The Chrysler Turbine Car and why it's the cover of this page

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Chrysler, the smallest of the "Big Three" in Detroit, lagged behind GM and Ford at the time, as they were much more modern and with a crisp, attractive portfolio. Auburn Hills had some catching up to do, and so the idea was born to provide the answer to a question that nobody had actually asked: a car with a gas turbine drive that runs extremely smoothly, as a by-product with fewer pollutant emissions (apart from NOx emissions like a small town) and came along as an omnivore.

The 1963 Chrysler Turbine Car was a child of its time when the spirit was  “ the sky is the limit of progess! ".

After all, at around the same time, kids around the world were watching the British science fiction series "Thunderbirds" with great enthusiasm, and NASA still had the status of a modern technology religion.

Regardless of whether gasoline, diesel, kerosene or turpentine: the turbine could be operated with any flammable liquid!

Adolfo López Mateos, the then President of Mexico even ran one of the first cars with tequila !

So a small series of 50 "series" vehicles plus 5 prototypes were put on, which were distributed to "real" customers for test purposes for everyday use from the end of 1963. The bodies were built according to the design of the Chrysler design department under Elwood Engel at Ghia in Italy, in order to then celebrate the wedding with the futuristic drive train in the USA. The technology was so fancy that the design had to be just as breathtaking. Chrysler succeeded in this - and the accompanying media presence - as well as Elon Musk recently with the Tesla Cyber-Truck ...

 

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After hundreds of thousands of test kilometers; or miles and after consultation with the volunteers behind the wheel, the conclusion was reached that this car could not be sold to customers due to the long start-up time of the turbine, problems in operation with the fluctuating of outside temperatures, the exorbitant fuel-consumption and the driving noise of a vacuum cleaner. Therefore the idea was quickly rejected again. With the exception of a few examples, all Turbine Cars were scrapped. The American late-night talker and legendary car collector Jay Leno owns one of the few survivours.

To this day, the car is considered a milestone in automotive technology and design history - but due to its lack of suitability for everyday use, it never caught on in series production and therefore never had a successor suitable for customers.

 

What does all of this have to do with alternative energies, electromobility and Jatropha Oil?

 

On the one hand, the turbine could actually be operated with Jatropha Oil without any problems, which would give the turbine car a significantly improved (and posthumous) carbon footprint. On the other hand - and this is actually what it is about - the Turbine Car can justifiably be called a "failure with respect to every aspect" , which would establish the reference to some of the vehicles currently offered by German traditional brands ...

 

It is a historical symbol of what happens when the industry - for whatever reason - tries to establish a semi-cooked product that no one has asked for, without any demand from the market, furthermore without sensible market research, and that actually has no advantages over mature technology with additional development potential. The few advantages, such as the smooth running, are cannibalized elsewhere by massive losses.

 

We are similarly critical of the attempt to establish electromobility on the market as a stand-alone alternative to the combustion engine, without even considering other technical solutions. In the meantime, e-mobility is much more advanced than the development of the turbine car at the time, but that does not mean that it has a global benefit for decarbonization. It is never too late to take a bold step on the brakes and turn to pragmatic, technology-open actions! After all, it is about our climate, which will not be saved by Turbine Cars or half-baked electric cars with "green" electricity that is not available in sufficient quantities.