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Chrysler publicity photograph for its experimental turbine car

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Chrysler publicity photograph for its experimental turbine car
Smithsonian Institution


This object appears in the following sections:

Making Sense of "Failed" Car Technology — Experiments in a "mature" industry

Smithsonian Automobile Collection — Car collection, 1950-1969

Publicity photograph for Chrysler's experimental turbine car
Publicity photograph for Chrysler's experimental turbine car

EV1 electric automobile

Chrysler Turbine Car
Catalog #: 328,002, Accession #: 272,376
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection

In 1963-64, Chrysler built 50 automobiles to test consumer reaction to turbine cars. This car, donated to the museum in 1967, is number 45. The car bodies were built in Italy and shipped to Detroit. Two-hundred-three people test drove these cars between October 1963 and January 1966, collectively accumulating drove more than 1 million miles on the road. Four men in the Baltimore-Washington area drove the Smithsonian's car between 1964 and 1965. After the test was completed in September 1966, Chrysler Vice-President Harry E. Chesbrough claimed that the turbine engine had the “best chance of any power source now known of supplementing the piston engine in passenger cars in the future.”

Turbines were used to power aircraft; Chrysler playing up this aeronautical connection by giving the turbine car “jet-age” styling and designing the instrument panel to evoke aircraft controls. These touches helped Chrysler claim that driving the car was “an exciting new experience in motoring” even though they also reassured the public that “driving the car will be much like driving a piston-engine car with automatic transmission.” Among the potential benefits of the turbine engine, the fact that it contained fewer moving parts than traditional engines should have translated into less maintenance and a quieter ride. Nevertheless, the engine’s technological limitations, high emissions levels, and poor fuel efficiency in stop-and-go traffic killed the chances of the turbine-engine passenger car being mass produced.

Physical Description
This experimental vehicle has a 130-horsepower turbine engine. Air is drawn into the engine and compressed by a centrifugal impeller. The compressed air is heated as it passes through two regenerators (heat exchangers), one on each side of the engine. Each of the 15-inch regenerator rotors contains a brazed, stainless steel honeycomb, and each is driven mechanically by a cross shaft geared to an accessory drive. The air passes from the regenerators into a combustion chamber (located under the engine) where the fuel is injected and ignited. The hot gases then pass through the first turbine, driving the compressor and accessories, and then through the second and larger turbine (independent of the first) driving the wheels. On leaving the second turbine the gases pass through the lower pressure sides of the regenerators, where they transfer part of their heat to the incoming air. Finally they pass through twin, rectangular, aluminum exhaust ducts, from which they emerge at a maximum temperature of about 500 degrees at full power. The engine is cooled by the surrounding air and by the compressed air that passes through it. The starter/generator at the front of the engine is coupled directly to the accessory drive shaft. In starting, this unit rotates the gas generator and accessories until the engine fires and the first-stage turbine begins to accelerate under its own power. Forced lubrication is provided by a pump that uses the same oil to lubricate engine, transmission, accessory driver, and reduction gear; at the same time the pump also provides hydraulic pressure for power steering, transmission control, and variable nozzle control. The fuel—which may be kerosene, diesel fuel, or unleaded gasoline—is carried in a 21-gallon tank at the rear.

The two-door, “hardtop” body has two bucket seats in front and two in the rear. The drive shaft is housed within a hump in the floorboard that runs between the right and left seats. At the top of the raised area between the front seats is a console containing the gearshift selector, brake lever, and electrical switches for the various accessories. On the left side of the dash are three circular clusters of instruments. The left cluster contains a gauge for the turbine inlet temperature, ammeter, and oil-pressure gauge; the center one contains the speedometer and fuel gauge; and the right one contains a tachometer and clock. A push-button radio is in the center of the dash. The car has serial number 991245.

Dist of Columbia, Maryland, Michigan
Gift of Chrysler Corporation, Detroit, Michigan

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