Rover’s gas-turbine development programme stemmed from work on Whittle jet engines during the Second World War. Their first turbine car, built in 1950 and called JET 1, achieved more than 150 mph in speed tests at Jabbeke in Belgium in 1952.
T3 was Rover’s third turbine car and the first to be built entirely from the ground up. It was designed by Spencer ‘Spen’ King and Gordon Bashford. The turbine is rear-mounted and the chassis incorporates four-wheel-drive, in-board disc brakes and De Dion rear suspension. The modified 2S/100 gas turbine has a centrifugal compressor which rotates at up to a maximum of 52,000 rpm.
In order to test the mechanical design of T3, this test mule or ‘base unit’ was constructed in 1955, prior to the completion of the final T3 car in 1956. With its crude, removable body panels, different turbine units, as well as other drive-train, braking and suspension components, could easily be exchanged and tested.
Once its test life was over in 1966, it lay in the corners of a variety of stores, unseen. In 2017, a team of the Museum’s volunteers set about returning it to running condition. After five years work, in September 2022 the T3 base unit made its first public demonstration in more than 50 years!