Chrysler's Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation

( 5 )


In 1964, Chrysler gave the world a glimpse of the future. They built a fleet of turbine cars--automobiles with jet engines--and loaned them out to members of the public. The fleet logged over a million miles; the exercise was a raging success.
            These turbine engines would run on any flammable liquid--tequila, heating oil, Chanel #5, diesel, alcohol, kerosene. If the cars had been mass produced, we might have cars ...

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In 1964, Chrysler gave the world a glimpse of the future. They built a fleet of turbine cars--automobiles with jet engines--and loaned them out to members of the public. The fleet logged over a million miles; the exercise was a raging success.
            These turbine engines would run on any flammable liquid--tequila, heating oil, Chanel #5, diesel, alcohol, kerosene. If the cars had been mass produced, we might have cars today that do not require petroleum-derived fuels. The engine was also much simpler than the piston engine--it contained one-fifth the number of moving parts and required much less maintenance. The cars had no radiators or fan belts and never needed oil changes.
             Yet Chrysler crushed and burned most of the cars two years later; the jet car's brief glory was over. Where did it all go wrong? Controversy still follows the program, and questions about how and why it was killed have never been satisfactorily answered.
            Steve Lehto has interviewed all the surviving members of the turbine car program--from the metallurgist who created the exotic metals for the interior of the engine to the test driver who drove it at Chrysler’s proving grounds for days on end. Lehto takes these first-hand accounts and weaves them into a great story about the coolest car Detroit ever produced.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Steve Lehto gives the most detailed and in-depth analysis of the men behind this amazing auto. Here is what happened to their dream of building a gas-turbine car."  —Jay Leno

"Extensive notes and a comprehensive bibliography contribute to a detailed, entertaining meander through the history of  'Detroit's Coolest Car.'"  —New York Times

"A fascinating new book."  —Vanity Fair

"The story of Chrysler’s lengthy involvement with turbine power is related with enthusiasm and in fascinating detail."  —Globe and Mail

"A fascinating example of engineering and product development . . . Motorheads will love it."  —Library Journal

"Lehto smoothly educates us on jet engine basics." —Cars & Parts

Library Journal
Can you imagine driving down the road in a car powered by a jet engine? In the 1960s, America almost got the chance. Lehto tells the story of Chrysler's project to develop a car powered by a turbine engine. Chrysler assigned many of its brightest engineers to the project, supporting them as they struggled to solve the problems created by the nontraditional motor. Part of the development was an ingenious publicity campaign that showed the vehicle was far beyond a concept car. Over 200 lucky families were loaned turbine cars for two months, and many fell in love with its smooth ride. The engine could operate on alternative fuels without modification, and unleaded gas, diesel, kerosene, tequila, and even perfume were used to run the car! So what happened? A combination of manufacturing problems, financing, and bad timing doomed the project. Car enthusiast Jay Leno, who owns one of the five remaining vehicles, provides the foreword to the book. VERDICT A fascinating example of engineering and product development. Appropriate for large public libraries and all academic libraries supporting engineering programs. Motorheads will love it.—William Baer, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib., Atlanta
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781569765494
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/1/2010
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 582,222
  • Product dimensions: 7.70 (w) x 11.80 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Lehto is an adjunct professor at University of Detroit Mercy. His book Death’s Door: The Truth Behind Michigan’s Largest Mass Murder was named a Michigan Notable book in 2007.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Jay Leno ix

Introduction xi

1 The Promise of the Jet Age 1

2 Chrysler's First "Jet" Car 10

3 The Fourth-Generation Engine: Chrysler's Viable Automotive Powerplant 31

4 The Ghia Turbine Car 40

5 The User Program: The Ultimate Public Relations Event 49

6 The Globe-Trotting Ghia 82

7 Other Ghias in America 86

8 The User Experiment 95

9 Wrap-Up of the User Program 116

10 The Beginning of Chrysler's Financial Decline 131

11 The Problem of Smog 134

12 Chrysler's Financial Troubles 157

13 Other Manufacturers and the Turbine 160

14 The Death of the Turbine Program 164

15 The Survivors 170

16 Going for a Ride in Jay Leno's Ghia 174

Epilogue 180

Acknowledgments 185

Notes 189

Bibliography 211

Index 219

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012



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  • Posted March 15, 2012

    You Car Guys and Gals Need to Read this One!!

    If you're a Car nut or even if you're not but interested in a bit of unique history in the auto industry this is a must read. The Turbine Car was a very special car in a very special time during the hey day of auto makers. This book gives you the ins and outs of the rise and fall of this "before it's time" vehicle. Steve Lehto does an excellent job and weaving this tale in an easy to follow and easy to read format. I completely enjoyed the history and the stories behind this futuristic "Jet Age" car!

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  • Posted January 1, 2012

    Highly recommended for serious car buffs

    This book is very well researched and documented. Although filled with many technical facts the book is well written and enjoyable to read. And he puts the development of the turbine car in prespective of the economic issues facing Chrysler Corporation and the growing environmental sentiments of that era. And Steve Lehto wisely does not cast blame on a single person or event, but that air quality and mileage were issues that could not be resolved in a timely manner. I liked that the author gave info on the status of the turbine cars which did survive.

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  • Posted December 7, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    I gave this as a gift, and it was a tremendous hit. This car is actually on display at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan about 20 minutes from Kalamazoo. The Turbine Car is just one of the many wonders that makes this museum worth a trip!

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  • Posted September 21, 2010

    A book I have wanted to see in print for over 40 years!

    I just finished the copy I got for review from the publisher and all I can say is Wow! Steve Lehto has done an excellent job of capturing the details and facts surrounding the Chrysler turbine program. Steve also has captured the excitement and dedication of people involved in that program. My own father was the 160th user of the consumer test of the cars and after he and I drove that car for three months we wanted to see it produced. The program ended and was almost forgotten - that is why this book needed to be written. Steve has the ability to weave a very interesting story around the facts which he is diligent about finding and recording. This is a history book but it is also very easy reading. I received my copy from the publisher and finished reading it in about five hours. The story flows from beginning to end and you are taken along for the ride. If you are a "gear head" you have to get your hands on this book as it is the very best resource available on the Chrysler turbine program from beginning to end! If you are not a "gear head" and just like a good read about technology and people who created a most unusual automobile this is a book for you too. There are some very rare photos included with the book (some color.) This book will make a great gift or purchase for anyone interested in things that should have been but were bypassed and almost forgotten. Thanks Steve for making sure we will never forget the turbine program.

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