The Renault Etoile Filante has returned to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, where on 5 September 1956 it clocked up 192mph to establish four new world records.
Meanwhile, to celebrate 60 years since the Renault Dauphine first went on sale in America, Renault Classic dispatched a Dauphine to Bonneville Speed Week (13-19 August) where Nicolas Prost, driver for Renault e.dams in the FIA Formula E Championship, established a new class record of 76.5mph, proving that passion has no age.
The record-breaking Étoile Filante (meaning “shooting star” in French) is a prime example of how engineers sought to carry over aircraft technologies into automotive design during the aviation-infatuated period following the Second World War.
When war ended in 1945, Turboméca’s boss Mr. De Szidlowski, an expert in turbine engines, started making small power units for applications such as the famous Alouette helicopter. Very eager to raise public awareness on what he considered a promising technology, he approached Renault with a high-profile concept in mind. Renault boss Pierre Lefaucheux went ahead and commissioned development of an experimental car from an experienced team of three: project manager Fernand Picard, engine specialist Albert Lory, and engineer and test driver Jean Hébert. The outcome was the Étoile Filante, with a polyester body on a tubular structure and a turbine developing 270hp.
Class Of Its Own
On 5 September 1956, the whistle of the powerful turbine ricocheted around the salt lake of Bonneville, USA. A few moments later, the world speed record had been broken. The Étoile Filante had reached 192mph over 0.6 miles, and 192mph over 3.1 miles, a record that still holds today. Despite its virtues, turbine technology proved ill-adapted to automotive applications, and neither Renault nor any other car maker would take the concept any further. Even so, the Étoile Filante stands as an epoch-marking machine, in a class of its own.