The Chrysler Turbine Car is an automobile powered by a turbine engine which was produced by Chrysler from 1963 to 1964. Its body was made by the Italian design studio Ghia, and Chrysler completed its assembly in Detroit. The Chrysler turbine engine program that produced the Turbine Car began during the late 1930s, and created multiple prototypes that successfully completed numerous long-distance trips in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Chrysler Turbine Car
Designer: Elwood Engel
Class: Concept car
Body style: 2-door coupe
Engine: Chrysler A-831 gas turbine
Transmission: 3-speed TorqueFlit
Wheelbase: 110 in (2,794 mm)
Length: 201.6 in (5,121 mm)
Width: 72.9 in (1,852 mm)
Height: 53.5 in (1,359 mm)
Curb weight: 3,952 lb (1,793 kg)
The A-831 engines that powered the Ghia-designed Turbine Car could operate on many different fuels, required less maintenance, and lasted longer than conventional piston engines, although they were much more expensive to produce. A total of 55 cars were built: five prototypes and a limited run of 50 cars for a public user program. The car’s design was created by Elwood Engel and the Chrysler studios. A two-door hardtop coupe, it featured power brakes, power steering, and a TorqueFlite transmission, and was coated with a metallic, root beer-colored paint known as “turbine bronze”.
After testing, Chrysler conducted a user program from October 1963 to January 1966 that involved 203 individual drivers in 133 different cities across the United States cumulatively driving more than one million miles (1.6 million km). The program helped the company determine a variety of problems with the cars, notably with their complicated starting procedure, relatively unimpressive acceleration, and sub-par fuel economy and noise level. The experience also revealed key advantages of the turbine engines, including their remarkable durability, smooth operation, and relatively modest maintenance requirements.
After the conclusion of the user program in 1966, Chrysler reclaimed all of the cars and destroyed all but nine of them; Chrysler kept two cars, five are displayed at museums in the United States, and two are in private collections. Chrysler’s turbine engine program ultimately ended in 1979, largely due to the failure of the engines to meet government emissions regulations, relatively poor fuel economy, and as a prerequisite of receiving a government loan in 1979.