There’s something magical about a car modification that costs over $30,000 and results in making a car that’s louder, rougher, smokier and objectively less useful than when you started. It’s also now only capable of 15 mph. And yet, somehow, the car is so much better than before. That’s the case with Frank Rothwell’s steam-powered Land Rover.
Rothwell is 67 and an expert on old steam machinery like traction engines and old railroad hardware. He’s retired, and had all the key elements needed to make an insane project like this happen: time, resources, an old Land Rover, and coalscuttles full of steam engine mechanical knowledge.
It took about 400 hours and a lot of not talking to his wife or anyone about what he was doing, but Rothwell eventually managed to swap the 2.25-liter, 74 horsepower gasoline motor from the Landie for a coal-fed steam engine that eats 100 pounds of coal per hour.
The steam engine, with its horizontal boiler and tall smokestack stick out of the front of the Land Rover like a tiny locomotive backed into the car. This piston rods are exposed atop the hood, and clatter away as the thing belches massive vape-clouds of steam and trundles along, carrying Frank on his daily commute to his office, where he does whatever retired steam machinery obsessives do in offices.
The Land Rover is named Mildred because the body was so mildew’d when Rothwell began to convert it, and there’s no question he’s made an absolutely charming and wonderfully absurd machine.
Incredibly, he may not be the first; this video shows a steam Land Rover made by someone named Roger White in 2011-2012:
Do these guys know each other? They’d be either best friends of bitter enemies. Maybe both.
I’m just happy he resisted the urge to put one of those terrifying putty-gray Thomas the Tank Engine faces on the front. Yeeesh.