Saturday, September 05, 2015
The 1964 New York World's Fair's "Transportation Zone" had three extra-special exhibits - everybody who is cool remembers the amazing "Futurama" at the General Motors pavilion, and Ford's "Magic Skyway" (created by Walt Disney and his Imagineers). But Chrysler had a pavilion too, and it was pretty great! I feel like I could have spent half a day (or more) just at those three pavilions. If you are building a time machine in your garage, please make a note of that.
So what's with the photo of the car? Why, it's is a fabulous TURBINE CAR from Chrysler! No pistons cranking away here; instead there was a turbine turning at 44,500 revolutions per minute. It supposedly sounded like a large vacuum cleaner. According to Wikipedia, 55 units were built between 1962 and 1964, with a body designed by Ghia of Turin, Italy.
The engine could run on anything from peanut oil to tequila to Chanel No. 5 - just don't put leaded gasoline in it (which would leave damaging deposits). The turbine car ran incredibly smoothly, and was mechanically very reliable - there were rumors that the exhaust was so hot that it would melt asphalt, but that was untrue. The cars had power windows, bucket seats, and a dash lit by electroluminescent panels. Due to their carefully hand-built nature, they would have cost over $380,000 in 2015 dollars! Presumably that cost would have gone way way down if they had ever gone into regular production.
Unfortunately, the turbine car concept never caught on, in spite of the fact that it felt like "tomorrow's transportation - today". Once Chrysler's test program ended, they destroyed 46 of the cars (ouch!). Of the nine remaining cars, six had their engines removed, and the lifeless corpses were donated to museums. Of the three remaining operational examples, one is in a museum, while the other two are in private hands. Jay Leno has one as part of his incredible car collection! I'm sure that after this post goes up, he will call me and invite me to go for a ride. I am sitting by my phone as you read this.
If you are at all interested in the turbine car, I strongly recommend watching an episode of Jay's YouTube show, "Jay Leno's Garage" (I watch lots of his videos); it is all about his personal turbine car! It is informative and entertaining - and really, what more could you want out of life?
I hope you have enjoyed your visit to the Chrysler Pavilion at the New York World's Fair.