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Small Motors, Jet Turbines, and "El Diablo"

Reflections on the machines of Dream Machines.

The Dream Machines show held earlier this month at the Half Moon Bay Airport wasn't limited to conventional cars and airplanes. Any kind of machine that can be created had a place at the show.

Walking down the runway, it was difficult to not notice the small motors on display. From tiny one horsepower motors to steam engines, the display covered close to the entire evolution of engines and technology.

Anywhere one went in the show, it was almost impossible to miss a motorcycle towering about twice the size of a grown man, or even the giant missile sitting in the middle of the runway being towed by a Porsche. In addition to these spectacles, a bicycle made of military parts made an appearance.

One truly remarkable machine is what the daughter of Jack Schroll of Oakland called “El Diablo.” There's no mistaking the colossal triumph of heat and fire, once it's seen shooting flames 30-40 feet into the air.

A jet engine is what makes El Diablo able to create a flame so big, it's perfectly visible from across the entire airfield. The heat it creates forces spectators to stand 20-30 feet away.

“There's absolutely no purpose for El Diablo,” Jack said. “It's strictly for fun.”

Jack was approached after each demonstration by disgruntled parents, worried about their children, to which Jack responded that El Diablo is “perfectly safe.”

Jack and his team have gone through the proper channels to get El Diablo approved at various shows, and to increase safety they have installed fuel cut off valves and other safety measures to ensure no one can be harmed by it.

Originally built in two months for Burning Man, El Diablo's engine is from a French fighter jet, called a Fauga Magista that are still in the air today. The afterburner that is attached to the engine is pressurized with nitrogen, and has its own gas tank of 50 gallons.

The 30-40 feet protrusion of flame, however, is not the limit of El Diablo. “We were asked to keep it down for the show,” Jack said. “Without limiting it to 1/3 of it's power it can get up to 100 feet.” It'll be hard for anyone to top El Diablo at next year's Dream Machines.

Another machine that took precedence at the show was what Dan Smith of Dixon called a “Gas Turbine Jet Engine Bicycle.”

The name is fairly self-explanatory. It is an ATM gas turbine motor attached to a Schwinn bicycle, that can go up to 60mph. Dan likes to say that its the “world's fastest jet turbine bike.”

Dan built the bike about a year ago, and has since been kicked out of shows because of its noise and the billowing of smoke it produces. However at this year's show, Dan said “They didn't kick me out this year,” with some confidence and a big grin.

Dream Machines is home to everyone's dream machine, and these completely original creations are testament to what the show is capable of producing. These machines are the flavor of the Dream Machines.

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