In the Summer of 2014, we set out to set the land speed record for The World's Fastest Hot Tub. But before setting out, we needed to raise some quick cash. We turned to you, by way of the Internet, and a Kickstarter campaign that garnered (quite unexpected) Worldwide attention and handily raised the funds we required to race the hot tub car on the Salt Flats of Bonneville, UT. Once we arrived, however, all the money in the world couldn't get us past the reality of the flats being under a foot of water - and as its has turned out - every summer since. So while the World Record for Fastest Motorized Hot Tub remains empty, we invite you to revisit the Independence Day Carpool video we made during the campaign. It's some great camp.
On September 26th, 2015 at the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, California, a couple of happy newlyweds aimed to make the perfect getaway from their reception. After sticking the landing on the deck lid, one of the grooms bit it on his way into the tub. Deeply satisfying.
SummerThing! ft. Mike Taylor
At the Four Aces Movie Set, located among the Joshua trees of the high desert East of Palmdale, California, Carpool DeVille further cemented itself as part of the social fabric that binds us all together by becoming a central part of Afrojack's latest music video, for his next global hit, 'Summer Thing!'. Watch the video HERE and check out some behind-the-scenes action below:
... is a Carpool? (with all due respects to Gertrude Stein)
It was only a matter of time until the Carpool DeVille went Prime Time. On the season premiere of ABC's The Bachelorette, suitor Shawn E. - a self-described amateur sex coach, curiously cast from Canada - arrived at the Bachelorette Mansion wearing nothing but a wet suit - and the Carpool DeVille. This season's new twist on an old favorite (besides using the Carpool DeVille instead of some tired old limousine) was to start the show off with not one, but two lovely bachelorettes. Britt and Kaitlyn were both suitably impressed - if not perhaps outright baffled - when Shawn rolled up in the Carpool DeVille. Presumably neither of them had ever seen a gentleman sport dinner wear in a hot tub while at the same time driving up for a date. Another suitor, Ryan M. - whose boozy tailspin of a performance is worth your investigating on a blog more dedicated to it - tried to take Shawn down a peg by insulting his ride, but the dualing bachelorette's both jumped to the Carpool's defense, saying they thought it was, "... the best thing that's ever been invented". In the end, Shawn and Ryan both failed to make the cut that night, but the Carpool DeVille clearly gets a rose.
The Bachelorette Hot Tub Car
A trick of fate
In 2014, after 6 years of generally furious construction, the Carpool DeVille was set to claim its rightful place in history and the record books as the fastest hot tub humankind had ever seen. A crowdfunding campaign was launched and news of our quest traveled quite literally around the world (seriously - check out the links on our Media page). With such support, we couldn't help but reach our funding goal, and so we were set. With the Carpool DeVille loaded into a racing trailer, and a technical support team assembled, we set off on the 600-plus mile trip to Bonneville, Utah, to the salt flats where land speed records have been getting set for over a hundred years.
But Mother Nature had other ideas. Unseasonably heavy rains put the course under water, and the annual Speed Week event was cancelled. We'd made the trip though, and ergo, we'd spent the money we raised, so we ran the Carpool DeVille in an unofficial time trial on a patch of mud, getting up to 50 miles per hour.
Nature abhors a vacuum
We sent word of our record attempt to Guinness World Records. They immediately recognized that we were onto something with this Hot Tub Racing thing, and they designed a record category called 'Fastest Motorized Hot Tub' around the standards of workmanship set by the Carpool DeVille. Thing is, they didn't sign off on our timing procedure of stopwatches and flag-girls. You need electronic timing eyes and some level of independent oversight to set a bona fide World Record, and so the category presently stands empty; a mistake of history to be corrected, if not by us, then by whom?
"YouR Name Here"
Crowdfunding was the only way to go for our amateur year, but we're professionals now, and the Carpool DeVille is an international symbol of joy. We're seeking sponsorship from anyone who sees what we're up to here and would like to be a part of it. Please CONTACT US if your company or organization would benefit from an association with the fastest hot tub in the World.
The Carpool DeVille team recently received word from the Guinness World Records people in London, UK that they are creating a category called, "Fastest Motorised Hot Tub", inspired by the land speed record attempt made by Carpool DeVille in 2014. Acceptance of our record attempt by Guinness remains pending, and so at present, there is no holder of this now-official GWR category (so get on it!)
The rest of this post is in their words, not ours:
Rules for Fastest motorised hot tub
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty, and meet me tonight in Atlantic City!
Thanks to Marquis Spas, the Carpool DeVille made an appearance at the 2015 Pool and Spa Show at the Atlantic City Convention Center. We got a chance to show the pool and spa industry the latest in mobile hot tub technology while checking out what's new in traditional stationary soaking setups. The Marquis guys showed off their swim spas and their newest hot tubs, and of course, the Carpool DeVille was a huge hit. The show attendees all enjoyed learning about the car and how we made it happen. Of course, the usual questions ("Can you really drive this?", "What happens when you open the doors?") abounded, but it was great to see that the Carpool earned the respect of honest-to-goodness hot tub and spa professionals. Thanks to everyone who stopped by! And thanks again to Marquis Spas - The Official Hydrodynamic Consultants to Carpool DeVille!
The drive from Vegas to Wendover was long but uneventful. The scenery along Route 93 is spectacular. This is the Great Basin, one of the American Southwest's many amazing geographical wonders--a vast endorheic watershed that covers most of northern Nevada and Utah, and includes the lower 48's lowest (Badwater Basin in Death Valley, CA) and highest (Mount Whitney, CA) points, less than 100 miles apart. Our convoy split into three parts to deal with a number of issues in parallel (go multitasking!) and planned to rendezvous en route to Wendover.
Northern Nevada, near the 115th Meridian, where the Great Basin begins. It was a perfect scene for the beginning of a week of land speed racing--hot and dry weather means hard and fast salt. I began to taste the metallic twinge of adrenaline in my mouth and feel the excitement as I pushed the speed of the motorhome to maximum warp. It wasn't until maybe 20 miles past Ely, NV that it appeared we might be in for some trouble.
We spotted a distant nasty storm cell to the north, roughly in the direction of the Bonneville Salt Flats. Not longer after the skies overhead darkened, our three vehicles were reunited along Highway 93. We pulled over for a well deserved bio break and to regroup. A pickup truck hauling a land speed contender Chevy Monza bound for Bonneville pulled along side us and asked where we were going.
"Salt flats?", they surmised. "There's three inches of water on the salt. Don't know what we're in for."
At that point, a third race trailer rolled by. I figured we had at least three cars, which ought to be enough for some type of event. Concerned but mostly unfettered we continued rolling north to Wendover.
We arrived at the Bonneville Speedway exit and exited the freeway to head for the "bend in the road", the curve in the access road which normally becomes a Mecca for speed-addled folks like ourselves, only to find it a frenzy of hurried activity as a result of the recent storm. What should have been a dry lake bed was under nearly a foot of water. Tents and firewood floated by, as aimlessly as the crowd of people struggling to deal with the weather. A few folks who had arrived before the rain closed in were stuck hub-deep in the mud with their RVs and trucks. It looked pretty bleak.
The truck parking lot adjacent to the Sinclair gas station on the access road was offered up generously as a temporary parking location, but even it had enormous amounts of standing water. We found a dryish spot to drop the truck and trailer and headed into town in search of drier pastures for the night.
The next morning we drove down the access road to the Spit, the peninsula of land that jets out into the salt flats where the racing normally begins. The salt flats were indeed well and truly immersed under water. We took the RV for a spin in the mud much to the amusement of the assembled crowd.
We decided that we could make great use of the time while the SCTA decided what was going to happen. Word on the street was that the salt can dry out very quickly through a combination of wind, absorption and evaporation, and all hope was far from lost. Certainly nobody was going onto the BSF tomorrow for tech inspection, which, since we still had a few items to finalize, suited us just fine.
The final connections on the fire suppression system were made. You might ask why a car with hundreds of gallons of water needs one of those, but the answer is simple--we don't have water in the engine compartment, and something that starts a fire might also cause all the water to go away (like rolling over). Our roll bar connections were torqued to spec. A faulty air suspension component was diagnosed and repaired with some parts that Christian from Arctic Spas' Salt Lake City store, one of our Kickstarter backers, was kind enough to bring out for us. A few final fibreglass parts around the perimeter of the tub were installed with much frustration, and much, much silicone.
We weren't quite sure what type of welcome to expect--we had been told to expect no clemency from the SCTA on safety (as it should be) and that our creation, despite its appeal to nearly everyone we'd talked to, might not be their cup of tea, being that the average SCTA member is probably old enough to remember the first time that Pluto wasn't a planet. Instead, we met a number of great people who were intrigued by our creation, our innovative spirit and the camaraderie of our great team. Many of them recalled the golden era of salt flats racing where those values reigned supreme. Many of the group were kind enough to say that we were the future of land speed racing, and one was even gracious enough to call us the future of the entire world. God help us all if he's right.
Thursday was hot and dry. A quick trip to the Spit showed improvement overnight and the salt was beginning to recrystallize as the water evaporated. We had the first of many epic meals courtesy of our Camp Boss Sean Lahey, and spirits were high that we would race, even if later than expected--official word from the SCTA was that Speed Week was to begin on Monday instead of Saturday.
Friday morning was looking good. The sun appeared to be chasing away the clouds. Another strong day of sunshine should have us set for racing. We used Friday morning to make a few more modifications and prepare for a test fill and firing late in the afternoon.
The Sinclair gas station, conveniently right across the street, seemed cool with us using their hose to take some water (I'm not sure they understood exactly how much we needed) in our poly tanks to fill the car. We took this opportunity to measure the maximum capacity of the Carpool DeVille when filled to the "full" mark.
The final fill came to 1400 litres or 370 gallons. For the gravimetrically minded, that's 1.5 tons of water. Congrats to Todd Warnell, our McMaster classmate and Kickstarter backer, for the closest guess!
Spirits were high for racing on Monday and for a Friday night hot tub party near the salt flats. It was late in the afternoon when things took a turn for the worse. As the tub was nearly full and the CNN film crew was shooting us in action, an ominous cloud in the distance seemed to close in on us. Duncan and I decided we should get out of the tub when a not-so-distance lightning strike rippled through the sky and mountains. Curtains of rain seemed to start falling to the west in the town of Wendover, although the weather in the direction of the flats themselves seemed fine.
It rained on and off throughout dinner time, eventually clearing into the evening. Despite the uncertain status of the race, it was Friday night in Utah, and we found ourselves with a mobile hot tub, a fridge full of beer and nowhere to be in the morning. This calls for a hot tub party! We fired up the Carpool and let it warm up, because it was time for a soak. Old stories came out, beers went down, spirits were up. Our camp neighbors came by to check out what we were up to. After a few hours of soaking, we decided it was time for a bit of a test drive. I climbed into the driver's seat and attached the lap portion of the harness (safety first, as always). After verifying the relative safety of my passengers, I gingerly shifted out of park and eased forward on the throttle. The carpool began to creep forward, with five souls and 370 gallons of 104-degree water aboard. The speedometer needle eased for the first time off of zero, and we managed somewhere around 4 miles per hour down the parking lot. The birth of a new machine.
We repeated the feat eventually achieving about 10 mph. One of our neighbours bestowed upon us some stickers that said "Bonneville Speed Week-We're all here, because we're not all there!" It was clear that discernible forward velocity was possible. We had brought something that could set a record. How fast it could go was TBD--we decided not to leave the parking lot after nightfall. We had succeeded in our goal of building a mobile hot tub. The rest was up to the SCTA, the desert sun, and the winds of northwestern Utah.
We rolled up for the evening, with some trepidation about what tomorrow might bring, but satisfied that our beast could do what it was built to do.
Saturday morning: I received a text from Sean at base camp.
"Inspector coming back. You guys should come asap. You race now."
We hurriedly loaded up for the camp. It was go time. Seventeen years of thinking, working, dreaming, drinking, welding, grinding, painting and waiting came down to this moment.
We arrived at the Carpool site to find the BNI inspector reviewing the engine bay, roll cage and the numerous other details that were required to run on the Flats. Under his orange hat, I expected a stern look of disappointement, but instead we saw calm and approving nods as he went through each item on the lengthy checklist.
His final prognosis:
This was truly a heartbreaking tale in the making. We were not amused, but the organizers weren't joking. The Spit disappeared under the water--the race course marked by orange pylons still protruding just above the water's surface. What should have been an endless white salt plain was instead a miles-long briny mirror, reflecting the sad eyes and long faces of the hundreds of crews that had shown up for Speed Week.
We were no exception. Duncan and I have been working on the car for six years. The dream of racing for this record couldn't possibly be any closer, yet impossible to touch. Of all the contingencies we had anticipated, no backup plan or piece of equipment that we had packed was going to push away a foot of water and bake out a dry lake bed in time.
As the impossibility of racing sank in, we decided it was only fitting to relax a little. And of course, what better way than in a hot tub? Buoyed by our previous evening's success, and seeing the large number of barely-street-legal machines cruising the access road, we decided we should reach beyond the merely ambulatory tour of the parking lot and we made a couple of laps, touching close to 20 mph. It was at that point that we realized we were likely low on gas. Somebody went to get a jerry can, when I remarked "Hey, there's a gas station, right across the street....". And I appeared to be in a fully operational automobile... so there was only one thing to do.
Well, now that we had a full tank, and had crossed the street to the gas station--it was only logical to wonder--could we go further? As I once said, if a car can go a hundred feet, it should be able to go a thousand miles...
I pulled out of the gas station and turned down towards the Spit. I nudged the throttle forwards slowly and the big 472 accelerated willingly, pulling 5 people and a ton and a half of water along with it. We were driving down the access road at maybe 30 miles per hour, in a HOT TUB, up to our armpits in hot water. It was completely surreal and took a very long time to sink in. The experience was at the same time overwhelming and completely natural.
After the incredible nature of what we had just done was fully processed, we reviewed the facts before us. The hot tub car we brought to race was operational as both a race car and a hot tub. The judges had decided we were technically sound enough to compete. And on our way along the access road, it looked what had been a muddy lake a few days before was now well on the way to drying out. So it was decided; tomorrow, we would leave Utah and make tracks for Los Angeles, but not before doing what we had come to do--attempt a record-setting run for the World's Fastest Hot Tub.
Over Sean's epic beef brisket, a plan was hatched. We would assemble tomorrow at dawn to fill and heat the car one final time. We would take our convoy of vehicles down to the Bend in the Road where we would access the (hopefully) dry dirt area where we would have about a mile to accelerate. We would use GPS devices to record the speed of the car, and we would lay out a measured distance and time the car through the course to verify the speed that GPS recorded. We debated Go-Pro camera angles and safety gear requirements. A plan for some very good lemonade, indeed.
During the day it was brought to our attention that there was going to be a car show at the Nugget in Wendover, and that we really should bring the Carpool DeVille. The most obvious route was to take the Interstate, but that was maybe a little ambitious. We were told the frontage road took us from the BSF into Wendover without any highway driving, and we were likely to avoid any onlookers, especially those in black and white cars. This sounded like a good plan, and a great road test for the car. With lead and chase vehicles, and a tow strap just in case, we headed out, over a freeway overpass and across the state line (yes!) into Nevada where we were welcomed warmly at the car show. It had been a while since we rolled a hot tub car into a car show, but we remembered quickly that it tends to upstage everything else that's there, especially when it looks as sweet at the Caddy does.
We turned in that night anxiously awaiting tomorrow--would the weather hold? Would the BLM rangers close in and deny us our shot at victory? Many questions stil existed, but our team was undeterred.
Saturday night was dry and the off-road area looked dry. Despite the Sinclair gas station changing tunes from "hey, we love you guys" to "If you take any more water, we're going to call the cops", we had scored enough water to fill the tub at the Wendover RV park (to be remembered for next year!) A test run in the chase car seemed to indicate the surface was sound. Duncan made the call. Go time.
We had a finite amount of time to make this happen. Our three McMaster representatives had flights to catch, and we ourselves needed to hit the road. If we couldn't get a timed run in by 11:00, we were going to have to wait until next year.
I unpacked my fire suit, racing gloves and helmet. Seeing as we were going to be limited by the conditions and length of the dirt track, I decided to forgo the HANS device and racing shoes. It seemed like the right thing to do. I climbed into the cockpit and began to strap myself in--the crew stepping in to make some last minute harness adjustments.
Shit. Bad timing indeed. We had both a faulty radiator cap (let this be a lesson to you all!) and a loose hose clamp deep under the dashboard that needed addressing. Sean topped up the radiator with the last of our drinking water while Duncan reached shoulder-deep through the passenger door to try to stop the hissing of steam--the sound of the dreams of speed deflating while we wrestled with our machine.
We continued to idle and warm the water as we prepared the details--three phones with GPS, sealed in plastic bags, strapped to the roll cage, four GoPro cameras dispersed liberally about the car, some last minute boosting of the battery, when suddenly, the temperature gauge began to climb and steam began to escape from the Carpool DeVille's heat exchanger system. But as the minutes on the dashboard clock (indicating Carpool Discrete Time) ticked away, the big V8 just quit on us....
It's easy to look for complicated solutions to simple problems when you're under pressure, say, the kind you might feel when preparing to race a car with a hot tub in it. But we all kept our cool and realized that adding almost 400 gallons of water to a car has a negative impact on fuel economy and we had probably burned more fuel than expected last night going back and forth to the car show. We topped off the tank and fired the engine up one more time.
From the vantage point of the driver's seat, it looked like we were ready. Our alternator wasn't charging properly. That would have to wait until later. We drove down the access road to the Bend, and off the pavement. The full carpool sloshed its way down into the dirt area with all the grace of a Cadillac filled with three thousand pounds of water. This was completely ridiculous.
Duncan traced out a third of a mile and a flag and timing station were set up. Jane, Charles and Jakob manned our plethora of stationary cameras. Steph was going to drop the flag as I passed, Alex was taking video footage from the top of a ladder as I drove by, Mets and Sean led the chase crew in the pickup truck. Duncan was deftly co-ordinating the activities from the finish line as we set up our impromptu race course. I have learned that there are quantum physics-type phenomena that show up when sitting in a racecar waiting to start racing that make time slow down. This was another opportunity to confirm this observation.
I thought about what we were about to do.
A quick pep talk from the chase car and battery boost (damn alternator...). Let's do this.
I sat, up to my armpits in warm water, waiting for the flag to drop. A crowd had assembled along the shoulder to watch things unfold. A Winnebago lumbered by on the access road, and I wondered how fast it was going.
The flag dropped. I punched the throttle lever, summoning all 550 foot-pounds of torque. They responded. A thick tidal wave of water launched rearward and over the trunk lid. Despite the muddy surface, with all of the extra mass, the Carpool DeVIlle was accelerating very quickly. I was closing on the Winnebago and the first flag station. The surface was slippery and I was fighting with the wheel to keep it pointed down the course, lest we tangle with the spectators or the timing crew. One bump sent the water sloshing sideways leading to some frantic steering input and some white-caps in the tub that had me worried for a moment before they eventually damped out. I passed the Winnebago! The flag dropped. 40 mph was about as fast as I felt the surface allowed--the front end was pretty loose at that speed.
As I passed the timing station and pulled back to apply the brakes, the tidal wave reversed and sloshed a good portion of the tub's contents forward up onto the dash and windshield. We managed to capture this moment on camera! The brakes did an admirable job of slowing the car down even with all the extra mass.
We had time for two more runs--if the battery would hold a charge long enough. The idea of the ignition quitting mid-run and taking out the power steering and power brakes leaving me alone to guide and stop the massive Caddy was a fear I shared with.. no one.
Between practice and avoiding the one bump that went under the left wheels and sent the contents of the tub sloshing, we were able to best our first run and achieve 55 mph as indicated by the dashboard speedometer!
It turns out our GPS tracking worked. We ended up hitting 49 mph (the speedo probably registered a little high to some rather judicious wheel spin). You can check our tracking data here:
Also, we timed the car at 21 seconds down our 0.3 mile track which works out to 51 mph. Given our sources of error, we agreed on a record speed of 49 mph. Not bad. Our goal was to achieve freeway speeds, and given the available course conditions this was a great success.
For us, the epilogue of Bonneville is bittersweet. We established a goal long ago that proved to be elusive due to our own limitations. FInally we overcame the technical obstacles and reached out to the world and found a fantastic community of friends who wanted to see us succeed. We saw overwhelming interest from the media worldwide and were humbled every day by the huge number of people who saw, shared and followed our story. With their help and support, we travelled a long way in the hopes we would be well received. Our innovative spirit touched a chord with the land speed racing community as we could have only hoped, and our technical work proved to pass muster too. All of these things are wonderful memories in their own right, and we thank everyone from a deep and sincere place for being part of this journey. But that said, the mythical salt shot still lies over the horizon.
For Duncan and I, it's time to put down the grinders and return to the quasi-routine of our day jobs.
The question of "Why?" still comes up. Arguably the world doesn't need V8-powered luxury hot tubs. It doesn't need a lot of what we do. It needs technologies to save the air, the climate and the water. It needs music and art and inspiration and passion that make life worth living. It needs people who do the things they believe in regardless of what anyone thinks. It needs people willing to bend the rules in the hopes that things can be different, and better. It needs challenges and it needs communities. So maybe it doesn't need a Carpool DeVille, but it needs things like it, and it needs people like all of you who supported and believed in it.
For a century, people have come to the salt flats to find a place where limits were only meant to stand until greater men and machines came along. May the same be true for our record attempt. We'd like to think we'll be back in 2015. But a lot can change in a year, and a lot can stay the same. And we'd like to think that somewhere somebody is thinking "that's not that fast, and it doesn't seem that hard". While we'd beg to differ, we certainly welcome the challenge.
A final and sincere thanks to our intrepid crew: We know it wasn't always easy but we hope we showed you a good time. Thanks to Alex Saegert , Mets Kramer, Jakob Kramer, Jane Figueiredo, Sean Lahey, Steph Elder, Ben Kinsella, Alex and to remote support from Tanner Thomason.
And to all of you, until the next time we race, we remain:
Duncan Forster and Phil Weicker
Co-Conspirators, Carpool DeVille
Unofficial World Record Holders, World's Fastest Hot Tub, 49 mph, August 2014