There used to be a time when the coolest things were built in America and one of these things was the Chrysler turbine-powered automobile. Built in 1963, it is probably not entirely coincidental that Hanna-Barbera's animated TV show The Jetsons aired from 1962 to 1963.

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

Chrysler built a few ordinary-­looking prototype turbine cars in the '50s, but the pilot-program cars for the 1960s would be driven and seen, by the public so an all-new, futuristic body was developed. The bodies were hand-built by Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin, Italy, and shipped to Detroit for installation of the turbine engine.

Chrysler built 55 turbine cars between 1963 and 1964 and 50 of these were made available for testing by 203 families nationwide. Each family kept the car for three months and, as part of the deal, the drivers recorded impressions and mileage in logbooks. The folks in the service department at (serving DC) told us that Chrysler actually had a special team of mechanics on call who would fly out and fix the cars right away if anything went wrong.

Unfortunately, the turbine never went into production.  The high cost was one reason. Back then you could buy a V8-powered Chrysler 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 too, both would get some 19mpg.