Turns out that Tri-ang Hornby wasn't the only company to make a model racer (in this case, the Battle Space Turbo Car, as noted in this post). Atlas made one, too.
In the case of Atlas,the Turbo Express looks more like a response to the slot car craze of the 1960s, which threatened to kill the model railroad hobby.
|The unpainted Turbo Express racer.|
The propellers on the Atlas model were also intended to propel the car, but at least one person on a model railroad forum suggested it didn't work very well.
Interestingly, both models were based on a real prototype: The Schienenzeppelin, or rail zeppelin, built in Germany in 1929.
The experimental railcar was designed and developed by the German aircraft engineer Franz Kruckenberg. It used a propeller for propulsion.
In 1931 it set a speed record for gasoline-powered rail vehicle, reaching 230 kms (143 miles) an hour.
Only one was ever built; it was taken out of service in 1939.
Lionel also entered the fray, producing a race car set that used HO scale tracks. I wonder how that worked?