Since the early 1950s, Chrysler had been conducting tests with prototypes powered by a gas turbine. At the time, many manufacturers regarded the gas turbine as the car engine of the future: Fiat presented the Turbina in 1954, General Motors built the Firebird versions I (1953), II (1956) and III (1959), vehicles that visually resembled airplanes, Renault drove the Étoile Filante through a salt desert in 1954, and Rover was already involved with the JET1 in 1949/50 and the Rover-BRM from 1963 to 1965. All of these vehicles never made it past the prototype stage.
Chrysler presented a gas turbine-powered Plymouth sports coupe as an experimental vehicle in 1954. By the early 1960s, Chrysler had a handle on materials issues and manufacturing problems. The materials were resilient heat-resistant metals that were cheap to procure and easy to machine. Between 1963 and 1964, the manufacturer equipped a small series of 55 vehicles with the now fourth generation of its drive turbine and made them available to selected test drivers for evaluation. One of these vehicles has now gone to an unknown buyer – only two are in private hands worldwide.
The instruments and the front end of the center console are also said to be reminiscent of turbines.
Revs up to 45,700 rpm
The turbine reached its maximum output of 131 hp (96 kilowatts) at 36,000 rpm – with a maximum of 45,700 rpm. By way of comparison, internal combustion engines for passenger cars that rev at 7,000 rpm are already considered high-revving engines. The upper end of the reciprocating engine speed range for passenger cars is currently marked by hypercars such as the Mercedes-AMG One at 11,000 rpm and the Aston Martin Valkyrie and Gordon Murray T.50 at 11,100 rpm each – so they don’t even reach a quarter of the maximum speed of the Chrysler turbine.