You certainly didn’t ask for it, but here we are anyways. Two orthodox cars with unorthodox propulsion systems, one based on an highly advanced electric car, the other based on a Volkswagen Beetle. Both were created by geniuses, or madmen depending on who you ask. And while both a rocket powered Tesla Roadster and a Jet Powered Volkswagen Beetle sound utterly absurd, they’re not cut from the same cloth.
The rocket powered Tesla Roadster is Elon’s ultimate speed machine
Let’s get this out of the way: Tesla claims the rocket-Roadster will do 0-60 in 1.1 seconds, making it the second Tesla with a sub two-second time. A record and bone shattering speed, but the engineering behind it may be more impressive.
The rockets used will be direct from SpaceX, but they’re not actually rockets. This is an electric vehicle, there’s no gas (and no room for gas). That’s why the rockets used are “cold-gas thrusters,” ridiculously pressurized air that’ll spew out the back and blast the car forward.
It’s a calculated, data driven beast of engineering, but there are some concerns. The legality and safety of such speeds is highly questionable. The G-force one would experience accelerating from 0-60 in just over a second could injure or even kill unprepared occupants. Elon even tweeted that experiencing the sensation would be “not wise for those with a medical condition.”
And law enforcement wouldn’t be fond of an on-road rocket ship (especially one that conceals the license plate with the boosters active). However, it wouldn’t be the first time an officer pulled over a rocket powered car.
The jet powered Volkswagen Beetle is a homemade masterpiece
That’s the key difference between the Tesla and the Beetle: one will be assembled on the factory floor by literal rocket scientists, the other was built in a garage by a guy named Ron. Granted, Ron Patrick does have a PhD in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, so if there was anyone to assemble such a machine, it’d be him.
Built in the early 2000s, Ron wanted to strap a rocket to a car. Obviously it’s no simple task, but the reasoning behind it was. The engine itself is a General Electric T58-8F, found on high-powered helicopters. It’s fueled by kerosene and is rated at an insane 1,350 horsepower. Idle is 13,000rpm, and it can spin up to 26,000rpm.
And the best part: it’s street legal. Ron has been pulled over by confused officers many times as they try to pin him with some fee for driving a rocket powered car in California. In fact, the reason this car is street legal is because there were no laws against putting a rocket on the back of your car, as long as you didn’t modify the original engine (which he didn’t).
The beauty of this car lies not in the power or speed, but in how ridiculous it is. Ron explains on his website “the car was built to thrill me, not kill me,” which is part of the reason we don’t know just how fast it is. No 0-60 or top speed tests were ever performed, and they likely never will be. But it’ll always be a big middle finger to bureaucracy, and gave Ron many laughs throughout his ownership. And he added charm of the jet-beetle fetched a high price when Ron decided to sell his creation.
The Beetle might be worth more than the Tesla
In December of 2020, Ron listed the car on Craigslist. After all, where else would you buy a jet-powered beetle? It sold for $550,000, and came with written instructions on how to operate it. And while the ad is long gone, some of those instructions can be found on Motortrend. We’re not certain who it went to, but we are certain they’re having a good laugh about it.
Then there’s the Tesla Roadster. The total price, including reservation fees, has been set to $250,000, less than half of the Beetles. Granted, this is for the base model, not the SpaceX package. But even still, it’s said to get up to 60 in just 1.9 seconds, and has a claimed range of 620 miles. It’s a record breaking supercar no doubt, but there’s just something about the Beetle.
It’s rudimentary, it’s strange, and it certainly shouldn’t be street legal. Where the Tesla Roadster will be a production car first and a rocket ship second, the Beetle was destined to be a rocket from the moment Ron bought it. It’s one of a kind. It’s special. That leaves just one unanswered question: if you’re playing punch-buggy, how many punches is the jet-Beetle worth?