanical with rigid tubing running to the instrument panel from the engine! We jokingly called them steam gages when I worked there.
The fact that they appear to have made a FADEC for this is impressive.
If it’s a 27.5 Vdc system, it’s not alternating at 400 Hz. I suspect it’s a typical 28 Vdc system since 115 V, 400 Hz AC is usually only found on larger aircraft.
I feel like the Turbine Truck and Mini need their own article. Super cool!
I gave up cycling years ago because I got tired of cars pulling in front of me. Reconsidering that decision….thanks Mercedes!
I would definitely die if I were allowed to ride on of these.
It definitely brought to mind Hunter S. Thompson’s “Song of the Sausage Creature.”
Yes, I’m pretty sure I’d kill myself trying to ride this, but I am very interested in hearing a bit about that turbine speedboat
I would first get absolutely kicked out of my apartment, then I would definitely die. lol
On the plus side, the very last moment on earth would be extremely fun