By Frazer Randalls
Scroll down for the full story
Videographer / director: Alex Arkeilpane
Producer: Frazer Randalls, Ruby Coote
Editor: Pete Ansell
Creator Chad Clark told BTV: “It’s like oil and water, they should not go together”.
The outrageous project, built by Chad Clark and Mike Monter of Millersburg, Ohio, was originally meant to be something very different:
“Mike and I were at our local county fair, I mentioned it would be really cool to build a turbine-powered four-wheel drive pulling truck,” Chad explained.
But the auction description had misrepresented the engine as a turbo shaft engine
“I went home that night, found an engine online and bought it but didn’t realise it was not turboshaft, it was turbojet only,” Chad remembers.
They ended up having to use a much lighter vehicle instead of the original truck.
Chad said: “We live in the Amish capital of the world so we figured an Amish buggy would be perfect.”
Co-creator Mike Monter told BTV: “He called me up, said we’re not doing a pulling truck anymore, we’re doing an Amish buggy – seemed natural.”
The build and modifications cost around $35,000 and took roughly 700 hours of labour to complete - “Many all-nighters,” said Chad.
When out in public, people struggle to believe the bizarre creation actually works.
Chad said: “When people see the Thunder Buggy they can’t believe their eyes and the first question is, does it really move? Yes it does.”
Traditionally, these buggies would have been moved by horses so this particular one is far from conventional.
“The buggy is not designed to take 100 feet of electrical wiring, fuel tanks and a jet engine,” Chad admitted.
With a top speed of 65 miles per hour before the wheels start shaking, this exhibition-only vehicle was not built for speed.
“It’s a really simple engine design, it’s some pretty awesome engineering from back in the 40s,” explained Chad.
The buggy also features a steel sub-frame to carry the extra weight.
“That’s about the only thing that we did chassis-wise to strengthen the buggy other than the air bags,” said Chad.
The inside of the buggy is definitely something you wouldn’t see in an Amish community either:
“We’ve got a mix of aircraft gauges and car gauges and there’s a handle for emergency fuel shut-off in the event of an accident,” Chad demonstrated.
Chad and Mike did their best to keep the buggy authentic looking, meaning they’ve had to compromise on driver protection.
Chad said: “We kept the buggy as original as possible – there’s no safety cage, I’ve got a driver’s seatbelt but it’s still a wooden vehicle.”
Chad usually drives the vehicle while Mike is tasked with making sure it’s all safe:
“The worst thing that can happen is that I have a fuel leak and the engine runs away, or a wheel explodes going down the track – that would be a bad day,” Chad explained.
The two are proud of their work, especially as it’s been praised by engineers.
“We’ve had mechanical engineers come up and go: ok you did that alright, you weren’t complete idiots,” joked Mike.
Chad added: “People thought we were nuts and I think that might have even been part of the motivation behind it, to get this thing done.”
“It’s something that’s unconventional, you don’t see it every day and people seem to love it,” said Chad.
For their next project Chad and Mike are now planning to build a jet-powered dragster made to resemble an Amish buggy.