Motoring Trailblazers - Chrysler Turbine Car

Sun 1st Jul 2018

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Chrysler Turbine Car
Imagine a jet-powered car which can run on a range of different fuel options - including tequila! That was the future Chrysler conceived when they developed turbine-powered cars through the 1950s and 60s.

Chrysler began researching turbine engines in the late 1930s and after World War II were joined by General Motors and Rover in the race to make an operational model. The benefits of being able to run a turbine powered car included fewer moving parts to their piston-powered counterparts, and the ability to run on a wide variety of fuels, including peanut oil, perfume, soybean and as proven by Mexican president Adolfo Lopez Mateos, even tequila.

By the mid-1950s Chrysler were leading the way in gas turbine research and were soon testing vehicles on long distance trips across America. Following the tests, Chrysler asked Italian design studio Ghia to design the body along with Elwood Engel and together they produced a two-door hardtop coupe, featuring power brakes, power steering and TorqueFlite transmission. The Turbine Car had a distinctive root-beer coloured paint known as ‘turbine bronze’.

Chrysler produced a limited run of 50 cars for a user program which ran from September 1964 to January 1966, which saw 203 different drivers in 133 US cities driving more than one million miles.

The test revealed some major advantages, such good engine durability, smooth operation and low maintenance costs. However, there were many more problems with the cars, including a complicated starting procedure, less than average acceleration, sub-par fuel economy and high noise levels.

After the conclusion of the user program, Chrysler destroyed nearly all of the 50, saving some for museums and in the late 1970s the turbine engine program was ended.

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