Friday Flashback: The Chrysler Turbine Cars

The internal combustion engine has been the undisputed king of motoring since the early 20th century, though automakers have constantly strived to find an alternative. Perhaps one of the best-remembered alternatives to the combustion engine was the fleet of Chrysler Turbine Cars paraded about during the 1960s. Can you imagine a world where turbine engines reigned supreme?

Chrysler built turbine-powered car, with a body designed by coachmaker Ghia, that could run on a multitude of fuels. This included diesel, gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, and veggie oil. The then-President of Mexico even attempted to run a turbine car on tequila, and was successful.

There were other benefits to the turbine engine as well, which included a spirited sprint from 0-60 mph, an instant 425 ft-lbs of torque, and a lack of many moving parts meant low maintenance. However, the turbine engines could be finicky, and while gas mileage at highway speeds was impressive, around town at low speeds the turbine engine could guzzle gas with the biggest V8s.

All told though, Chrysler had very few drawbacks from the turbine design, though ultimately the project, and most of the prototype cars, were scrapped. Just 9 turbine cars are known to survive, and only two of them are in private collections, Jay Leno owning one of these rare vehicles.

For a very brief time, it seemed as though turbine cars might unseat combustion engines as the future of automotive propulsion. As we all know, that never happened, but imagine a world where turbine cars ruled the streets? It’d be a lot more futuristic feeling, that’s for sure.


Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.