<VV> Why Chrysler abandoned the turbine (No Corvair)

Tony Underwood tony.underwood at cox.net
Sat Dec 25 12:46:00 EST 2010

At 08:04 AM 12/24/2010, Ken Pepke wrote:

>I wish my brother had given me a ride in the 54 Plymouth ... but he 
>did not.  I stood on the sidewalk while he started the motor, 
>shifted it into gear [not sure what it used for a transmission], and 
>almost instantly it left the curb like Bugs Bunny leaving a long 
>black stripe more than half way to the stop sign at the end of the 
>block ... never saw another Plymouth as fast.  In the second between 
>starting and moving it made a low to high whistle then all I could 
>hear was the tire squealing.
>Ken P
>Begin forwarded message:
> > From: "Bill H." <gojoe283 at yahoo.com>
> > Date: December 23, 2010 9:59:00 PM EST
> > To: virtualvairs at corvair.org
> > Subject: <VV> Why Chrysler abandoned the turbine (No Corvair)
> >
> >                                        B"H
> >
> > Based on my research, you guys hit the nail on the 
> head.  However, a Chrysler enginner was able to peel away and beat 
> any piston engined car with the '63 Chrysler Turbine car.  Here's what he did:
> >
> > 1.  Plant foot firmly on the brake and hold it there
> > 2.  Mash the accelerator to the floor, getting the engine up to 
> around 50-60,000 RPM
> > 3.  Release the brake.
> >
> > Nothing could beat it, and certainly Chrysler never told any of 
> the drivers to do that!!!

This wasn't common knowledge.   The cars sent out to the public were 
treated like rentals by their drivers (mostly) who weren't real keen 
on damaging anything by tear-assing around with a car that didn't 
belong to them.   The engineers doing the testing weren't restricted 
by such nice mannered driving habits.

They ran the HELL out of the turbine cars they tested in attempts to 
run them into the ground, or destruction, whichever came first.

One of the tricks was overcoming that turbine lag, via a brake-launch 
as described above.   Stand on the brake and throttle, when the 
engine spooled up release the brake and tire smoke happened until the 
car caught up with the spinning tires.  Again, those engines 
delivered a LOT of torque across a fairly wide powerband.   When 
pressed hard they worked hard.  I saw some faded B&W photos of some 
of the test runs with a turbine car leaving LONG stretches of black 
marks behind it as it took off down the track.  Agreed, tires then 
were seldom wider than 6 inches but even so, they still went up in 
smoke during those full-on launches.

> > The REAL tragedy was the willful destruction of those gorgeous 
> copper Ghia-built '63 Turbine Cars.  Only 9 remain out of a total 
> of 51 or so that were built.

Agreed... but back then Chrysler has greater ambitions in mind for 
the future, and as beautiful as those '63 turbine cars were, Mama 
Mopar had something better in mind and the '63 cars were simply 
regarded as pretty much expendable stepping stones that were to lead 
to a full blown new and improved production turbine powered 
car.   Unfortunately, events came along that waylaid such plans.

> > Part of the lousy fuel mileage was due to people who idled the 
> car to show off to their friends and neighbors.  Chrylser got 18 
> mpg on a cross-country tour using a '59 Plyouth turbine, and 
> certainly the '63, which had an improved version of the engine, 
> would have done better...

Jay Leno has a turbine car and has stated more than once that it can 
eek out 20 mpg highway but around town it sucks, getting large-engine 
musclecar mileage in stop and go driving.   Now, to be fair, in 1963 
there wasn't that much of a fanfare on gas mileage for most cars 
although the turbine car did attract some attention with its in-town 
thirst.  But highway, it was comparable with other full size sedans 
of its time with economy figures that simply weren't bad.   But in 
town... you had to drive with an egg under your foot to manage 6-7 
mpg.   Some claimed as much as 10... which was questionable.  ;)

I suppose it WAS a good thing that gasoline (even "white gas") then 
was selling for around a quarter per gallon and kerosene even less.


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