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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Chrysler's ill-fated Turbine program went way beyond the iconic Ghia car | Hagerty Media

At the dawn of a new era, when space travel was becoming a possibility and jet-age automotive styling was all the rage, Chrysler engineers began to explore the turbine power as an alternative to piston engines. It was the beginning of a 30-year deep dive that resulted in the iconic 1963 Chrysler Turbine-and so much more.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/chryslers-ill-fated-turbine-program-went-way-beyond...
26 REPLIES 26
danio3834
Intermediate Driver

The article only briefly mentions it, but the culmination of the Chrysler turbine program, and ultimate success of it, was the M1 Abrams designed by Chrysler Defense prior to being sold to General Dynamics. The program did eventually bear a viable product (which is still in production), but just for the military.
JackVan
Intermediate Driver

The M1 uses a helicopter engine, eats fuel like crazy and doesn't have to meet emissions requirements. Other than that, it packages better than a diesel.
N4AOF
New Driver

I'm surprised that this lengthy article with so many photos completely omits any mention of the '63 Turbines that were displayed and driven at the 1965 World's Fair in New York City. Millions of people saw these cars and thousands got to ride in them. I can't believe that Chrysler doesn't have photos and videos that were taken at their pavilion at the World's Fair.
TimK
Detailer

"The Lively Set" was a 1964 movie that revolved around the Chrysler turbine car. I remember seeing and enjoying it but I was 14 at the time. I thought "Redline 5000" was a great movie too until I watched it again 20 years later. But I think it would be worth watching "The Lively Set" again, DVDs are available on ebay.
TimK
Detailer

I take it back. I just searched Ebay and Amazon and the movie isn't available.
cw
Pit Crew

Fred Wiggins (my dad) was the engineer who mated the turbine engine to the torqueflite transmission. This story and a whole lot more are on Mark Olson's site https://www.turbinecar.com/turbine.html
Huntwt
Pit Crew

I wonder what would have happened to automotive turbine engine development if they’d been allowed to continue at Indy. I believe the article is correct with respect to why turbine engines aren’t really practical for road use, but you never know.
JackVan
Intermediate Driver

Two major things stopped their use. One was the search for a hot pressed wheel to replace the machined inconel blade system. Couldn't be manufactured a the time. The second was the EPA measuring all the air coming out of the exhaust pipe. 20% was exhaust, and the rest cooling bypass air. They would not subtract the pollutants in the ambient air from their totals.
Jay
Pit Crew

The article says: "Chrysler didn’t want prototypes out on the road,” he says. “They were famous cars; they had their life. We didn’t want them to end up on a used car lot or have somebody pull out the turbine engine and put a 318 in one or a Hemi in one—and people would. So, while it’s a horrific video for anyone who cares about automotive history, the process was definitely justified.”

Gee, I'm not sure I agree. The body and interior styling were so emblematic of that jet-age era, not to mention so beautiful, that more examples deserved to survive. I understand that Chrysler couldn't sell them to the public as-is, especially with a warranty, but did they have to be crushed? Perhaps they could have been sold with their drivetrains removed.

I know I'm just dreaming here - that show cars are routinely destroyed. But I think the author, Jeff Peek, accepts Chrysler's decision to destroy most of the turbine cars a little too easily.

JackVan
Intermediate Driver

The cars were brought into the country under a waiver from the Govm't that specified how many would exist for display and history after the program ended.
Shermanator
Pit Crew

Something is wrong with "The turbine makes a modest 130 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque, idles at 18,000–22,000 rpm". I am guessing that 425 lb-ft can't be right. 425 lb-ft at 18.000 rpm would be 1457 hp. Or going the other way, 130 HP at 22000 rpm would be 31 lb-ft.
JackVan
Intermediate Driver

RPM at the wheel, hp at the the output shaft. Turbine is peak torque at stall and falls off after that. Personal experience is that on kerosene the '63 car would run even with a 4 speed, 300 hp 327 '65 Chevy Impala. Good gas was a little faster.
noah300g
Intermediate Driver

With all the listings in Hemmings and other magazines of clones, replica, and kit cars, I'm surprised that no one has ever endeavored to reproduce the amazing looks of the 63 Turbine car with a modern day drivetrain. It would be cool to have a modern 5.7/6.1/6.4/Hellcat drivetrain in one of these bodies that could be driven around much more than an original.
JackVan
Intermediate Driver

Now that limited production of replicas are allowed with full EPA and NHTSA compliance, something may happen, but the old production cars will have a higher public interest
JackVan
Intermediate Driver

without compliance. Fat fingers!
Tinkerah
Technician

I hesitate to disagree with the manager of Chrysler’s corporate archives but the reasoning for the destruction is not understandable to me. Unprofitable cars needed to be scrapped rather than risk being altered? Think about where that logic would lead in this industry. I suspect the tax write-off just made more financial sense. I caught a glimpse of two suits in the scrapyard video, I'd guess SEC agents verifying the count. They could've lumped the development costs in as well, likely a staggering amount.
JackVan
Intermediate Driver

see the answer to Jay above.
sharrya
New Driver

Back in 1963, I remember seeing articles about this car. My mom was so excited about it she applied to be one of those who could get one of them to drive for a few months!

Unfortunately she wasn’t chosen. That would have been sweet . But we did see a lot of publicity about I back then!
SJ
Instructor

Car & Driver Test.
Specifications

1963 Chrysler Turbine Car

VEHICLE TYPE
front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door coupe

ENGINE TYPE
regenerative gas turbine, iron housing with aluminum compressor, steel impeller, and aluminum-alloy turbines
Power
130 hp @ 3600 rpm on output shaft
Torque
425 lb-ft @ stall on output shaft

TRANSMISSION
3-speed automatic

CHASSIS
Suspension (F/R): control arms/live axle
Brakes (F/R): 10.0-in cast-iron drums/10.0-in cast-iron drums
Tires: Goodyear Tubeless, 7.75 x 14

DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase: 110.0 in
Length: 201.6 in
Width: 72.9 in
Height: 53.5 in
Curb weight: 3900 lb

C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 13.2 sec
Top speed: 115 mph
chrlsful
Instructor

fantastic ! Didnt no there wuz a f/u in '78. Where's the '90s or Y2K additions?
8^0
DEA
Pit Crew

I got to ride in one, I was about 10 years old when our neighbor brought one home. He was a Chrysler exec. My dad and I got a ride around the neighborhood. Have never forgotten that copper beauty.
MikeSS
Intermediate Driver

I remember seeing one in the Los Angeles area one night. It was at a stoplight next to me. That car was really futuristic looking at that time, especially next to my 58 Impala!
Vidocq
Pit Crew

So sad that such newsreels are comprised of only propaganda instead of relevant facts and figures.
02-orignal-ownr
Detailer

It was a long time ago (1963 or possibly 1964) but I remember seeing one on the street in Ft Lauderdale FL--must have been summer otherwise I wouldn't have been home from college. When I first caught a glimpse of it broadside in traffic, I thought it was a 61-63 T-bird; in profile there was a resemblance, at least at a glance. Then when I moved ahead and saw the front end, I immediately recognized it having seen pictures in the newspaper and car magazines. A view of that unique rear end confirmed it was a Turbine Car. Then i was close enough to hear that turbine whine, so there was no doubt.

This was long before cell phone cameras, and most folks didn't drive around with a camera, so all I have is the memory. But what a great memory!
AustinKyle
New Driver

Wow, what a great, fascinating piece. Hagerty, universally loved by classic car owners, does a great job of documenting these stories
Autostocks
Pit Crew

I don't understand the headline. What was "ill-fated" about the turbine program?