Not long ago the coolest automobiles were built in America and a good example was the Chrysler turbine. It is probably not entirely coincidental that Hanna-Barbera's seminal animated TV show, the Jetsons, aired from 1962 to 1963 and the Chrysler Turbine premiered in 1963. True, the Jetson's animated car flew but having a jet-like turbine in a ground based car seemed like a step in that direction.

From the viewpoint of engineers, the turbine engine's smoothness and durability seemed to be a better alternative to the standard piston engine. It had few moving parts compared to piston engines, just a bunch of fan blades on a spinning shaft with one spark plug and no cooling system. It was a car manufacturers dream.

Chrysler built a few ordinary-­looking prototype turbine cars in the '50s, but for the pilot-program cars (1960s) an all-new, futuristic body was developed. The bodies were hand-built by the Italian company Carrozzeria Ghia and were shipped to Detroit for installation of the Chrysler-built turbine engine.

Chrysler built a total of 55 turbine cars between and 50 of these were made available for testing by 203 American families. Each family kept the car for three months and, as part of the deal, they recorded impressions and details in logbooks. The service guys at Earnhardt Dodge, told us that Chrysler actually had a elite team of mechanics on call who would fly out and fix the cars right away if anything went wrong.

Unfortunately, Chrysler's Jetson-like turbine car never went into production.  The high cost was one reason. Back in the early 60s you could buy a perfectly fine, reliable V8-powered car for some $5000 or this "jet-engine" car that would have cost around $16,000. Big difference in price! They also had about the same performance; the turbine car was rated at 130 hp about the same as a Chrysler's 318-cubic-inch V8. Gas mileage was the same on the highway, both would get some 19mpg. The major difference seemed to be mainlyprice.