By Charles Wade-Palmer
A hearse fitted with a jet engine is set to blast its way into the record books.
Artist Matt McKeown, 56, has already smashed records with the world’s fastest trolley, now he has the fastest hearse title in his sights.
Matt has turned a 1992 Ford Granada hearse into a monster on the track thanks to a 1950s jet engine in place of a coffin which he hopes will take it to an incredible 200mph.
He hopes to beat the previous record held down under by Shane Hammond on the TDRA Dragway in Tasmania, Australia.
That speed was 115.60 mph and recorded back in 2010 but Matt does not want to just beat it, he wants to exceed it by 85 mph.
The former RAF engineer from Plymouth said: “I had the idea to do this then I found a hearse online for £1,200 and it still had an M.O.T.
“In theory I could drive it around on the road but probably isn’t the best idea with a jet engine in the back.
“I like to transform something typically boring or slow into the opposite which people wouldn’t expect so naturally a trolley and hearse fit that category.”
Alongside his extreme hobby of creating and competing in wacky races, Matt owns a go-karting centre in Plymouth.
In 2013 the motorsport adrenaline junkie who describes himself as an automotive artist, set the record for the world’s fastest trolley after speeding on it at 70mph.
Since buying the hearse for £1,200, Matt has spent around £10,000 on bringing it up to speed by fitting it with a 1950s Rolls-Royce turbine engine among countless changes.
He said: “It’s a dream job creating something which will bring a smile to people’s faces.
“Motorsport record breaking is a very competitive industry.
“The ideas just come into my head. I don’t know where they come from but when I have them, I have to act on them.
“Most of the hearse has been ripped apart and is still very much work in progress. After spending around 300 hours on it over the last 18 months, we’re now almost there.
“We’ve put in there an ex-RAF Rolls-Royce viper turbine from a 1950s provost jet and has around 1,750 lb of thrust which should do 200mph.
“With an afterburner, it will probably be burning 200 litres of fuel per minute but it is very hard to get right and very dangerous.
It is one thing to build his crazy high speed inventions but a whole other task to get behind the wheel to set the records.
For Matt however speed has never been something he fears simply because there is no time to panic once the engine is revved.
Matt said: “People always ask me if I’m worried about anything going wrong when I’m at the wheel but you don’t have time to think ‘Ooh I’m crapping myself’ or ‘Wow this is fast!’
“When I’m driving I’m thinking about the mechanisms, I don’t get scared, I just talk myself through the contingency plan in case anything does happen.”
“I did fall off my bike once in my early 20s but every bike owner has done that and will tell you it’s all part of it.
“I love a challenge like the hearse and I’ve been lucky to have some very good people working with me on the project.
“The trolley started out life as a six hour project then I rebuilt it twice and even now I want to change the engine to put it in a much lower space.”