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Jack McDonald
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Project 500

Australians Terry O'Hare and Jack McDonald designed and developed the Project 500 car for an attempt on the Australian Land Speed Record in 1973, which at that time was held by Sir Donald Campbell.



Australian Womens Weekly - Wednesday 14 October 1970


"An Australian has never had a bash at it," says Jack McDonald of his project to break Donald Campbell's land-speed record.

AS a boy, he dreamed of becoming the captain of a ship. When he was a teenager, his interest was motor-cars and motor - cycles; he built and raced them. By profession he became an airline pilot.
That in brief is the background of Jack McDonald, the man who set his sights at the late Donald Camp-bell's land - speed record created at Lake Eyre in 1964.
"I would like to break the record. An Australian has never had a bash at it."
The record attempt is referred to as Project 500. Jack would like to reach 500mph. But he would be quite happy just to go 408 - the one percent necessary to break Campbell's 403.1.

He gives, without any affectation, his reason for wanting to attempt the record. No sense of the dramatic, just a simple, matter - of - fact statement. That's Jack McDonald.
In the quiet of his home at Keilor, on the outskirts of Melbourne, it was difficult to associate him with the noise, the grind, the tensions of speeding cars.
Here was his life with his attractive wife, Sandra, and their little daughter, Jenny, 17 months.

Flies at night
"It's nice and quiet here. I can sleep," he said, and sleeping when most otherpeople are awake is a necessity.
For Jack is attached to a freight airline and flies at night, mainly to Tasmania."You could perhaps call it an overseas airline!"

When he and Sandra were first married, four years ago, they lived in a flat. "There were 24 flats ki the block I'd come home at five in the morning and try to sleep, but the noise . . ."
But although their home is set in an almost country atmosphere it is close toboth centres of activities for Jack - Essendon Airport, from where the airline operates, and the Calder Motor Raceway.
And just around the corner and along the road a bit lives Terry O'Hare, who is work- ing with Jack on Project 500.
They have ''thrown together" a jet car as a test car - $10,000 worth.
"We're testing new ideas. We want to be able to chop and change and iron out all the bugs before building the new car to make the record attempt."
This, they hope, will be around this time next year. "All depends on Lake Eyre. If it gets a bit of rain on it, it's no good."
It has taken Jack and Terry about 12 months to build this latest car - and that means many hours away from home.
"Jack only comes home to see his daughter and when he is hungry," said Sandra.
It is the second car they have built. The first one was "fairly successful," said Jack. "Top speed was 189 mph from a standing start."
It is sitting in the back- yard now, slowly rusting away under a tree.
"It looked horrible," said Sandra. "Frightening, vicious.
I didn't like it. But this one is beautiful, so streamlined."
She is right. From a mere female point of view, the car does look rather gorgeous. Its nose is long and lean; the line very elegant.
Only the rear, denuded of any covering, shows all the complicated mechanical parts and the tunnel from which jets of fire roar out at the car's initial start.
"It is built on a three wheel concept rather than the conventional four," said Jack. "It must have four wheels to comply with regu- lations, but to get over that the two front ones have been placed together to give the effect of one."

Bright color
Hence the sleek shape (so my female mind worked out).
The color is a bright royal blue. Sandra kept urging the menfolk to have it that shade. Finally, they bowed to her. It is her favorite color-and it looks good.
(They think so, too. They have built a trailer to transport the car, matching in color and streamline design.)
Jack is big, and to get into the driver's seat he has to inch his way behind the steering wheel.
Then he almost disappears. Only his head, topped by a helmet, and his eyes, hidden by large goggles, appear over the rim. He is ready to go...
He gets "all churned up" when he drives the car. It is still new to him. The greatest difficulty at present is learning to drive it.
It is a completely new design from the first jet car they built, a new concept inaerodynamics. It is a step further, lighter, more powerful.
"I'm taking it easy."
Although Jack McDonald spends much of his time in the air, he has his feetfirmly planted on the ground.
The car already has reached 180 mph after two tryouts at Calder Raceway. "It could be capable of doing 400 on Lake Eyre, but I wouldn't like to attempt it," said Jack.
Speed, going fast, ii not a i thing with Jack.
"People say, what e you trying to do - kill your- self? It's not that at all."
Jack is used to going fast. He has been a pilot tor 20 years. He goes a couple of hundred miles an hour in the DC3 he flies now.
A plane can do that speed because of its design and development, said Jack. The same with the jet car, only the problems are different.

Mirage effect
An aircraft goes on .i mass of air, a car has an air mass over it, but it has contact with the ground, therefore there are surface problems, pressure problems.
But the main difficulty is still in the design and development.
Speed is only relevant when it can be related to something you see, trees,houses, roads, said Jack.
Lake Eyre is clear. He haJ done some low-flying over it "It is a mirage effect. You can't see anything, can't see any horizon. It's all white because of the salt.
''If you were travelling 200, 250, or more miles an tour, you wouldn't see anything, except the markers ind guideline. It would be ust like flying in the clouds.
"Speed wouldn't mean a thing."
But speed can be a lethal iveapon, he said. It worries lum driving along a normal road in a normal car. He avoids it as much as possible.
"He drives at a snail's pace," said his wife, "about 20 miles an hour."
Even in the early days when he raced motor-cycles and cars, it was the competi- tion more than the speed that interested him.
He built his first car when he was 14 or 15.
At 18 he built and raced his first motor-cycle. He won a race at the speedway,"about the only one I did win."
Then he went to sidecars. He was apprenticed as a fitter and turner. "I hated it." So he joined the RAAF. He became a Flying-Officer and served in Korea.
Five or six years ago, he again became interested in cars, vintage cars, and drove them in rallies.
Then he thought about putting a jet engine in a car He had read about it being done in the United States.
From that developed the first jet car.
When he was not working as a pilot or on the oar, he was going to wrecking yards looking for parts for the car.
"He knows every wrecker in Melbourne," said Sandra.
Sandra is caught up in the excitement of the record attempt. "If you can't beat them, join them."
But her interest in car racing also goes back a long way. She often went to watch car-racing even before her marriage.
She would have liked to have done some racing herself. "The mini I drive is hotted-up."
But she got married, then Jenny came, so she stays on the sidelines, a bit reluctantly.
Now even Jenny is among her father's followers .- per- haps the greatest "follower" of all.
She toddles around after him, and as soon as she sees the jet car, "Dad's car," she makes all the appropriate rewing-up noises.
She is eager to get behind the steering-wheel, and as soon as she does she grabs it with both hands and "drives."
She is not as interested when the car is in the garage, said her mother. She likes to see it "go."


JETS of fire roar from the Project 500 car, left, with Jack McDonald at the wheel. Above, trailer is the same color as the car. With Jack are Terry O'Hare, who is building the car with him, and Carlo Goia (in white coat), "their hands." Right:The McDonald family.


This 24-feet long jet car deevloped by former RAAF pilot Mr Jack McDonald, of Keilor, Victoria is expected to travel at more than 400 mph.
The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), Thursday 3 September 1970, page 35



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