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1963 Chrysler Turbine Car

The 1962 Chrysler Turbine Car is one of those very rare Prototypes that was actually a fully operational car. Not only that but it was a Prototype that was loaned out to the general public to use as a daily driver! I am sure the corporate liability attorneys would never stand for such risky actions today. 1962 was a different time for automobiles, corporations and the driving public. Today such actions are unfathomable. The images and videos seen on this site include three of the remaining Chrysler Turbine cars!

Gilmore Car Museum

This is one of only 9 remaining examples and is housed at the Gilmore Car Museum.

Chrysler tested turbine powered cars beginning in 1953 with several cross country test drives with excellent results. In 1963 the Chrysler engineers were confident they had a product the consumers would like. Elwood Engel designed and Ghia built 55 cars as seen here. These were fully functional and loaned to 203 lucky American families who were given the cars to drive for several months at no cost. The turbine engine would run on any flammable liquid from diesel to tequila. Diesel was preferred, at least as a fuel! For the most part, the test subjects loved the cars but the cost to build the engines and up coming Federal emission requirements would prove to make the car too expensive to build. At the end 46 of the 55 cars were destroyed.

The turbine engine. Is this a Muscle Car or the future of Personal Luxury cars or is it the first Flex Fuel car? You think Flex Fuel is something new?

Of the remaining nine cars, six had the engines de-activated and then they were donated to museums around the country. Chrysler retained three of the turbine cars for historical reasons. One of the cars kept by Chrysler is stored in running condition at the proving grounds, while another car was purchased from a museum by automobile collector Jay Leno (see video below) and is also functional. The last turbine car that is functional is owned by the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis ( 2nd video and outdoor photos are of the St. Louis car)!

Would you be interested in having one of the major auto manufactures providing you with an experimental state of the art technology car for your use? No cost; with a gorgeous show car design. No fine print; just drive it for 3 months and tell us what you think. That is every car guys dream.

The entire car’s design was revolutionary and, arguably, had an impact on future Chrysler products for years to come.

Chrysler Turbine Car 1962
I stood behind this jet engine car when it started up and as it pulled away. The blast was noticeable but neither hot or excessively loud.

Chrysler Turbine Car 1962
I don’t think any shade tree mechanics will be working on this car!
Chrysler Turbine Car 1962

For the test, Chrysler had the accounting firm of Touch, Ross, Bailey and Smart choose the luck families based on geographic location and demographics that would expose the cars to the biggest audience.

Chrysler Turbine Car 1962

The Chrysler Turbine car was spectacular and a public relations success. Sure, they wanted to see if the turbine could function in normal everyday driving and they wanted to see if the public would accept a turbine-powered automobile. However, they also wanted publicity, they had spent a lot of money on the turbine program and it was payback time.

Chrysler Turbine Car

The Chrysler Turbine Cars were all identical. The program was a huge success, but what were they like?

Chrysler Turbine Car

Although the bodies and interiors were crafted by Ghia in Italy each body was finished and shipped to Detroit. It was Chrysler employees who installed the gas turbine engines, transmissions, and electrical components to prepare the cars for use by the lucky 203 drivers who were chosen to test the cars.

Chrysler Turbine Car
The family resemblance between the factory stock production car from the period and the Turbine car are remarkable.

The Chrysler Turbine Car was a two-door hardtop coupe with four individual bucket seats, power steering, power brakes and power windows. Its most prominent design features were two large horizontal taillights and nozzles (back-up lights) mounted inside a very heavy chrome sculptured bumper. Up front, the single headlamps were mounted in chrome nacelles with a turbine styling theme, creating a striking appearance. This theme was carried through to the center console and the hubcaps. Even the tires were specially made with small turbine vanes molded into the white sidewalls. It was finished in “Frostfire Metallic”, later called “Turbine Bronze”. The roof was covered in black vinyl, and the interior featured bronze-colored “English calfskin” leather upholstery with plush-cut pile bronze-colored carpet.

If there is a weak element of the design, in my eye it is the tail end. It is dramatic and exciting but uses a lot of truck space and is a bit gaudy.
Chrysler Turbine Car 1962
Chrysler Turbine Car 1962
Chrysler Turbine Car 1962

The car itself was designed in the Chrysler studios under the direction of Elwood Engel, who had worked for the Ford Motor Company before his move to Chrysler. Maybe that explains how much this Chrysler has some of the styling cues from the Thunderbirds of era. The rear taillight/bumper assembly was copied directly (with revisions) from a 1956 Ford styling study called the “Galaxia”.

Chrysler Turbine Car 1962
Chrysler Turbine Car 1962
Chrysler Turbine Car 1962

What are some of the mechanical specifications?The fourth-generation Chrysler turbine engine ran at up to 60,000 rpm. It could run on diesel fuel, unleaded gasoline, kerosene, JP-4 jet fuel, and even vegetable oil. The engine would run on virtually anything and the president of Mexico tested this theory by running one of the first cars–successfully–on tequila. Air/fuel adjustments were required to switch from one to another.

Chrysler Turbine Car 1962

The engine had a fifth as many moving parts as a piston unit (60 rather than 300). The turbine was spinning on simple sleeve bearings for vibration-free running. Its simplicity offered the potential for long life, and because no combustion contaminants enter engine oil, no oil changes were considered necessary. The 1963 Turbine’s engine generated 130 brake horsepower (97 kW) and an instant 425 pound-feet (576 N·m) of torque at stall speed, making it good for 0-60 mph in 12 seconds at an ambient temperature of 85 °F (29 °C) – it would sprint quicker if the air was cooler and denser.

The absence of a distributor and points, the solitary start-up spark plug and the lack of coolant eased maintenance.

Its power turbine was connected, without a torque converter, through a gear reduction unit to an otherwise ordinary TorqueFlite automatic transmission. The flow of the combustion gases between the gas generator and free power turbine provided the same functionality as a torque converter but without using a conventional liquid medium. Exhaust gas temperatures at idle plagued early models. Chrysler was able to remedy or mitigate most of these drawbacks and deficiencies.

Chrysler Turbine Car

Unfortunately, the turbine car had some operational drawbacks. The car sounded like a giant vacuum cleaner, which was not satisfying to consumers who were more comfortable with the sound of a large American V8. High altitudes also caused problems for the combined starter-generator. Failing to follow the correct start-up procedure could wreck the engine in seconds. However, troubles were remarkably few for such a bold experiment. More than 1.1 million test miles were accumulated by the 50 cars given to the public, and operational downtime stood at only 4%.

Chrysler Turbine Car 1962
Chrysler Turbine Car 1962

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Richard

I grew up and lived in Iowa for a good portion of my life before moving to Southern California. After 20+ years we now live outside Nashville Tennessee. I have been into cars since I was old enough to remember. I don't have a brand loyalty although I do prefer American Muscle especially the 1969/1970 NASCAR Aero Cars. (Check out our other web site at www.TalladegaSpoilerRegistry.com site) As long as it has four wheels and an engine I get excited. Few men are lucky enough to be able to share their passion for cars with the woman they love. Fortunately, my wife, Katriana, is also a gear head and many of our activities revolve around the cars. We have a small collection that includes at least one car from each of the Big Three. It includes a Best of Show winner, a survivor, a driver with lots of patina and several others. Katrina prefers all original cars while I like to modify them so we have a few of each. When we aren't playing with cars we are out working with or showing our miniature donkeys. You can see more about that part of our lives at http://www.LegendaryFarms.com.

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