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Chrysler's Turbine Car : The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation
In 1964, Chrysler gave the world a glimpse of the future. They built a fleet of turbine cars--automobiles with jet engines--and loaned them out to members of the public. The fleet logged over a million miles; the exercise was a raging success. These turbine engines would run on any flammable liquid--tequila, heating oil, Chanel #5, diesel, alcohol, kerosene. If the cars had been mass produced, we might have cars today that do not require petroleum-derived fuels. The engine was also much simpler than the piston engine--it contained one-fifth the number of moving parts and required much less maintenance. The cars had no radiators or fan belts and never needed oil changes. Yet Chrysler crushed and burned most of the cars two years later; the jet car's brief glory was over. Where did it all go wrong? Controversy still follows the program, and questions about how and why it was killed have never been satisfactorily answered. Steve Lehto has interviewed all the surviving members of the turbine car program--from the metallurgist who created the exotic metals for the interior of the engine to the test driver who drove it at Chrysler's proving grounds for days on end.
Can you imagine driving down the road in a car powered by a jet engine? In the 1960s, America almost got the chance. Lehto tells the story of Chrysler's project to develop a car powered by a turbine engine. Chrysler assigned many of its brightest engineers to the project, supporting them as they struggled to solve the problems created by the nontraditional motor. Part of the development was an ingenious publicity campaign that showed the vehicle was far beyond a concept car. Over 200 lucky families were loaned turbine cars for two months, and many fell in love with its smooth ride. The engine could operate on alternative fuels without modification, and unleaded gas, diesel, kerosene, tequila, and even perfume were used to run the car! So what happened? A combination of manufacturing problems, financing, and bad timing doomed the project. Car enthusiast Jay Leno, who owns one of the five remaining vehicles, provides the foreword to the book. VERDICT A fascinating example of engineering and product development. Appropriate for large public libraries and all academic libraries supporting engineering programs. Motorheads will love it.-William Baer, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib., Atlanta (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Chicago Review Press
September 30, 2010
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