Renault have produced some interesting cars over the years, but the most unusual has to be the Etoile Filante, which means shooting star in French. Along with its distinctive design, the gas turbine powered car set a land speed record that has been forgotten. It was a one of a kind vehicle that took the world by storm, and we’re taking a look at its history.
Shooting for the stars
In 1954, French aeronautical turbine manufacturer, Turbomeca, suggested that Renault make a gas turbine vehicle in order to break the speed record for gas turbine cars. The advantages of a gas powered engine included a high power to weight ratio and not being reliant on petroleum fuels.
Renault’s concept was a car that weighed under a tonne and looked like some kind of hovercraft. It had a tubular, polyester-clad body and fins. It ran on kerosene and the engine was practically vibration-free. The aerodynamic appearance made it stand out from the moment it was made. Renault tested the Etoile in a wind tunnel between 1954 and 1955.
In 1956, Jean Hebert and the Renault team went off to the Bonneville Salts Flats in Utah. The Filante reached an average speed of 191 mph, achieving the world record for turbine-engine cars. The record helped Renault promote their new Dauphine car in America.
Burnout and restoration
The car’s engine burnt out after setting a record. A turbine engine was mainly used in aviation and proved difficult to adapt to automobiles. The Filante was interesting from a technical standpoint because engineers had the chance to study how a vehicle with fins handled on the road.
The Filante made a comeback in the 1990s, with Renault deciding to restore it. After the car was dismantled, Renault restored the engine and resprayed the chassis. It was fired up and moved under its own power for the first time since 1956. The Filante is now conversed as part of Renault’s Historical Cars Collection