Yes, There were Turbine Cars!
There used to be a time when the coolest things were built in America and one of these things was the turbine-powered automobile. Unfortunately the turbine car never went into actual production but it was close. The company that tried was Chrysler.
We learned that the Chrysler turbine was the brainchild of chief engineer George Huebner from Sheboygan Chrysler. Huebner began studying the feasibility of turbine-powered vehicles at Chrysler in the mid-1940s. The turbine engine's smoothness and durability seemed to be a viable, perhaps superior, alternative to the standard piston engine because it had few moving parts compared to a piston engine -just fan blades on a spinning shaft.
Huebner built a few ordinary-looking prototypes in the '50s, but the pilot-program cars would be driven, and seen, by the public so Elwood P. Engel, a former Ford designer, crafted an all-new,futuristic body. The bodies were hand-built by Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin, Italy, and shipped to Detroit for final assembly.
The Chrysler Turbine was not a one-off concept car. Between 1963 and 1964, Chrysler built 55 turbine cars 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.
However, the turbine automobile never went into production. The high cost was one reason. Back then you could buy a fully optioned V8-powered car for some $5000 or this "turbine car" that would have cost around $16,000. The two had about the same performance; the turbine car was rated at 130 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque, about the same as the standard V8 Model.
Despite no actual production models being made, between 1949 and 1981 Chrysler built seven different generations of turbine test vehicles. Unfortunately, the company's shaky finances, the challenge of reducing the engine's Nitrous Oxide emissions, the oil embargo of 1974 and the need to downsize cars for front-wheel drive, all hurt the Turbine's chances.
Today, the Chrysler turbine is just a footnote in automotive history and just 3 cars survive. Needless to say they are very valuable collector cars.
Photos Courtesy of: www.dudeudeworld.com.au, www.popularmechanics.com and www.hemmings.com