Chrysler Turbine car

updated 12-04-2014

The Chrysler Turbine car of 1963


The Chrysler Turbine car of 1963


This writer remembers seeing a Chrysler gas turbine car on the streets of Portland, Oregon in the early 1960’s. Actually, Chrysler Corporation made about 50 turbine cars at that time and “loaned” them out to the general public in various cities around the country.


The turbine engine is not a new concept. They have been hard at work for many, many years. They run stand-by generators, drive Army troop trains, have powered landing craft, Marine hydrofoil boats and Air Force helicopters, not to mention the fact they fly over-head every day in jet airplanes.

As far as 1946, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker predicted that nearly all cars soon would be powered by gas turbines.


Let us go back to the years 1963 and 1964 and read the headlines:

"America's First Turbine Car" Look Magazine, June 4, 1963
"Big Test - - -Chrysler's Turbine Car" Time, May 10, 1963
"Chrysler Turboflite Experimental" Motor Trend, May 1963
"Comeback in Detroit" Saturday Evening Post, May 25, 1963
"Emotion - - Key to Turbine" Science Newsletter, April 11, 1964
"Gas Turbine Car Feasible" Science Newsletter, April 4, 1963
"On the Road; Chrysler's Turbine-Powered" Car", Newsweek, December 30, 1963
"P.M. Drives Chrysler's New Gas Turbine" Popular Mechanics, July 1963
"Test-Driving a Jet;Chrysler's New Turbine Engine"
Business Week, March 28, 1964
"That's the Jet" Newsweek, November 11, 1963
"Turbine Drive" Newsweek, May 13, 1963
"Turbine in a Truck; Experimental Gas Turbine Truck"
Business Week, October 31, 1964
"Wh-o-o-o-sh, Here Comes the Turbine" Hot Rod Magazine, July 1963

Further, the turbine car was the subject of repeated nation-wide television coverage, newspaper articles . . . .even books were written about the “turbine car”.

The turbine engine has many distinct advantages over the piston engine. It has about one-fifth as many moving parts. There is only one spark plug and it is used only for starting purposes (should never need replacing). The troublesome ignition problems found in piston engines are eliminated. There is no distributor. Also, no radiator needed, because the engine is air-cooled. Turn the key and the engine fires immediately, even in sub-zero temperatures. There is no warming period required after the car is started. Turn on the heater and you get instant heat.

The car drives similar to a conventional auto. However, those who tested the car reported that the turbine operated more smoothly than the piston engine, there was less noise and less vibration.

The turbine is clean-burning engine. Carbon monoxide gas is practically non-existent, as the fuel is burning completely, this adds almost nothing to air- pollutants. Engine oil never becomes contaminated or dirty because it doesn’t come in contact with the fuel or combustion. Since there are fewer moving parts, engine oil consumption is practically eliminated. Five quarts of oil should last a life time.

The turbine is a light-weight engine, and should be expected to run 300,000 miles. The engine requires very little maintenance. (This is substantiated by the low maintenance need by the airline companies for their jets.)


Another marled advantage over the piston engine is the fact that the turbine will deliver high power while using almost any fuel will burn in a test tube. It will operate on diesel, unleaded, regular or premium gasoline, kerosene, peanut oil, French perfume or brandy. Actually, synthetic, non-fossil fuel or even “home made” fuels would propel the turbine car very nicely.

DOCUMENTATION: All of the facts and figures cited above are documented in the various reports, test results and articles already listed at the beginning of this section.


What about the extreme heat from a turbine’s exhaust ?

In 1954, George Huebner(at one time executive researcher engineer with Chrysler), “confounded the experts by developing a rotating heat exchanger to harness the heat thrown out by the exhaust This was the key to making the engine practical and efficient enough to be worth developing. ” Business Week, March 28, 1964, page 76.

On page 75 in the same magazine, there is a picture of gas station attendants with hands extended at the exhaust outlet. One report states that a kitten could sleep there and not be burned.

What about the price ?

“Chrysler claims that it can produce turbine engines that are competitive in price with their piston counterparts, if turned out in the same quantities.
– Business Week, January 6, 1962, page 37.

What was the public response to their test-driving the 50 experimental models ?

When the public first learned that Chrysler was planning to loan out theses cars for family driving., the company was flooded with mail . . . so many wanted to participate. Chrysler wanted those selected to represent the average citizen. Among those not selected were William Randolph Hearst Jr. Gen. Cutis Lemay, Ernest Borgnine and Lyndon Johnson(while he was still Vice-President).

Finally, the participants were selected on the basis of geography(one in every state), climate and road terrain.


The cars were reluctantly returned to Chrysler with rave notice from the borrowers:

“The first man to get a turbine car, Chicagoan Richard Vlaha, told Business Week: ‘I never drove anything out of Detroit like that before. It is really terrific.’ And his comments are restrained, compared to some others.

Another man reports: – – -“he can get hardly any work done at the office, everybody is so interested in the car . . . . . ”
Business Week, March 28, 1964, pages 75-76

” ‘I just wish I could buy it after the test period is over, it’s terrific,’ said Mrs. Estelle Center, a housewife in Columbus, Ohio, and one of the four “typical drivers . . . . ..”
Newsweek, December 30, 1963 , page 50


Complaints have been minor ones:

“Enthusiasm, says Anderson, hasn’t waned, to say the least.” “His test market group agrees.”
Business Week, March 28, 1964, page 83.

* * * * *


All of us identify with a David who is up against a giant Goliath. It is easy to get some people to believe that the auto manufactures or oil companies are like giant Goliath who buy-up worthwhile inventions and “lock up” the design. This is done so more gas and oil can be sold- – or more car parts can be sold – – and the rich get richer. These stories are common.

Actually, from the published record there does seem to be a grain of truth to this kind of reasoning. At times there does seem to be a “collusion” between government agency officials, the automobile manufactures and the oil companies.

However, rather than this writer offering a judgment as to the truth of these stories, let us sample the evidence – – then you be the judge.

“Chrysler is careful about its claims for the future. It is uncomfortably aware of what a major shift to gas-turbine engines would do to the auto industry’s vast investment in the piston engine and to the oil industry’s stake in high-octane fuels, is also mindful of difficulties yet unforeseen in widespread use of evidence that the public is willing to give the new engine a try.”
Time, May 10, 1963, page 90.

The public liked the turbine. It was well received.
It is a proven engine. Its wide use in aviation proves the fact.
The turbine was successfully adapted to a car. The written record between 1952 and 1965 proves that fact.
The turbine car was ready to go. Company officials state the fact.

Yet: Chrysler is “uncomfortably aware” that

1) . . .a simpler, more efficient engine would not require many parts; would require less maintenance and in the long run, less money to the auto related industry.

Also, they were aware of the fact that:

2) … .. this engine will operate on fuels other than gasoline – – – thus the oil industry’s (money) stake must be considered.

Is this Time comment an isolated one ?

Let us dig deeper.

From this point on to the end of the chapter, notice how certain high-ranking government officials, key oil companies and the automobile manufacturers are indeed closely related . . . .as someone has said,” they are cozy companions”.

Since gasoline is taxed, the more gasoline burned – – the more dollars flow into government coffers.

Read this documentation:

      "Gasoline Racket", Saturday Evening Post December 26, 1931
      "Gas Taxes!" Literary Digest June 15, 1929, page 64, 
            also February 20, 1932, page 44.
      "More Gas Taxes !!" Business Week March 5, 1929, page 10, 
            November 11, 1931 page 10, and February 10, 1932
      "One Big Union",  Business Week July 7, 1934, page 10
      "16 Oil Companies Convicted Of Fixing Gasoline Prices".       
           Senior Scholastic February 1938, page 15 and Business Week,
           January 29, 1938
      "Gas Tax Injustice Less Than 5 per cent Finds its Way into Street 
          Construction and Maintenance Programs".   August 1947, page 102
      "Truth About Gas-tax Diversion" American City, June 1949, page 5+
      "American Motorist: No.1 Tax Sucker" Coronet, August 1952, pages 40 -44
      "Airlines Protest Added Gas Tax" Aviation Week , July 18, 1955
      "Tax Revolt at the Grass-roots" U.S. News and World Report,
      April 26, 1957, page 108
      "Pilling it on, Double in a Decade" Newsweek, September 7, 1959, page 34
      "Motorist Pay More Than Their Share of Highway Costs",  
      Saturday Evening Post February 11, 1961, page 10
      "(President) Ford Weighs a Hidden Tax on Gas". Newsweek, 
       December 30,1974, Pages 48 - 49
      "Should we Sharply Increase Taxes on Gasoline ?"  Senior Scholastic
       March 13, 1975, page 10
       Telephone Call; Fall of 1977 to local Gasoline Companies: The State and 
       Federal excise taxes in Washington State are currently $0.14 per gallon!   

In 1952, the average citizen paid the same amount in various gas and automobile taxes as he did in INCOME TAXES !

“The American Motorist: No.1 Tax Sucker”, Cornet, August 1952, pages 40 – 41.

What do you think that figure is today ?

* Actually, gas and automobile “excise” taxes are simply another INCOME TAX.

Certainly the evidence proves that the government collects multi-millions of dollars from the gasoline tax.


How does the turbine car fit into this picture ? READ THESE REPORTS

      December 1939   Popular Science, pages 80 - 81 gas turbines promise 
                      new era in power
      June 13, 1942   Science News Letter, page 372 Gas turbine for airplanes
      May 1943        Popular Science, page 114 Gas turbine drives Swiss locomotive.
      June 1944       Fortune, pages 174 - 180 + Gas turbine: New prime mover.

Volume 14 of the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature (covering the years July 1943 – April 1845, page 642) contain twenty three different magazines and scientific references to the gas turbine.

      June 1946         Popular Science, page 121 Gas Turbine for autos.
      August 1946       Scientific American, also Readers Digest
                        Powdered coal feeds a turbine.
      August 1947       Popular Mechanics, page 97 General Motors auto engine
                        of the future uses 1/3 less gas.
      August 1947       Popular Science, pages 89 - 91 Super engine cuts 
                        gasoline bill.
      May 17, 1948      Newsweek, page 62 Turbine cars.
      May 29, 1948      Business Week, page 66 Gas turbine autos
      September 1948    Both Popular Mechanics and Popular Science
                        Turbines designed for cars.
      January 14, 1950  Business week, page 70 Baby gas turbines ready for 
      March 20, 1950    Newsweek, page 70 Jets on wheels.

Volume 17 of the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature (pages 780 – 781) lists some ninety- three articles and reports on gas turbines for airplanes and automobiles.

Volume 18 of the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature (covering April 1951, through March 1953) list over 100 articles and reports on the use of the turbine engine in airplane and automobiles – by both civilian and the military.

      January 23, 1954   Science News Letter, page 51 Experimental 
                         gas turbine auto.
      January 26, 1954   Look, page 15  First look at the gas turbine car.
      February 1954      Popular Science, pages 160 - 161 America's first 
                         turbo car. 

These and 13 other reports in 1953 and 1954 indicate that the turbine car was soon to be built for marketing.

      October 22,1955   Business Week, pages 83 - 84 What to do until 
                        the turbine comes. 
       July 14, 1956   Science News Letter, page 21 New gas turbine bus.

From this point on the record makes reference to many , many reports on the turbine engine written every year. We list only a few more.

April 1959 Popular Mechanics, pages 131 – 135 You’re looking at the gas turbine era!
July 1961 Popular Science, page 35 Chrysler’s turbine.
January 6, 1962 Business Week, pages 36 – 37 Turbine car for the masses?
January 15, 1962 Saturday Evening Post pages 38 – 41 I rode cross country in the turbine auto.
The year 1963 and 1964 were already referred to at the beginning of this chapter.

From One Driver’s Story : “I am Mark Olson, in 1965 my father was the 160th user of the Chrysler Turbine Car Program. … my family took possession of the Turbine Car (serial #991232) for three months.”

   April 1965      Changing Times, pages 39 - 42 Car with tomorrow's engine. 
   October 1965    Popular Science, page 88 Turbine drives  Chevy  truck. 
   February 1969   Mechanix Illustrated Turbine engine for cars. 
   September 1973  Popular Science (Another) Chrysler turbine car. 
   November 1973   Mechanix Illustrated (Another) turbine by  Ford. 


We’ve already shown proof positive that other cars have been invented which do not require gasoline as a fuel. But, for now our subject is the turbine car.

Have the auto manufactures “locked up” this invention ?

A. General Motors Company had a turbne vechile on public display as early as January 1954, pages 66 – 70, also April 1954.

This report asks the question : “How soon before we would expect to see the turbine car for sale ?” Answer : “5 to 10 years, maybe longer.”

B. In 1954, Chrysler Corporation revealed their gas-turbine engine after ” 9 years of top secret research”. See Business Week, March 29, 1954, page 67.

This report states “that Chrysler’s development may make gas turbines in cars years rather than decades away.”

C. Ford Motor Company has a turbine car and a turbine truck, See Mechanix Illustrated, May 1967, page 62 – 65 and Business Week, October 31, 1964, page 28. See picture of the vechiles.

When will this turbine car be ready for the public ?

” Top Ford officials estimate five years before turbine trucks appear on the highway, passenger cars should follow three to five years later.”

Actually, according to written evidence, the turbine car has been ready for years.

D. “A First in Automotive History : We Drove A Turbine Car Coast-To-Coast” by George J. Huebner Jr. Executive Engineer, Research, Chrysler Corporation. Popular Mechanics, June 1956.

This article shows pictures of the car, its coast-to-coast route and gives high praise for the turbine. The turbine expected to revolutionize the auto industry within 10 years.


E. “Timetable for Next Car Engine : The Gas Turbine and Its Future” Business Week, April 2, 1955, page 134+

Since the turbine car would be greatly affect the auto and oil industries, the writer of this report asks the auto manufactures and oil company officials: “When should we expect the turbine car to be available to the public?”


         1960 .................60,000 -    300,000 cars
         1965 ................264,000 -  3,900,000 
         1970 .............11,500,000 - 42,500,000 
         1975 .............48,000,000 - 62,000,000 

The report goes on to say that although the auto manufactures can now produce the turbine cars, it will usher in major changes … because the turbine car will run longer with less maintenance required.

The article points out that :
“80% of the reports submitted to the oil companies say automotive turbines are a sure thing within 10 years. Yet the report also point to the fact that the oil industry must face major changes when the turbine is mass-produced, The turbine can operate on home made fuels – – – it doesn’t need to burn gasoline.

F. Even auto parts companies began to prepare for turbine car: “Parts Makers Prepare for Turbine” Business Week, May 19, 1956, page 64.


The turbine is a proven engine that has one major drawback. It does not have to burn gasoline as a fuel !

* Oil companies refine gasoline – – they want it sold as a fuel.
* Government agencies collect taxes from gasoline – – they want it sold as a fuel.
* Politicians – – get much of their campaign funds from oil
* Auto manufacturers – – “are uncomfortably aware of what a major shift to gas-turbine engines would do to the auto industries vast investment in the piston engine. …”

We must conclude that this gas saving, oil conserving, non-polluting engine is: ON THE SHELF

see Chrysler’s 1963 Turbine bruchure

see showroom photos

see Jay’s Jet, Mopar magazine 10-27-2009


  1. … What happened after? Good luck! I’d like to find out more? I’d want to find out some additional information.

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