The short story in question appeared in a late 1960s or very early 1970s issue of Galaxy magazine. It had to have been before 1973, as that is when I remember reading it. The story involved a demolition derby style car race between competing prototype technologies for cars. The winner would become a production model, but it was a deadly anything-goes race. The protagonists drove a fusion-powered car. It was a great little story and I'd like to find it again, but I can't recall the author's name or the publication date.
The short story in question appeared in a late 1960s or very early 1970s issue of Galaxy magazine. It had to have been before 1973, as that is when I remember reading it.
"Hurdle" by Piers Anthony. (It was published in French translation under the title "Fusion".) It never appeared in Galaxy but was originally published in the November-December 1972 issue of Galaxy's sister magazine Worlds of If, available at the Internet Archive. It was reprinted in Anthony's 1985 collection Anthonology, also available in American and British paperback editions.
The story involved a demolition derby style car race between competing prototype technologies for cars. The winner would become a production model, but it was a deadly anything-goes race.
"Revised sales," the radio said. "Fusion two hundred and eight—folks, it's still changing. We can't get a fixed reading. The race isn't even finished . . . Fusion two-forty-nine . . . two-sixty-one—" There was an unexplained pause, then: "Folks, to recap, there's been a fifteen-car collision on the Dunes just beyond the Loop, but the remaining cars are still running. Here's the replay—" Another pause as the screen viewers saw the film. "Steamco retains the lead on the track, but that's all—and Fusion is coming up fast. The others—seven cars, I believe—are picking their way around the wreckage, avoiding the flames. None of them will finish in the money. It's a two-car race! Fusion, not known for its maneuverability, pulled such an extraordinary feat of—Fusion three hundred and nineteen! Those orders are pouring in! Here's the replay of that hurdle of death. That's Fusion firing out of the Loop—look at that! It cracked mach one! We thought the car was out of the running, then this! The buyers are really impressed. Hell, I'm impressed, and I've been in this business for— Most racers would have been smashed to pieces, busting sound like that, let alone doing it through flame! Fusion three-seventy . . . four hundred . . . Folks we can't keep up. Unprecedented sales for an unfinished race. Looks like a record in the making, even if Fusion doesn't win the Hurdle. Four-fifty-two . . . I gotta buy one myself . . ." The announcer panted into silence.
The protagonists drove a fusion-powered car.
And, astonishingly, the acceleration increased. The Fusion began gaining on other cars.
"I thought you were all-out before," Fisk gasped.
"Hardly. This is the finest car ever made, overall. The Fusion's got more actual muscle than any car on the market—and unlimited range. It has a little piece of the sun inside, you know—that's the heat of the conversion, four hydrogen atoms transforming into one helium atom in controlled fusion. Fuel's no problem—it's loaded when we make it and it runs on just a little bit of hydrogen until the car is junked. We have no top speed, really—car would shake apart before we ever reached maximum. Only limiting factor—oh, don't worry, we won't shake apart—in a race like this is the frictive surface: the tires. That's why we've got eight—and they're broad ones, too. But too much acceleration makes them skid a bit and that's bad for control and worse for wear. Got to save the rubber or we'll have trouble finishing, even though the tires are solid. Guess you were still on pneumatics in the antarctic, huh?"