Chrysler turbine engines

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Engine compartment of a 1963 Chrysler Turbine automobile

The Chrysler turbine engine is a series of gas turbine engines developed by Chrysler intended to be used in road vehicles.


Research into designing and building a functional gas turbine engine began before the United States entered World War II,[citation needed] with experimental and test engines first being operated in 1954. George Huebner and his group of research engineers were convinced that the engine was a viable project. It had challenges like fuel consumption had to be in the same range as standard reciprocating engines, components needed to be reduced in size and increased in efficiency, noise had to be reduced, acceleration time lag needed to be reduced and engine braking had to be introduced into the overall function.[1] Additionally, new high-temperature materials needed to be developed, yet be inexpensive enough to keep the vehicle cost the equivalent of other vehicles of the time.

The benefits of turbine engines as explained by Chrysler engineers were reduced maintenance, longer engine life expectancy, large development potential, overall parts reduction of approximately 80% (60 parts rather than 300),[2] requirements for tune ups nearly eliminated, low temperature starting difficulties eliminated and no warm up needed, antifreeze is not required, interior heat is available instantly in winter, no engine stalling with sudden overload, engine operates without vibration, oil consumption is negligible, reduced engine weight, exhaust gases are cool and less pollutant, and most importantly, a wide range of combustible fuels may be employed as a replacement for petroleum gasoline.[1]


The first successful test of a gas turbine engine in a car (CR1) took place in 1954 at Chrysler's testing grounds.[1] In 1956, the first successful cross-country trip using a turbine-engined car took place.[1]

Further engineering work resulted in the second generation (CR2), which improved fuel economy and increased horsepower.[1]

In 1961, a third-generation engine (CR2A) was installed in a 1962 Dodge Dart, which successfully drove from New York City to Los Angeles, through snowstorms, rain and heavy winds.[1]

The fourth-generation engine, installed in the Chrysler Turbine Car, was put into use in 1963. This engine runs at up to 44,500 revolutions per minute, according to the owner's manual,[3] and could operate using diesel fuel, unleaded gasoline, kerosene, JP-4 jet fuel, and even vegetable oil. The engine can run on virtually anything with combustible properties and "Chrysler claimed the turbine could gulp everything from peanut oil to Chanel No. 5."[4] The President of Mexico tested this theory by running one of the first cars—successfully—on tequila, after Chrysler engineers confirmed that the car would operate successfully.[5] No air/fuel adjustments are required to switch from one fuel type to another and the only evidence of which fuel was used is the odor of the exhaust.

The turbine spins on simple sleeve bearings for vibration-free running. Its simplicity offers the potential for long life, and because no combustion contaminants enter engine oil, no oil changes are considered necessary. The 1963 Turbine's engine generated 130 brake horsepower (97 kW; 132 PS) and an instant 425 pound force-feet (576 N⋅m) of torque at stall speed, making it good for 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) in 12 seconds at an ambient temperature of 85 °F (29 °C)—it can sprint quicker if the ambient air was cooler and denser.

The lack of many moving parts and the lack of liquid coolant eases maintenance, while the exhaust does not contain carbon monoxide, unburned carbon, or raw hydrocarbons. Nevertheless, the turbine generates nitrogen oxides and the challenge of limiting them proved an ongoing problem throughout development.

The power turbine is connected, without a torque converter, through a gear reduction unit to an only moderately modified TorqueFlite automatic transmission. The flow of the combustion gases between the gas generator and free power turbine provides the same functionality as a torque converter but without using a conventional liquid medium. Twin rotating recuperators transfer exhaust heat to the inlet air, greatly improving fuel economy. Varying stator blades prevent excessive top end speeds, and provide engine braking on deceleration.

Throttle lag and exhaust gas temperatures at idle plagued generations 1 and 2; Chrysler was able to remedy or mitigate these to some degree. Acceleration lag, however, remained a problem, and fuel consumption was excessive, although it improved with each generation. Acceleration was excellent provided the turbine was spun up (by applying power) prior to releasing the brakes. The Turbine Car also featured a fully stainless steel exhaust system, the exits of which were flat in cross section. This was intended to spread the exhaust gases thinly and thus cool them further, in order to allow the vehicle to stand in traffic without risking damage to following traffic. The combustor, or burner, was primitive by the standards of modern turbojet engines. A single reverse-flow canister featuring a more-or-less standard spark plug for ignition was employed. Had the engine been further developed, annular combustion chambers along with a second power turbine might have improved power and economy even more. The transmission has an "idle" position instead of "neutral".[6]

After the user testing period completed, Chrysler collected all of the cars, destroying, or sending the remaining examples to museums.

Later development and project end[edit]

Chrysler's turbine engine program did not end with the Chrysler Turbine Car. A new coupe body, which was to become the 1966 Dodge Charger was considered for a new fifth-generation turbine engine. However, Chrysler went on to develop a sixth generation gas-turbine engine which finally met US nitrogen oxide regulations, and installed it in a 1966 Dodge Coronet, though it was never introduced to the public.

A smaller, lighter, seventh generation engine was produced in the early 1970s, when the company received a grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for further development, and a one-off, special bodied, turbine Chrysler LeBaron was built in 1977 as a prelude to a production run. However, by 1978 the company was encountering significant financial difficulties and new CEO Lee Iacocca needed U.S. government loan guarantees to avoid bankruptcy. A government condition of that 1979 deal was that the gas-turbine program be abandoned because they believed it was "too risky" for an auto company of Chrysler's size.

While Chrysler's work with turbine engines never paid off in the retail automobile sector, the experiments proved fruitful with the incorporation of a Honeywell AGT1500 into a slightly different product, the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, developed in the late 1970s by Chrysler Defense (which was later sold to General Dynamics).

Engine series[edit]

  • CR1 1954–1956: Plymouth Belvedere 4-door
    • ~100 hp (75 kW)
    • No engine braking
    • Slow spool up
  • CR2 1956–1957: 1956 Plymouth Belvedere, 1957 Plymouth Fury
    • Better regenerator
    • Better fuel economy (18 US mpg)
  • CR2A 1960–1962: 1960 Plymouth Fury, 1962 Plymouth Fury (2), 1962 Dodge Dart (2), 1961 Dodge 2½ ton stake
    • Turboflite show car
    • 140 hp (104 kW), 375 lbf·ft (508 N·m)
    • Adjustable nozzle blades
  • A831 1963–1966: 1963 Chrysler Turbine Cars (50)
    • 130 hp (97 kW), 425 lbf·ft (576 N·m)
    • Much less lag
    • 50 cars + 5 prototypes. All but nine were destroyed.
    • Surviving examples, location and operational status[7]
  • A875 1964: 1964 Plymouth Furys (2)
    • Same as A831 but with larger regenerators
  • Gen6 1964–1973: Prototype Dodge Charger, 1966 Dodge Coronet, 1973 B-Body sedans (3)
    • Same as A875 but with split accessory drive
  • Gen7 Coupe 1977: 1976 4-door Dodge Aspen (3), Concept F-body 79 Mirada, Concept 1980 Chrysler Lebaron
    • 104 hp (78 kW) (could be raised to 125 hp (93 kW))


  1. ^ a b c d e f Zatz, David (2000). "Chrysler turbine engines and cars". Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  2. ^ Technical Information, Engineering Office (January 1979). "History of Chrysler Corporation gad turbine vehicles" (PDF). Chrysler Corporation. Retrieved 2012-04-02.
  3. ^ "Turbine Driver's Guide". Chrysler Corporation. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
  4. ^ Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (11 November 2007). "1950s and 1960s Chrysler Turbine Concept Cars". Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  5. ^ Lehto, Steve (October 2, 2010). Chrysler's Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation. Chicago Review Press. p. 84. ISBN 1569767718.
  6. ^ "1963 Chrysler Turbine Car Drivers Guide, page 11". Retrieved 2012-04-02.
  7. ^ Lehto, Steve (2010). Chrysler's Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-1-56976-549-4.

See also[edit]