Is this a Muscle Car or the future of Personal Luxury cars? Is it the first Flex Fuel car? You think Flex Fuel is something new? How about this Chrysler Turbine Car from the mid 60s that will run on anything from diesel to perfume! If it is flammable the Chrysler Turbine Car can make it go.
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 exactly what Chrysler did back in 1962.
Chrysler delivered this turbine powered, hand built dream machine to a few very lucky users around the Country. To be exact, 203 families had the chance to experience the future; at least that is what
Chrysler promised. For what ever reasons; this revolutionary car never went into production. Some say it was a government conspiracy and some say it was just not practical.
After a decade or more of R&D Chrysler decided that their turbine program had progressed to the point where a more diverse testing was needed. They decided in the summer of 1962 that 50 – 75 limited production cars would be equipped with the latest version of their turbine engine.
Chrysler had the accounting firm of Touch, Ross, Bailey and Smart choose the users based on geographic location and demographics that would expose the cars to the biggest audience.
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.
The Chrysler Turbine Cars were all identical. The program was a huge success, but what were they like?
The bodies and interiors were crafted by Ghia in Italy. As each body was finished and shipped to Detroit, Chrysler employees installed gas turbine engines, transmissions, and electrical components to prepare the cars for use by the 203 drivers who were chosen to test them each had their car for approximately 3 months.
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.
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 Thunderbird’s of era. The rear taillight/bumper assembly was copied directly (with revisions) from a 1956 Ford styling study called the “Galaxia”.
A total of 55 turbine cars were built. When Chrysler had finished the user program and other public displays of the cars, 46 of them were destroyed. 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 private automobile collector Jay Leno (see attached video) and is also functional. The last turbine car that is functional is owned by the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis; what you see here is that car!
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.
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.
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%.