1963 Chrysler Turbine car: simplistic engine power
Chrysler brought about an interesting car in 1963 that derived from an engine idea used for aircraft. It was called the Chrysler Turbine Car. This car gave a better ride, quicker start, and excellent acceleration. Below are details about the workings of this car and its fascinating engine and a little about whom created it.
Making the connection
Chrysler Corporation had developed an aircraft gas turbine engine, but had to consider many radical differences towards designing an automotive gas turbine engine.
To be functional, the automotive gas turbine engine had to be constructed by mass production techniques, using readily available and inexpensive materials. The turbine engine also had to compete with the piston engine. Three different systems were initially designed, and the engine was road and lab tested extensively. The engine had two stages in which the first turbine drove the compressor; the second turbine drove the wheels. The turbine engine needed to be compact and lightweight and had to cool the exhaust. It had to have a prompt response at all speeds, and needed to provide engine "braking." It also needed to have low fuel consumption.
Chrysler engineers developed an efficient regenerator system to cool the exhaust and also to reduce the fuel usage. Regenerators were twin rotating heat exchangers that transferred exhaust heat to the inlet air, improving fuel usage. Varied stator blades prevented excessive top-end speed and provided engine braking at deceleration.
A variable nozzle mechanism was perfected, which provided engine braking, faster acceleration, and better fuel economy. Working with abundant non-strategic materials, Chrysler Corporation metallurgists created new, inexpensive alloys, which were higher in strength and heat resistance.
Comparing to the windmill
The basic principle of turbine engine power is one of the oldest in the world. An example of the turbine engine is the windmill. The windmill is driven by surrounding air, which turns to grind the mill below.
The more sophisticated turbine engine has to generate its own wind by drawing air in through a compressor, heating the air to form hot, rushing gas, and then directing the gas back against the turbine wheels. The turning turbines transmit power through drive shafts on to the vehicle and all its accessories.
The Turbine car benefits
The Chrysler Corporation Turbine car was powered with a twin regenerator gas turbine engine, coupled to a modified Torque-Flight three-speed automatic transmission (without a Torque converter). This developed the 130 horsepower or the equivalent to a 200-horsepower V-8 engine performance at approximately half the weight and only a fifth of the moving parts. It was quieter and smoother. It had less vibrating, less friction, less maintenance, no conventional tune-up, little oil usage, a cooler exhaust, and cleaner exhaust emission. Since the turbine engine had very little vibration or friction and few working parts, its major components were longer lasting.
The turbine engine gave an immediate start, even in sub-zero temperatures, with no warm-up needed. There was no radiator or anti-freeze. It was a self-cooled engine. The turbine engine provided braking action in comparison to a piston engine with an automatic transmission. The turbine engine would not stall, even with an excessive load condition. It had excellent acceleration, an exciting response, and maximum breakaway torque.
Great fuel economy
With no pistons or valve gear, the turbine used only one spark plug for igniting fuel in the combustion chamber. The turbine engine had comparable fuel economy to the piston engine, but operated on a wide variety of fuels, such as white gas, diesel oil, JP 4 aircraft engine fuel, kerosene, and several other mixtures of these fuels. The fluid coupling between the combustion gases and power turbine provided the same function as with a torque converter, but without the conventional liquid medium. There was no adjustment needed between fuels.
The designers and the design
The turbine engine design was directed by Elwood P. Engel, who had previously worked with Ford Motor Company. The car's design is credited to Charles Mashigan. The luxurious, elegant four-passenger, two-door hardtop Coupe Turbine car was handcrafted by Ghia of Italy.
The body was a metallic bronze "Frostfire Metallic" finish, which was later called "Turbine Bronze." It had a contrasting black vinyl top. It featured two horizontal taillights and back up lights, which were housed in ribbed tubes (nozzles), the singular tubular headlight mounted in chrome nacelles with the turbine styling theme, bladed wheel covers, a special tire design, and a dramatic swept back rear. It also had a sculpted heavy chrome bumper. All these combined provided a striking, smooth-flowing and sculptured automobile.
A tubular aluminum console between the seats from front to rear continued the turbine motif. The four individual, deep bucket seats had copper colored "English Calfskin" leather covering and full-leather trim accented by stainless steel runs throughout the interior. The car had deep pile, rich, copper-colored carpet covering the floor.
More great features
It featured power brakes, power steering and a tachometer and turbine inlet. The temperature gauge would read the temperature at the first stage turbine wheel. The dashboard lighting in the gauge pods and call-out strip was Electroluminescent. This was from an inverter and transformer that raised the battery voltage over 100 volts AC, and passed that high voltage through plastic layers, causing the gauges to glow with a special blue-green light.
The turbine engine reached full operating temperature almost immediately so it could be driven at maximum power at start up. The turbine engine was responsive at all speeds and all terrain with a smooth, quiet, rushing air sounding engine and up to 45,700 RPM.
As great as they were, the turbine-powered cars had their share of disadvantages that would probably eliminate the possibility of using them today. The turbine engines were loud when compared with engines today. They required greater use of special, costly alloys because of the high operating temperature. Another disadvantage was heavy fuel consumption at very low speeds or when idling. This occurred because the engines turned at a very high RPM. There was a throttle lag as well.
Chrysler built 50 experimental turbine cars that had custom Ghia bodies. These were sent to consumers for two years of evaluation to gain feedback. Overall, consumers liked the cars, but the poor fuel economy at low speeds and when idling was a big turn-off.
Theoretically, the turbine engine seemed to be a great alternative to the piston engine; however, the disadvantages mentioned above along with the higher costs to produce it ultimately prevented mass production.