Chrysler Turbine car

February 20, 2010

updated 09-08-2013

The Chrysler Turbine car of 1963

THE CHRYSLER TURBINE CAR, History

The Chrysler Turbine car of 1963

THE CHRYSLER TURBINE CAR, History

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

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.

TURN BACK THE CALENDAR

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.)

FUEL

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.

MOST OFTEN ASKED QUESTIONS

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.

RESULTS

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

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.

* * * * *

WHERE IS THE TURBINE CAR ?


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.

NOW

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 
                        marketing.
      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. Here is a Chrysler publicity shot taken on May 13th 1965, the day that 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. 

A CLOSER LOOK

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.

TIME TABLE

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?”

THEY ESTIMATE by

         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.

CONCLUSION

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

14 Responses to Chrysler Turbine car

  1. Oscar on August 20, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    When do the big corporation are going to let the world free, Like everything I read, there are in all times a big concept that can change the globe but the only one that is strong is the “Power over the Money”. Nice blog,thanks for the info
    Oscar Fernandez


    They have the power and $$ for sure and won’t let go. But we have entered the Aquarian Age which in addition to the Mayan calendar and other predictions, even the Bible speaks of a thousand years of world peace. So it looks like they won’t have a choice. Things will change eventually and it will be for a long time once it does.

  2. Steve on June 17, 2013 at 5:55 am

    Well it looks like I am older than I thought. It turns out that the STP turbine car led 171 laps of the 200 lap race. there were some wrecks toward the end of the race causing some positions changes and then the the turbine car ended up breaking a $6 transmission part. For a good recap of the car and the race, see the link below.
    http://www.autopuzzles.com/Indy1967.htm

  3. Steve on June 14, 2013 at 7:17 am

    In 1971 I was 18 years old so I was getting very interested in cars at that time. I never had any idea that the turbine engine car was so viable, as documented here. just goes to show how much they can spread their misinformation. For 30 years people have been asking wouldn’t the exhaust be too hot? I never realized that Chrysler so thoroughly solved that problem. Once again I am a victim of there misinformation. Now, something not mentioned here yet has been the turbine powered Formula 1 ‘STP’ (oil additive) STP race car that was run by Andy Granatelli which won the Indianapolis 500. 500 that was probably around 1974. It had an abundance of power.
    Well above the piston race cars. The following year the race officials limited the intake allowed on turbine race cars and that basically ended the opportunity for turbine powered race cars from that moment forward. Now here is another little known fact. Around 1975 a trucking company out of Georgia had two turbine powered over the road trucks (OTR). The the company was Terminal Transport. I was working on the freight docks in those days but we had a Terminal Transport facility right next to our facility. I personally never saw one of the trucks but the two things that were well known about them among the OTR drivers was that these two trucks could pass anything on the road and could fly past you going up a mountain grade. The second thing known was that they kept tearing out transmissions. If you think about it that makes perfect sense evidently these engines produced much more torque than the transmissions were designed to handle.
    Gosh it’s fun to bring some information to the conversations that nobody else knows. Especially the turbine powered trucks from Terminal Transport. If anyone else on this site knows about them, I’ll give ya a hundred bucks when I see ya! TT has been out of business since 1980 ish. I will do some Google search and see if I can post a couple links.

  4. Pedro on March 17, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Please send me information , thank you
    Pedro


    Read this page then do a google search if needed.
    -ed.

  5. wayne dennis on March 9, 2013 at 8:18 am

    what was the mpg on the 63 turbine car?


    you should have read above that it was “a simpler, more efficient engine”.
    Enough said.
    -ed.

  6. sam on January 28, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    no chance read about ronnmotors.com then the unexpected sudden death of fridget air conditioning CEO. That texas CEO invested in ronmotors and was to produce the hydrogen generator,then the stocks of Ronn motors crashed.Yes it is on the net check this fast because they forgot to remove this info. Also check Tom Ogle of El Paso Tx his chrysler got over 100 MPG then this young inventor mechanic was found DEAD!!!
    Tis strange how so many people who are against the system die in Texas, well not only in Texas.


    People might read our pages on Tom Ogle. A tragedy.
    -ed.

  7. Scott Burrell on January 19, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    what are frictionless bearings how do they work? for instance in Nasa why not used today?
    2.) if one were to produce molecular energy based on a frictionless bearing , would it be a proton to neutron accelertor or just like the magnetic variance of matter? Sort of like fusion howver more like vasmir ,,, have any insight on that . no ,,moving parts ar say for instance ,mercury gas vortex . Thanks
    S. Burrell, Nevada


    Read up on your terms before you go throwing them around helter-skelter, creating nonsense.
    -ed

  8. norman demers on January 11, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    I’m sure the oil boys put the kibosh on the turbine. Lets try it
    again. It will save on oil changes alone. I’ll buy one right
    away. Nice part ( no maintenance )

  9. kalleguld on September 21, 2012 at 10:51 am

    There is no mention of fuel economy. This, coupled with the time (right around the oil crisis), looks to me like the answer. And somehow, you “forget” to mention that.

    Also, if if “not driving on petro-products” is such a huge deal, why don’t more people use diesel engines? They run fine on old, filtered frying oil.


    like the turbine and the Diesel, from the very beginning, Henry Ford’s Model T Ford ran … “on moonshine, gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel — about anything you can put a match to.”

  10. Wendell Lee Ferrell on August 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    There are MANY ways to help people. To me the main way to save fuel is with a hho generator and a gasoline vaporizer.

  11. Muhammad Munir Khan on June 27, 2012 at 2:13 am

    It is really amazing the “gas turbine engine” in a car. Running on Peanut Oil or Kerosene Oil. Will it be possible for Chrysler to write about the latest position/achievements.

  12. Lyle on November 1, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    I first saw a Chrysler (or Plymouth) on highway 9 near Clifton, Kansas in the summer of 1948. I was driving a small tractor pulling a trailer of freshly harvested wheat. It passed me and then stopped. I pulled up behind it and then it proceeded on its way. However, I could read the Plymoth turbine label and could smell the exhaust, recognising it as kerosene which we used on the farm. It had a large 10 inch round exhaust coming out where the rear trunk would be located. I thought at the time that this would be the next new thing in automobile design.


    As far back as 1948, wow! Yours and Michael’s stories are both interesting. Also, did you see the stories of others experiences over on the “Jay’s Jet” post. One rode in the car Jay now owns.

  13. Michael on September 27, 2010 at 2:36 am

    I got to ride in a ’63 Chrysler turbine car given to a friend of mine’s father for testing. I lived in Royal Oak, MI, can’t remember friend’s name or where he lived, but was nearby Royal Oak. I thought the ride was spectacular, comfy, I missed the sound of a big V8, but I was in 8th grade and just diving into Hot Rod magazine. Later, I would be involved with Woodward Ave. racers, a carb specialist, not a driver. We kept waiting to see when turbines would take over. They were slow off the line, like today’s cars, ha, perfectly acceptable now. My friend’s dad tried the peanut oil fuel trick, it worked! Would love to own one! Thank you.

  14. Richard on July 27, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    If Chrysler could of went into production in 1977, then I say they should do it now. bring back the Chrysler turbine. the public will love them and screw the oil companies and let us drive a car that really work to go green. they have the right idea.
    Richard Sailors

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