Despite repeated attempts, turbine cars just never took flight driving what are chicken gizzards made from

The term “future of mobility” gets tossed around the automotive industry like chicken in a wok. It’s not new. In the 1950s, a small but growing faction inside the industry believed mobility would waft into the future with the muffled whoosh of a jet engine; several car companies tried making a favorable business case for a mass-produced turbine-powered car. None managed to pull it off, but their collective efforts and failures make for an interesting chapter in the history of alternative powertrains. Chrysler brings turbines to the public

The most famous turbine-powered car is, arguably, the one chrysler began making in 1963. Aptly called turbine, it was the fruit of a project that began in earnest in 1945, when the american firm started developing a turboprop airplane engine for the united states navy. It learned a great deal along the way and naturally began to examine the potential of stuffing a turbine in a car.Fuel economy


Testing started in the 1950s, initially on benches. Chrysler engineers encountered numerous setbacks. The turbine had a tantalizingly slow throttle response time, it burned an immense amount of fuel, and it cost a lot to manufacture. It had several advantages, too. Notably, it was smaller, lighter, and more reliable than a comparable piston engine. It polluted less, it generated fewer vibrations, it required no coolant, and it was easier to start in colder climates than the infamously-capricious gasoline-powered engines of the era.

Chrysler began testing its first turbine-powered car, a plymouth-based prototype, in 1954. Two years later, another experimental turbine-powered plymouth left the chrysler building in new york city and drove across america to the los angeles city hall. The turbine ran well during the four-day trip and required no repairs. It burned unleaded gasoline and, occasionally, diesel.

Motivated by the trip’s success, and undoubtedly encouraged by the press coverage it generated, chrysler asked its engineers to continue developing the technology with an eye on one day selling a turbine-powered car to the public.Fuel economy they ran additional tests, embarked on more road trips, and even installed a turbine in a dodge pickup. Display events organized across the united states got the public excited for what was, at the time, the future of mobility. Chrysler felt ready to shift into the next gear.

It announced plans to build 50 examples of a turbine-powered car and put them in the hands of real-world customers. Designed in-house, the gorgeous turbine looked like chrysler’s answer to the ford thunderbird. It wore model-specific turbine bronze paint and featured several fin-shaped accents that hinted at the high-tech powertrain under the hood. Inside, designers put on a stunning show of style and luxury. It wasn’t ultra-quick; chrysler remembers the 130-horsepower turbine delivered roughly the same performance as a V8 engine. It didn’t need to be, though. It was a personal luxury coupe.

Starting in 1963, chrysler hand-selected the customers who fortunate enough to test the car in real-world conditions.Automatic transmission between 1963 and 1966, precisely 203 drivers in 133 cities spread across the 48 continental states lived with the turbine for a three-month period. They got the car for free, and chrysler normally paid for expenses like service and insurance. In exchange, they needed to buy fuel and keep a detailed driving log.

At the end of the program, chrysler donated a few examples of the turbine to museums, saved a couple for its own collection, and destroyed the rest of the 50-strong production run. It continued developing the technology – it even dropped a turbine in a tank – but it never brought it to mass-production. It tried and almost succeeded, according to enthusiast website allpar.

In 1979, chrysler had finished developing a turbine-powered new yorker it planned to release in 1981. This wasn’t a test or a pilot program; it was the real deal. The firm envisioned a car buyers could conveniently purchase from their nearest dealership, one that returned about 22 miles per gallon according to america’s environmental protection agency (EPA).Fuel economy the next step was figuring out tooling.

That same year, chrysler found itself waist-deep in financial issues. It received loans from the american government in a bid to stay afloat. One of the conditions was that it had to stop its turbine program, which many argued was nothing more than a money-sucking vortex that would never bring profits. Rover goes racing

England-based rover began applying turbine technology to passenger cars after world war II. It named one of its first functional prototypes jet 1. Built in 1949, it took the form of a two-seater convertible with a design that blended rover’s understated stateliness with roadster style that would have looked at home in a posh part of los angeles. Three air intakes on either side of the car signaled the presence of a sizable turbine behind the passenger compartment.

Rover made several changes to the jet 1 in 1952 and sent the car to belgium for testing, where it reached a jaw-dropping top speed of 240 km/h.Fuel economy several issues (including high production costs and abysmal fuel economy) prevented the jet 1 from making the transition from a prototype to a production car. Rover designed and built other turbine-powered prototypes in subsequent years but none were made for public consumption.

The efforts the firm put into making jet engines road-worthy peaked during the first half of the 1960s. Rover joined forces with british racing motors (BRM) to build a turbine-powered car for the 1963 edition of the 24 hours of le mans. During its first outing, race officials considered the car an experimental racer so they let it participate in le mans without officially competing. Had it competed, it would have officially finished in eighth place.

Changes promised to make the car more competitive in 1964. Rover notably improved the turbine’s efficiency. The team decided not to participate in that year’s race because it didn’t have enough time to test the engine and the car got damaged during transport.Automatic transmission it watched on the sidelines instead.

Rover returned to le mans in 1965 with a vengeance. This time, race officials allowed the turbine-powered car to compete for a spot on the podium. They jettisoned it into the two-litre class, where it raced against successful machines like the porsche 904, the alfa romeo giulia TZ2, and, oddly, an MG B with a hardtop. Graham hill and jackie stewart took turns driving the rover-BRM to a tenth-place finish.

It never raced again, and rover left turbine engines behind to focus on stretching its line-up towards the top with more luxury cars and a V8-powered, ferrari-challenging supercar. The firm’s tie-up with jaguar under the newly-formed british leyland umbrella put an end to most of these projects, though. Executives held rover down to avoid creating internal competition for jaguar. Volkswagen’s short-lived turbine period

Volkswagen quietly jumped on the turbine bandwagon in 1964.Automatic transmission shortly after, it signed an agreement with a michigan-based company named williams research corporation (WRC) that gave it access to turn-key technology and numerous turbine-related patents. Officials in wolfsburg asked WRC to design three experimental turbines volkswagen could install in lieu of its rear-mounted flat-four engine and bolt to an existing automatic transmission.

In 1972, volkswagen announced it built a bay window bus-based prototype powered by one of WRC’s turbines. This was news. The specifications sheet listed a 75-horsepower output and a top speed of 120 km/h. The turbine shifted through an automatic transmission, though the conversion required removing the torque converter. The german firm also built squareback-based test mules.

Popular mechanics tested the GT-70 in 1974. The publication reported a zero-to-100-km/h time of approximately 15 seconds, which was acceptable for a bay window bus. It pointed out the engine was one of the cleanest-running auto engines in existence but noted fuel economy needed improvement.Fuel economy “when the turbine becomes cost-competitive with the piston engine, volkswagen will make turbine cars,” the article summed up. The time never came, however.

In the mid-1960s, british engineer ken wallis began seriously looking at building a turbine-powered race car for the indianapolis 500. He unsuccessfully tried selling the project to dan gurney and carroll shelby; neither showed an interest in moving away from a conventional piston engine. He finally found a kindred spirit when he pitched the idea to andy granatelli, the head of motor oil company STP.

Granatelli put paxton, STP’s engineering division, in charge of turning wallis’ plans into a drivable machine. Paxton decided to use a pratt & whitney turbine, the same unit that has since powered thousands of small turboprop aircrafts made by companies like de havilland and beechcraft. The design brief included placing the 550-horsepower turbine right between the axles, to the left of the driver, and sending its power to the four wheels.United states all told, the turbocar was unlike anything that had ever raced at indianapolis 500. Paxton manufactured nearly every component in-house out of fear another company would steal the design. Only the turbine and the wheels came from outside of the company.

The project started in 1966, but production issues prevented the turbocar from competing in that year’s race. It made its competition debut the following year with parnelli jones behind the wheel. He took the lead early on and remained there for most of the race. The turbocar looked set to become the very first turbine-powered model to win the indy 500, a milestone that would have certainly marked a turning point for the technology. Luck wasn’t on jones’ side; he returned to the pits with just three laps left to go after a transmission bearing failed.

The turbocar almost won; it was so close STP could taste it. The united states auto club (USAC) took notice. It reduced the turbine’s air intake area from 23.9 to 15.9 square inches, a decision made to significantly lower power outputs.Automatic transmission this was another blow to the technology, which still suffered from a lag in throttle response and fuel economy issues.

Unfazed, STP soldiered forward. While paxton designed the original turbocar in-house, it teamed up with lotus to build the wedge-shaped car it would race in 1968. Named 56, it used a pratt & whitney turbine mounted behind, not next to, the driver. Three cars competed in the 1968 edition of the race. They were driven by graham hill, joe leonard, and art pollard. Leonard set of a speed record of 171.5 mph during the qualifying session. It looked like he could win the race, but he retired after experiencing fuel pump issues. Hill crashed, while mechanical problems also took pollard out of the race.

The lotus 56 almost faced stiff competition. In 1966, shelby didn’t like the idea of embedding a jet engine into a single-seater race car. Jones’ near-success must have changed his mind, because he teamed up with wallis to march into turbine territory in 1968.Automatic transmission nothing went as planned, however.

USAC’s air intake restriction took the shelby team by surprise, making a complicated development process more difficult. Wallis’ regrettable solution was simply to cheat. Chief engineer phil remington resigned when he found out, forcing shelby to end the program and return to piston-powered cars. The team tested the two prototypes built but it never raced them.

While revisions to the lotus 56 could have made it successful in 1969, USAC introduced more regulations that made running a turbine-powered car nearly impossible. It later banned four-wheel drive, much to granatelli’s annoyance. Lotus hadn’t said its final word, though. If it couldn’t race turbines in america, it would simply pack up and try across the pond.

Period records indicate colin chapman had formula one in mind from the get-go when he designed the 56. He made the necessary modifications to the car and entered it in the 1971 season.Piston engine far too heavy, the 56B impressed only by showing the extent of its failures. It worked well on wet tracks – presumably due to its considerable weight and the four-wheel drive system – but it fell behind in dry weather. Emerson fittipaldi achieved the 56B’s best result in formula one when he finished the italian grand prix in eighth place. Unimpressed, lotus decided to deep-six the car and its turbine.