Rising to a challenge voiced by US Tonight Show host, Jay Leno who has a passion for everything automotive, designer T. J. Nesbitt set himself the task of creating a ‘sexy’ natural gas-powered car. The result is the Magnolia Special, first conceived in 2008 in the wake of hurricane Katrina (Nesbitt is based in Louisiana) and finished this year – a tribute to Louisiana’s lifestyle, creative design and 1930s European roadsters. A first in automobile design and construction, the Magnolia Special was from inception, a dedicated compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle.
The 4.2-liter inline six cylinder engine with a bore of 3.6 inches and stroke of 4.2 inches was selected for the ability to produce tremendous torque at lower rpm and allow more time for the highly stable fuel to achieve complete combustion. The octane rating equivalent for natural gas is 130, therefore, high compression 12.5:1 pistons were specially forged and high lift, short duration camshafts utilized.
Natural gas is stored in two carbon composite cylinders, located along each side of the chassis, giving a fuel capacity of 30 gasoline gallons(equivalent) and a range of approximately 700 miles (1125 kms)
The five speed transmission drives a rear differential equipped with positive traction and a 3.00 gear ratio for lower rpm at higher road speeds.
The Magnolia Special has just completed a coast-to-coast record setting run, from New York to Los Angeles, averaging between 30 and 35 mpg (GGE) depending on driving conditions and completing the trip in 89 hours. Nesbitt explains ‘she’ was built with this purpose in mind.
“Every engineering decision has been inspired by the desire to produce a long distance endurance racecar that extols the virtues of a clean burning domestic fuel. Aesthetic considerations have been applied with regional influences taking precedent. She has been born of New Orleans and it is our wish to imbue our prototype with the beauty of Louisiana, in honor of our namesake on whose shoulders we stand. We hope that our efforts will delight you, as much as our goals have stimulated and challenged us, to strive for excellence.”
(This article primarily complied using information from the Bienville Studios website)