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Record breaking 1956 Renault Etoile Filante returns to Salt Flats

A record-breaking Renault Etoile Filante has returned to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA, where 60 years ago it set four new world records.

On the 5th September 1956, the Etoile Filante famously clocked up a speed of 308.9kph (192mph) to establish four new world records – two of which still stand to this day.

When the war ended in 1945, French engine manufacturer Turboméca’s boss Mr. De Szidlowski, a leading expert in turbine engines, started making small power units for applications such as the famous Alouette helicopter. Eager to raise public awareness on what he considered an immensely promising technology, he approached Renault with a high-profile concept in mind. Renault boss Pierre Lefaucheux commissioned development of an experimental car and formed a highly experienced team of three: project manager Fernand Picard, talented engine specialist Albert Lory, and engineer and test driver Jean Hébert.

The outcome was the Étoile Filante (meaning “shooting star” in French) with a polyester body on a tubular structure and a turbine developing 270hp. The record-breaking car 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.

With the whistle of the powerful turbine ricocheting around the salt lake of Bonneville, the world speed record had been broken. The Étoile Filante had reached 308.9kph over a kilometre (0.6 miles), and 308.85kph (192mph) over 5 km (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 carmaker would take the concept any further.

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 76.5mph.