The Chrysler Turbine Car

This and That, 2013
Revised September 19, 2013


Dave Schwandt writes:

Just happened across this while sitting in the Doctor’s office this AM:


Albert Vannice writes:

I was on the Engineering College organizing committee at Michigan State U. in 1963, and I wrote Chrysler if they would bring a turbine car to the weekend exposition -- they said yes, so that was the only turbine car I've ever seen. I got to ride in it, and it sounded like a big vacuum cleaner, and it would use almost anything burnable as fuel, including perfume with alcohol in it! I was always disappointed that it never made it as it was a beautiful car. I'm glad a few are still around.


Rob Kern writes:

Hello 300'ly to all!
I remember standing outside the Chrysler Pavilion at the New York World's Fair of 1964-1965 at Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, New York City. I stood for an hour with my Dad watching 2 different colored Turbine cars being driven around the paved loop circling the pavilion. One was completely gold and another was the turbine bronze with the black vinyl roof. Later during the show inside the pavilion a white one was rolled onto the stage with great fanfare. Fast forward 3 years later and one of our Boy Scout Camp leaders was affiliated with Syracuse University's Department of Transportation studies and was telling us about his 3 month on-loan driving studies with the Turbine car. The alternative fuels that could be used with that engine was really avant guard technology that would still be highly applicable today!


Ron Kurtz writes:

I recall riding in one at New York's Worlds Fair in 1964. If I had the money, I would have bought it then and there. If I remember correctly, few survive as copies were subsequently destroyed by Chrysler.


John Nowosacki writes:

I, too, rode in one at the NY Worlds' Fair. Much better than the Mustang I also rode in at that fair. I think there are two in private hands, and one or two more in various museums, but many had to be destroyed for tax purposes. Even back then the government was messing with our fun cars!


Bob Jasinski writes:

According to the recent book (2010) "Chrysler's Turbine Car" by Steve Lehto, there were 55 built. 46 were destroyed, and per the book they weren't destroyed to avoid import tax, that's somewhat of a myth. They were destroyed because Chrysler did not want the liability exposure of having that many unique cars out there potentially in the hands of the general public that didn't have access to parts and service needed to keep them properly maintained. They also didn't want to see the engines replaced with conventional piston power either.
There are 9 left in existence. 5 of those 9 are in museums and are not operational, the fan assemblies from the gas generators were removed. There are 4 operational cars left, Chrysler has 2, Jay Leno has one (bought from Chrysler in 2009). Collector Frank Kleptz (I believe he recently died) in Ft Wayne (Terre Haute) Indiana, has the other operational car. This car was bought from Tom Monaghan, the Domino's Pizza guy, and he sold it to Kleptz at Hershey some years back reportedly for $100,000.
Of the 55 cars built, the first 5 were prototypes and as such were various colors, none of these exist. The 9 that are left are all identical cars, painted Turbine Bronze Metallic, and have identically cut ignition keys.
I wonder what Jay Leno paid for his. There are videos on YouTube if anybody has an interest, and there is an excellent Turbine Car site put together and maintained by Mark Olsen of Minnesota, who was invited by Jay Leno to come and visit his facility and take a ride in Jay's car. Mark was a kid when his Dad got a Turbine Car to test drive back in the program days.


Jamie Hyde writes:

As a young boy of seven, I got to ride in the Turbine car that came to the Rochester NY area. The head photographer for all the underwater photography development work at the Eastman Kodak Company was Neil Montanus. Neil's son Dan, and I were friends in grammar school, Neil was a car guy and for years we went to the Rochester Auto show with him as he got free VIP tickets. Turned out that Neil knew the family who got one of the Turbine cars west of our city and arranged to have it come to Penfield, NY for his son and I to ride in. I sat behind the driver seat and do not recall much about the ride other than the large tunnel down the center of the car and the neat sound it made when he took off. I think I played with the power windows switches on the ride.

As a kid you know nothing about turbine engines and we both thought it was like a jet because of the sound it made. I know we were looking behind us on the test drive to see if the cars trailing us were feeling the effects of the turbines exhaust and would be blown off the road.

When we got back to Dan's house we both scurried upstairs and grabbed the plastic car models that we were currently working on, and returned them to the idling turbine car in the driveway, as Neil spoke to the driver. We held our models under the twin exhaust pipes thinking that they would melt with the exhaust, and of course they did not. I remember in the driveway, holding the models under the pipes, that the exhaust was warm, not really hot, and had an odor like the charcoal grill after you light it, so they must have been burning kerosene or something of that order in it.

At our recent 2013 spring 300 meet I went to the ST Louis museum of transportation specifically to see one of the very few operational Turbine cars in existence. After talking to the docent in charge, and sharing my turbine car story with him, he allowed me beyond the ropes protecting the car. I was allowed to stand next to it, if I promised not to touch it. The car was supposed to have been moved last month but it would not start. The museums caretaker of the car, Mike (he keeps the keys in his pocket) was currently at Jay Leno's, as they were fabricating several spare relays for the cars. This is the reason that the ST Louis car would not start. Jay works Mike, and also worked with Frank Kleptz before he passed, to assist them in keeping the cars running.

I was told by the docent that Jay, got a spare engine for Franks car, and traveled to Franks museum in Indiana, to help make him make it operational. The St Louis car is the same one that many of our 300 club members got to ride in during the spring 1994 meet in ST. Louis. Please see Mr. Merritt's You Tube Channel with club member Dave Schwandt's narration showing the lucky riders, exiting and entering the car. The ST. Louis car did not run at first, when it was delivered to the museum, as it had no engine. Several years later when the car was on already on display the staff was doing an examination of the Museums assets when they discovered a crate in storage with the words "Chrysler" stenciled on the box. As you can guess when they opened the crate, they discovered a brand new, never ran, spare turbine engine. They still have that box, and rotate it into the turbine car display when they change it.

At my local Rochester Mopar monthly meeting June 6th I gave a trip report of our spring 300 meet in St. Louis and mentioned the Turbine car I had just seen, and my story about riding in the car as a young boy. One of our club members who at the time was a young man working at a Chrysler Plymouth dealership in our area had the honor of servicing that very car I rode in. The club member told us that Chrysler had arranged to have local dealerships service the cars under the direction of a Turbine maintenance team member. He told me all he did was check fluid levels in the rear end, transmission, power steering etc. and greased the front end components. It need nothing else done. I asked if he was allowed to drive it onto the lift and he did not recall doing it.

Bob Jasinski writes:

Burt said it was OK to share this with the group. You just can't beat getting information like this from someone who was there!

Sent: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 11:46 AM
To: Bob Jasinski


You are right. There were two reasons we destroyed the cars:
1. To avoid Chrysler’s responsibility to support 50 vehicles in customer hands.
2. To get the bond back that Chrysler had to post to import the cars without paying import duty. I don't know the size of the bond but it was based on vehicle cost, which was substantial.
I was Chief Engineer of Vehicle Planning from 1962 to 1964 and the management didn’t know where to assign the responsibility for coordinating vendor body build (at Ghia in Italy) so they assigned it to my office. I had two people doing that follow-up – Dave Cahoe in the USA and Paul Farrago (sp?) in Italy. Follow-up means scheduling of parts shipments to Ghia, scheduling vehicle build at Ghia and scheduling complete body shipments to the USA – and shagging parts sometimes.
I drove turbine cars overnight/weekends several times. It was fun. I always cruised Woodward Avenue in the evening because the turbine car drove the performance car driver’s nuts. After idling through Ted’s Drive-In (Square Lake and Woodward) I usually had a caravan of cars following me – and challenging me to a drag race on Woodward Ave. I resisted because I knew that I would lose because most of these cars were modified and tuned for 1/4 mile drag racing.
I also awarded two turbine cars in the 90 day consumer research program. One in Indianapolis (I think?) and one in Jackson, Mississippi. They were mostly publicity events with local TV and newspaper reporters present. All Chrysler learned from the 200 respondents was that people loved the turbine car – especially because it was unique looking and free. And...the respondents became celebrities in their community.
Burt Bouwkamp


Rick Clapham writes:

All; In 1981 WPC meet in Troy Michigan, We ventured over to Highland Park to Check out the Chrysler Engineering Division, after the tour we came out and found a black 300F coupe and a Bronze turbine Giving rides. The sound was very similar to mom's old Hoover carpet Vacuum cleaner. I did not get a ride at that time. I was introduced to Mike and Noel Arbuckle at that time. They had a 62 300 four door HT.
In 1983 Sam Molina and My family went to Falon Nevada for the wife's family reunion. with the joint WPC and Chrysler 300 Meet at Lake Tahoe. We met our old friends and went to some of the seminars presented. The one I really remember was one presented be George Stecher or Stecker whom had worked in the Turbine Program. His presentation was terrific. At that time the Turbine Program had been terminated, I think he said 1979. He had been a mechanic and even drove cars for testing. An interesting story he told Sam and I after a few, drinks was... He was a member of the Screen Actors Guild, he had to join to be able to be on the movie set that the white turbine car was filmed. He actually drove the car in most of the scenes. The Lively Set movie, I had not seen at that time. Sam Molina remembered seeing the movie. George said the car was painted white so the damage to the body was less noticeable. He was absolutely distraught about the destruction of the cars and the dissolution of the Turbine Car Program.


Gil Cunningham writes:

Thanks, Bob, for the Turbine information. Excellent. While working at the Proving Grounds in those years, I saw a number of Turbines going in and out of the road test garage. For some reason, I never asked for a ride. (I was in the Truck Experimental department, and a new hire---didn't want to "fool" around, I guess!) I do remember seeing the one which was all bronze (no vinyl roof) several times. Never saw the white one, though.


Gary Runkle writes:

What a great idea with great execution, Bob!

And for people who can't get enough of the history, I have a tiny factoid to add. There is one front view of the car and I can easily identify exactly where this picture was taken. It was taken on the ramp to the parking deck of Detroit's Cobo Hall.

This ramp has a very distinctive corkscrew construction that is about 3 stories tall. Notice in the bottom of the pic of the parking ramp, there is a long tube covered with port holes. You can match up those same port holes in background of the car picture.

That port-holed tube is a walk way for the parking garage at the Joe Louis Arena. Construction on that arena started in 1977 and completed in 1979, so I would say the car pic could not be older than 1980. Below is a ground level shot 180 degrees from where the car pic was taken.

So how's that for minutia!!!
Thanks again for slingin' the new web page for us.


Tony Rinaldi writes:

Consider adding this photo of the designer Engel with the Dodge Charger Turbine concept vehicle. They were to make 500 of them. Acceleration lag, poor gas mileage and upcoming pollution regulations killed the project. The design went on to be the 1966 Dodge Charger.

It might be a surprise to hear this turbine engine is Chrysler’s fourth generation turbine design.
Chrysler’s first turbine car was back in 1954, in a Plymouth.
Subsequent turbine cars and engines included a 1955, 56, 59, and 60 Plymouth, a 62 Dodge, even a 1960 Dodge two and a half ton truck.



Type: Regenerative gas turbine

*Rated Output:

Power – 130 bhp @ 3,600 rpm

Torque – 425 lb-ft @ zero output shaft speed

Weight: 410 lbs

Basic Engine Dimensions (without accessories)

Length – 25.0”

Width – 25.5”

Height – 27.5”

With current accessories in place, the over all length is 35”

Fuels: Unleaded gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, JP-4 etc.


Compressor: Type – One stage centrifugal

Pressure ratio 4/1, 80% efficiency

First Stage Turbine: Type – one stage axial, 87% efficiency

Second Stage Turbine: – one stage axial, 84% efficiency

Regenerator: Type – Two rotating disks, 90% effectiveness.

BurnerL Type – Single can, reverse flow, 95% efficiency

*Design Point Characteristics

Maximum Gas Generator Speed – 44,600 RPM

Maximum Second Stage Turbine Speed – 45,700 RPM

Maximum Output Speed (after reduction gears) –4,680 RPM

Maximum Regenerator Speed – 22 RPM

Compressor Air Flow – 2.2 lb/sec

First Stage Turbine Inlet Temperature – 1,7000 F

Exhaust Temperature (full power) – 525o F

Temperature at Idle – 180o F

* Ambient conditions: Temperature 85oF; Barometric Pressure 29.92 in. Hg

Chrysler exhibits at the 1964 World's Fair

Equipped with power brakes, the master cylinder has an air booster.
Air pressure is sourced from an electric compressor.

No air conditioning was available. Turbine exhaust heat was used for the heater.
Since turbine engines have no vacuum, the console heater controls worked with air pressure.
The engine, transmission, and front suspension is removed as a unit for easy servicing.

The Turbine Car did not use torsion bar suspension.

110" wheelbase. 3,900 pound curb weight. 3.23 rear axle. 7.50 x 14 tires. 21 gallon fuel tank.