Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The history of the original Y2K Turbine motorbike

The history of the original Turbine motorbike

In 1999, MTT decided to put their expertise of  Turbines to one of the most extreme uses ever thought of….to power a motorbike.

RR 250 Series Turbine - C18
Weighing in at circa 280 kilos, this bike tips the scales just as much as any other big superbike, but what really sets it apart is that instead of the usual piston and crankshaft engine that ‘normal’ bikes use, this one employs a Rolls Royce helicopter engine… It surely sounds scary but that’s just the beginning; Any engine you take be it a car or a motorcycle engine, would have an idle speed (the speed at which the engine spins when the vehicle is standing still) of about 1000 – 2500 RPM, the Y2K (as it was called) however stands miles apart with an N1 idle (50%) speed of circa 24,000 RPM idle speed, reving all the way up to a mind boggling 54,000 RPM, at 104% N1. Remember this turbine is the Rolls Royce Allison 250 series that comes out of the luxury 6 seater Bell ranger 206 helicopter.

Turbine selection

Bell 206 Helicopter - Turbine donor
The makers of this engineering marvel were from MTT, a relatively small company in the swamp lands of Louisiana, with a workforce of just 11, when the concept was originated. This company specialized in the re-use of retired jet engines. These jet engines are retired as per the rules set by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) which stated the maximum allowed lifespan of the same. MTT buys these ‘timed out’ engines for considerable cheaper prices than new, completely reconditions them and adapts them for uses ranging for uses such as; turbine powered motorboats, fire pumps and generators. The turbines are still safe and have many hours of life left in them still, they’re just not allowed in commercial helicopters or jets where a single malfunction could cause loss of life. In a bike, boat or fire pump, a cough and a splutter is nothing more than a pause in power.

MTT 'Y2K' Concept

The RR 250 Series Turbine that fits in the Bike
MTT  led the company towards the idea of building this amazing piece of machinery to demonstrate the alternative use of Turbines and as a showcase of their abilities. MTT hired Christian Travert, who was a specialist in the design of custom heavy duty machines; his experience designing machines for African rallies and other custom builds was put to full use in the Y2K. Initially, the idea was to adapt an existing bike chassis, but it was decided that with such a unique engine and project the Y2K would be designed from scratch with nearly every part bespoke made.

The frame along with the swing arm was custom built and made entirely out of 6 series aluminium by, while the engine was a Rolls Royce Allison 250 C18, as used in the Bell 206 helicopter; the amazing fact was that the RR engine, made from Magnesium and titanium weighed a mere 63kgs a great help for a motorbike.

Transmission and Braking

Reverse mounted turbine - exhausts face the floor
A transmission system was set up that had just two gears where the first gear would provide the initial pull (idling around town), and the second would haul the bike to its top speeds. The bodywork was made out of carbon fibre, known for its strength and light weight. Going fast was one thing, bringing it to a halt was another, the brakes on the Y2K were at the time equally massive with a total of four 320mm disc brakes with six piston callipers supplied by UK firm PKF, two in the front and one in the rear of the bike clamping a 320mm rotor.


Without its fairing - Alloy box chasis
A dyno 250 test on the engine showed that it produced a rear wheel horsepower of around 230-250bhp at 6000 N2 (shaft output speed) along with a massive 287lb foot of torque at shaft speeds of 6000rpm. The Turbine was rated at 317shp (shaft horsepower), but the hydraulic gearbox sapped alot of power, hence why the end horsepower figure at the rear wheel of around 230-250bhp.

Further ‘real life’ testing was done on the roads. Needless to say, this machine was extreme in its power delivery to say the least. It’s power and weight combination achieved acceleration like that of of a pro-stock drag bike for the era (2000). The one big difference is the bike allowed for very smooth starts, due to the power curve of a turbine, but it also limited very fast drag style starts, as a turbine makes very little power at the idle speeds, but most of its power at the top end.

Road Legal

Bike laws are different in all countries and in Lousisana, USA, Guernsey - Channel Islands, Australia,  it complied with all such laws and is road legal, road registered and duly taxed. Not your every day commute though!


With top speeds designed to reach circa 200mph +, the way the power comes in, can make for a fairly scary ride. With a single 250mph (theoretically) geared second speed, there are no gear changes to worry about. It was literally twist and aim. Obviously having your own private runway to practise on is useful and suits its totally unique and addictive ‘Jet engine’ sound. The sound of this machine alone is enough to send chills down the spines (excitement!) of the most seasoned bikers. But it’s a sound that once heard, quickly becomes truly addictive.

Note to readers: There have been lots of speculation and 'guarantees' that the bike's top speed was 250mph. This was marketing hype, as the bike did not posses enough horse power to achieve a terminal speed of 250mph. Such high speeds have never been proven. The 250mph top speed, was based on a 'theoretical' top speed, based on the front and rear sprocket... in the absence of any wind resistance. Marketing videos from MTT on the net, of 227mph high speeds have not been authenticated or proven under ACU, FIA or FIM conditions. The highest authenticated top speeds using a Rolls Royce 250 C18 (317shp > 240 rear hp) turbine is 205mph in a standing mile by Zef Eisenberg in 2012 at Elvington runway 26, Yorkshire, UK. Higher speeds have been achieved on the MADMAX turbine bike (also by Zef Eisenberg), using a Rolls Royce 250 C20B (420shp + > 400 rear hp) of 225mph without a fairing in ACU competition in a standing mile, also at
Elvington runway 26, Yorkshire.

Fuel economy

In terms of fuel economy, it’s actually more practical to use time as the scale. In fact, a full tank of fuel would be approximately 32 litres. This would give you about 30 minutes on the highway at idle turbine speed. The turbine can safely run on basic pump diesel. It actually prefers and runs very clean on Jet-A or Kerosene (no smoke at all, due to no sulphur or additives), but that’s harder to get from the local garage. It is also possible to run them on good quality Biodiesel made from plant or recycled sources. It’s actually fairly economic at 200mph, as the engine is spinning not much faster than slow cruising speeds, and therefore the ‘Mpg’ is better. But the reality of this bike, is that owners are generally of the type that really don’t care too much about these trivial matters.

Camera and looks

The Y2K bike came with some interesting options at the time. The first being a rear view camera into the main display which also houses the turbine information, featuring; N1, N1, EGT, oil pressure, temp, etc…it saved having to have mirrors, which made for a slightly more stream line bodywork.

2nd Generation Digital Dash
Looks wise, its different, some may say it lacks the beauty of the best Italian bikes, but its distinctive twin headlamps and huge exhaust outlets and long wheel base of 85 inches, made it stand out from the crowd and if it's attention that you wanted, you can expect to draw a crowd tens times larger than the sexiest of Italian race exotica, and if that doesn’t get you noticed the sound sure will. It’s not often you hear a ‘jet fighter’ coming down the road. With only 16 made from 1999 to 2005, most of them having never been ridden and are in private museums. These are probably the rarest, most extreme bikes you will ever see on the road, if the less than handful that are ridden actual rides past you. To put things into context, more people have visited the Space station than ridden a turbine bike.

2005 - Stage 2:
<update to follow>