In the age of electric vehicles dominating headlines, it’s easy to forget that the quest for alternative automobile fuels has a long and fascinating history. While electric cars are the future, we can’t ignore the remarkable strides made by pioneers in the automotive industry, such as the Chrysler Corporation, who, back in 1954, embarked on a journey to redefine automotive power with their Turbine program.
Over a span of 27 years, Chrysler’s Turbine program saw the development of seven generations of turbine engines. Among these, the 1963 Chrysler Turbine car stood out as a groundbreaking achievement. Unlike its predecessors, this vehicle was designed from the ground up to be powered by a turbine engine, marking a significant milestone in automotive innovation.
The 1963 Chrysler Turbine car was a testament to the potential of turbine technology. A total of 55 Ghia-bodied gas-turbine cars were produced between 1963 and 1964, with most being lent to members of the public for a three-month trial period. This unique opportunity allowed 200 families to experience the future of automotive propulsion firsthand, and their feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
These Turbine cars were more than just experimental vehicles; they were a testament to the versatility of the engine. They ran on an array of unconventional fuels, including perfume, alcohol, kerosene, diesel, and even JP-4 jet fuel. The twin-regenerator gas-turbine engine featured two independent turbine wheels—one for propulsion and the other for driving the compressor and engine accessories. This fifth-generation turbine engine, coupled with a modified TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic transmission, generated 130 horsepower and an impressive 450 ft.-lb. of torque at the output shaft.
However, despite its promise and performance, the Turbine engine never made it into production. The prohibitive manufacturing costs and fuel efficiency that failed to outshine traditional internal combustion engines were decisive factors.
At the end of the trial period, all but nine of these remarkable cars faced an uncertain fate due to tax and import tariffs. Today, two of them are preserved in the Chrysler Group’s historical collection, and the remaining seven find homes in various museums, including the Detroit Historical Museum, the Smithsonian, one recently sold to a private collector, the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles, and Jay Leno’s renowned collection. Of these nine survivors, only five still roar to life on special occasions.
Fast forward to 2013, and Chrysler decided to pay homage to its Turbine legacy by creating a one-of-a-kind masterpiece—the 2013 Chrysler 300S Turbine Edition. This commemorative vehicle, based on the 2013 Chrysler 300S, aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original Turbine car in style.
The 2013 Chrysler 300S Turbine Edition was a sight to behold. Its exterior featured a striking “Turbine Bronze” matte finish, complemented by a Gloss Black painted roof. The front fascia boasted a more pronounced design, complete with unique upper and lower machined-billet grille, paying tribute to the craftsmanship of the original Ghia-bodied model. The iconic shadowed headlamps, with their concentric ring design, were resurrected through Gloss Black headlamp bezels.
This homage extended to the vehicle’s profile, where rolled-door frames and taillamp surrounds received an accenting Gloss Black finish. However, the pièce de résistance was the uniquely machined “turbine” styled wheels, spanning 20 sculpted-fin blades on 22-inch polished-finish wheels. These wheels not only added an aggressive stance but also paid a striking tribute to the pioneering spirit of the original Turbine car. At the rear, a body-color deck-lid spoiler enhanced the vehicle’s dynamic look.
Despite its breathtaking design and connection to automotive history, the 2013 Chrysler 300S Turbine Edition never entered production. Instead, it became a captivating showpiece on the auto show circuit, showcasing Chrysler’s commitment to innovation and paying homage to the groundbreaking 1963 Chrysler Turbine car.
In an era when electric vehicles reign supreme, it’s essential to remember the trailblazers like Chrysler who dared to dream beyond traditional gasoline engines. The 2013 Chrysler 300S Turbine Edition serves as a timeless reminder of the spirit of innovation that has driven the automotive industry for decades, and its stunning design pays tribute to a forgotten chapter in automotive history.