Chrysler 300S Turbine Commemorates 1963 Turbine Concept

Chrysler 300S Turbine Commemorates 1963 Turbine Concept

2013 Detroit Auto Show

2013 Detroit Auto Show

Just the Facts:
  • Special features of the one-off Chrysler 300S Turbine include matte-finished bronze paint, a unique front end, and hand-made turbine-styled wheels.
  • Chrysler's original Turbine, produced in 1963 and 1964, was popular with the public, but poor fuel mileage and high production costs doomed the program.

DETROIT — The Chrysler 300S Turbine, which was unveiled at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, pays homage to the company's 1963 turbine-powered concept car.

The one-off show car, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the original turbine, features specially formulated "Turbine Bronze" matte-finished paint, a gloss black roof, body color deck-lid spoiler, and prominent front end with billet-machined grillwork. Perhaps most striking, however, are the handcrafted 22-inch wheels, each with 20 fins reminiscent of turbine blades.

Chrysler began studying the feasibility of turbine engines for automobiles prior to World War II, but materials and production capabilities were not advanced enough at the time to go any further. Research continued after the war, and in 1954 the company began development in earnest, testing experimental engines in the lab and in many of its vehicles.

The hope was to make use of the turbine's advantages over conventional engines, including smooth operation, longer engine life, reduced maintenance, and lower weight. Most interesting, however, is that these engines can run on a variety of fuels. Chrysler successfully ran them on kerosene, diesel, alcohol, jet fuel, and even perfume.

In 1963 and 1964 Chrysler built 50 turbine-engined cars and put them in the hands of the public for real-world testing. Over the life of the program, more than 200 families spent three months each with these vehicles, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

The Turbine's body, designed by Chrysler's Elwood Engle and built in Italy by Ghia, was particularly stunning. Befitting its jet-age powerplant, the car featured turbine styling cues inside and out, with fan blades showing up on the headlights, taillights, and interior. The striking copper-colored paint, emulated in the 300S special edition, was unique to this vehicle.

In the end, however, Chrysler's turbine-engine program was halted in 1981. The company cites "the cost of its manufacture and the fact that fuel economy ratings were never dramatically better than the standard internal combustion engine" as the reasons for its demise.

All but nine of the original Chrysler Turbines were destroyed to comply with customs regulations. The surviving ones reside in museums and private collections. But it's interesting to note that Jay Leno has one. He has written about it on his Web site.

Edmunds says: Although the Chrysler 300S Turbine show car is purely a styling exercise, that paint and those wheels from the special edition should see life on a production vehicle.

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