By Beverly Keller
It started as a comment between friends while sitting in the stands during the 2017 Holmes County Fair. After 11 months and over 700 man hours, Thunder Buggy is a reality thanks to the hard work of Chad Clark and Mike Monter.
“The idea was originally to build a truck,” Clark explained. “We found an engine on eBay and I went to pick it up but it wasn’t exactly what we wanted. We realized that we would need a lightweight vehicle to put it in. And that’s when the buggy entered into the picture.”
The buggy in question is about 12 years old and was purchased from a shop in Holmes County. “It needed a few things and once that work was done, we got busy,” Clark explained. “The spindles are from a Sprint Car. We have an airbag suspension. The wheels are fiberglass with rubber. However, the buggy itself is completely original.”
Overall the pair kept the buggy as original as possible and included its LED lights in their working model. However, the horsepower behind Thunder Buggy comes from a jet engine. “It only weighs about 200 pounds, believe it or not,” Clark explained. “With the oil cooler for the engine and aircraft battery and jet fuel tank, we did reinforce part of the buggy with Steel.”
For Clark, the project was one close to his heart as he has grown up in the aviation field. While he is a pilot, he is also active in the mining business. He noted that the project taught both friends the tried and true application of trial and error. “Just when you thought something was worked out and it was going to go, wham-o, it didn’t,” he said.
Monter agreed. The software developer for the newspaper industry noted that the project was something that took more hours than they could have ever imagined. “There were times we would work our day jobs, come here and work on Thunder Buggy until 2, maybe even 4 in the morning, go home, sleep a little, work and come right back here,” he shared.
Clark noted that the installation of the airbags was originally for stabilization. However, they learned that the airbags were a great assist for braking instead. Monter shared that the electrical system took over 50 hours alone to design with hours of laying it out, only to find something wasn’t working the way they had intended within the 100 yards of wiring. “We learned to adjust on the fly,” Monter said with a smile.
The top speed to date for Thunder Buggy, the world’s fastest jet-powered Amish Buggy has been 55.
When it comes to safety, Clark wears a full fire suit like those worn by drivers of Nitro Funny Cars complete with a Kevlar helmet and fire boots and gloves to operate the monster. “I am sitting on a fuel tank on a wooden frame,” Clark reminded.
This winter, Monter noted that they will be looking to add an afterburner to the buggy. It will take the output of the engine from 350 pounds of thrust to 700 pounds. “I’ve always been a tinkerer,” he shared. “This has been an incredible project to be a part of.”
When asked if they would build the buggy again, both smiled and agreed they would absolutely build it again, although they might modify a few things. “99.9 percent of people we told about our idea thought we were crazy,” Monter said. “We built this to show. We built this to share.”
To learn more or schedule an appearance of Thunder Buggy, go to m.me/ThunderProductionsLLC or call 330-763-3889.
This story originally appeared in the September 12, 2018 edition of The Budget. For more news, pick up a copy of this week’s edition available Wednesdays at area retailers. Better yet, subscribe and the news will be delivered to you each week. For more information, call us at 330-852-4634.