Brent Hajek wasn't behind the wheel, but the Ames, Okla., farmer was the driving force pushing his FR500C Mustang, powered by E85 fuel, to 255.764 mph and a new Stock Class Bonneville land-speed record this past October.
Hajek's family grows more than 4,000 acres of wheat, corn and soybeans, raises cattle and oversees trucking and oil production companies 60 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. Hajek also has a decades-long career as a champion National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) semi-pro drag racer. His love for farming and passion for things that go fast and make lots of noise led him to work with Ford Motor Company's racing division to alter his FR500C Mustang for a "green” assault on the Bonneville record.
"Our goal was to set a land-speed record with a vehicle that was as ‘green' as possible,” Hajek says. "Using E85 fuel was only part of our goal. We ended up with soy-based foam in the seats and body panels made from soy plastic.”
Test lap. Setting a speed record with bioproducts took extensive research and experimentation.
"It's no small deal that those body panels stood up to the vibration and pressure of more than 250 mph,” Hajek says. "The folks at Ford are really excited about what the Bonneville car proved about soy-based plastics.”
Debbie Mielewski, technical director of plastics research at Ford Motor Company, says, "In production cars, we use a new product in a small area and see how it stands up and performs over time before we expand its use in vehicles.
"Brent was willing to try anything to make his car as ‘green' as possible,” Mielewski says. "It was a tremendous learning opportunity to create and use large soy-plastic body panels and other bioproducts and worry about long-term durability later.”
A cool ride.
Getting the 331-cu.-in. supercharged engine to crank out 1,200 hp was entrusted to noted engine builders Dick Esch and Duane Parker of More Power Inc. in Sparta, Mich.
"E85 isn't better or worse than race fuel, just different,” Esch says. "Both are around 112 octane. The only real difference is Btu per volume, so we worked with getting the right injectors, programming the PCM computer and getting the air/fuel mixture right.”
E85 was superior to race fuel in temperature. Esch found compacted air coming out of the supercharger measured nearly 400°F. E85, in conjunction with an intercooler, helped reduce manifold air temperatures.
"Ethanol is a natural coolant, so running E85 helped cool the final fuel/air mixture and get maximum power out of the engine,” Esch says.
Hajek is so impressed with E85 that he's building a still on his farm to experiment with pure ethanol in his drag, Bonneville and NASCAR projects.
"We've got aerospace engineers working on a soy-based composite intake manifold for our next [race] car,” he says. "There's no end to how bioproducts can be used on cars.”
The engineers on Hajek's projects were admittedly surprised that an Okie farmer is on the cutting edge of incorporating bioproducts into high-performance race vehicles.
"I just sit in my tractor and come up with all these wild ideas,” Hajek says. "We're having a ball playing with fast cars and helping expand agriculture's potential along the way.”
You can e-mail Dan Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.