Saturday, May 24, 2014

The destruction of the Chrysler Turbine Cars

Called “one of the greatest publicity stunts in automotive history,” the Chrysler Turbine car program ranks as one of the most unique automotive experiments ever, and its story continues to captivate 50 years later.

By the spring of 1963, Chrysler’s experiments with turbine-powered cars were well known. Chrysler was the only automaker to take the next step and start to develop a turbine-powered car available to the public. In May of 1963, Chrysler not only introduced the Turbine car, it also announced that it would make 50 of the cars available for three-month-long test drives.
Turbine cars featured two-door four-passenger sedan bodies built by Ghia that shared nothing with any other Chrysler Corporation product.
Under the hood, they featured Chrysler’s fourth-generation A-381 regenerator turbine engine, good for 425-pound-feet of torque, hooked up to modified TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmissions.

Aside from the five prototypes built by Ghia, all 50 came in the same configuration: bronze paint, black vinyl top, and bronze leather interior.
Acceleration proved to be no problem to the turbine driven cars (0 - 100 km/h in approx 10 seconds), but problems were experienced by drivers. These included fuel consumption (at best around 12 mpg) and cabin heat that was being generated by the turbine motor. When Chrysler decided that it was never going to become a commercial proposition, they destroyed 40 of the prototypes, with the remaining 10 being given to museums.
"The decision to destroy the Turbine cars was pragmatic. Anything done outside of the control of the corporation could potentially create all sorts of PR headaches and diminish the good image effects from the program in the eyes of the public. Nobody wanted a bunch of those bodies running around with piston engines in them, etc., and they sure would not let them out of hand with the gas turbines still installed. Best and most logical decision – destroy them."
Jay Leno owns a Chrysler Turbine Car--one of only two running examples in private hands. Because he bought it directly from Chrysler, he is the first owner of the machine seen here: Number 34, according to a polished piece of trim located on the inner windshield.

Leno calls the Turbine Car "the most collectible post-war car ever."