Chrysler Turbine car

Jet engines patented by Frank White in 1930 changed the aircraft world forever, but most people aren't aware that American car manufacturers were commissioned to work on aircraft turbines. Gas turbines were in many ways similar to jet engines.

The turbine's basic element is a wheel of blades which exposed to constant airflow cause the wheel to rotate, producing power in the process.

Chrysler Turbine car was a result of large development program conducted in the 1950s and 1960s. The most fascinating vehicle powered by gas turbine engine was unveiled to the general public in May 1963, by Elwood Engel, head of Chrysler Styling.

Chrysler turbine car was introduced trough a brilliant consumer test that will remain the first of its kind in automotive history. The company produced 50 gas turbine powered cars, along with 5 prototypes.

Thus the bronze colored hardtop, popularly called copper rocket, was lent to 203 people between 1963 and 1966 for public test drives. At the end of this marketing stunt, most of the vehicles in question were destroyed. Still, today there are nine units accounted in museums and private collections.

Power performance was of the gas turbine engine was interesting. It ran at up to 44,500 revolutions per minute and function on virtually anything combustible. Basically all the fuels were available for use such as diesel, gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel and oil. As an interesting fact, the President of Mexico managed to start Chrysler Turbine car using only tequila.

In 1963 turbine engine generated 130 horsepower, an impressive amount. Thanks to the low number of moving elements and liquid coolant, engine was relatively easy to maintain. A modified TorqueFlite automatic transmission was installed as standard equipment. The body and interior was manufactured by Ghia in Italy and assembled at the Chrysler's Greenfield Avenue turbine research center in Detroit.

Price of building such a unique car is estimated around $50,000 in those days, which was incredible amount. From the usual characteristics, this two door hardtop coupe had four individual bucket seats, power steering, power brakes, and power windows.

Exterior design was marked by two large horizontal taillights and a chrome sculptured bumper. The tires were custom made with turbine vanes molded within the white sidewalls. Original Frostfire Metallic paint finish, later renamed in Turbine Bronze, was the opposite of black vinyl roof. Interior design was based on similar bronze color leather upholstery.

You might wonder why Chrysler would destroy the cars in which it put so much effort in. The company wanted to avoid considerable taxes and liability reasons.

From the last remaining nine cars, six were deactivated and subsequently donated to museums around the country. Three fully operational Chrysler turbine cars were preserved for historical reasons. Only two Chrysler Turbine cars are in the hands of private collectors, one owned by automobile collector Frank Kleptz and the other owned by famous television host Jay Leno. Despite the fact that car sounded like a huge vacuum cleaner, the iconic Chrysler Turbine car remains a tribute to engineering ingenuity and an important part of American automotive industry.

Next: Chrysler LeBaron | Return to library | Follow on Facebook