Ultra Rare: Genuine Chrysler Turbine Engine!

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Most of you are probably familiar with the early 1960’s Chrysler Turbine cars; the ones that actually made it out into the public. What you may not be aware of is that Chrysler’s turbine development program didn’t end there, and the project actually continued on into the late 1970’s and beyond. This engine may be one of the last! It’s located in Southfield, Michigan and is up for sale in a no reserve auction here on eBay. This was submitted by Barn Finds reader BlindMarc–thanks!

Chrysler-Turbine-3-4-front

Of course, this is where any Chrysler Turbine car story has to begin. This is one of the 54 cars Chrysler built and actually turned the public loose in. Of course, most of these are now scrapped, with some notable exceptions including Jay Leno’s car. These cars used the fourth generation turbine engine that Chrysler engineers created. If you want to learn more about this earlier generation, there’s a great resource site at turbinecar.com.

77turbine

As far as I can tell, this Bob Marcks design was the last uniquely bodied turbine car Chrysler produced. It was made in 1977 and was tested by the Department of Energy among others. You can see that the design was the inspiration for the later Chrysler Imperial cars. As far as I can tell, this particular car was based on the LeBaron. This car used the seventh-generation engine, according to this detailed engineering report. This site claims the car ended up with NASA (?) but as far as I can tell, if it still exists it’s whereabouts are unknown.

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According to the seller, and as best as I can tell from pictures, they are correct, the turbine for sale is a seventh-generation prototype engine, very similar to the one in the silver coupe above. It’s still outfitted with a lot of test equipment, and at least part of it has been disassembled based on the number of bolts missing on the chamber mount in this picture. But what an opportunity this could be for the Mopar fan! It’s bolted to a transmission, so I have to believe it was in a test unit at some point. There were two Aspen-based turbine test cars running around that are mentioned in the technical report; maybe this engine was originally in one of those cars?

lebaron-6

Here’s what the engine looked like in the coupe. You can see that the black chamber on the engine for sale is chromed in this shot, and there are certainly some differences between the two. However, after closely looking at the pictures, there are a lot of similarities as well.

MarcksTurbineEngine

Can you imagine pulling up to your local car show, popping the hood, and showing this off! I don’t think you could top that! I remember seeing pictures of the silver coupe growing up and wishing Chrysler would manufacture it. Maybe this jet garage find could be just the impetus for someone to recreate this coupe. I wish I had the resources to do it–maybe one of you does! Assuming you could get it back running, let us know what you would put this turbine engine in!

 

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Comments

  1. Roseland Pete

    Forward this to Leno.

  2. JamestownMike

    Never heard or seen of one. Very cool! Try getting parts for THAT at your local AutoZone parts counter!

    • Josh Staff

      Man I struggle to even get parts for my Spitfire there. They look at me like I just made something up. Imagine the looks they’d give you when you ask if they have parts for your turbine haha!

      • Howard A Member

        I agree, I think you’d have better luck with the turbine than the Spitfire at AZ. I worked on a Spitfire for a friend, and he got all his British parts from Moss or Victoria(?) something, and overnight, the man in the brown uniform delivered.

      • Rich

        I get the same confusion when I try to get parts for my ’76 2002. Most of the time I get the question “What model 2002?” and I just sigh….

    • Vince Habel

      I called Advanced Auto for a 57 Studebaker brake light switch and was asked who makes it.

      Like 1
  3. DW

    What I want to know is how did they ever reduce the incredible rpm’s of a turbine down to something usable for a car. The slowest turbines run at 10,000 rpm but the smaller ones like this can go all the way up to 500,000 rpm. (Can you imagine ‘throwing a blade’ at 100,000 rpm?)

  4. Mike

    There is a 1963 on display at the Museum of Transportation in St Louis, and the last time I was there (about 5 years ago) it had been restored and said to be in working order. It is a very beautiful car, and in 1963 was considered State of Art. I attached a picture of the motor in the car.
    If you ever have a chance to tour the place, it also has Bobby Darin’s Dream Car. Plus a lot of Trains, and well worth the time to tour the place. Here is the website for the place. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum_of_Transportation#Automobiles

  5. Blindmarc

    I was the submitter……

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Thanks! I’ll revise the posting :-)

  6. racer99

    I have to admit, this is one of those things that I you show that I have absolutely no idea what it’s worth. I guess we’ll see at the end of the auction.

  7. wagon master

    I’m shocked this one got past astute collectors, all the way to ebay!

  8. wagon master

    This is by far one of coolest items shared by Barn Finds! At a boy!!

  9. Robert

    Do a search on YouTube for Chrysler turbine car. The one where they show them being crushed when the program ended is heartbreaking.

  10. wagon master

    I had this forwarded to Leno. Let’s if he convinces the seller to end the auction with an offer he can’t refuse or let it ride to auction end.

    • Roseland Pete

      Jay might pick it up just to have extra parts for his 63.

  11. EMC

    “but as far as I can tell, if it still exists it’s whereabouts are unknown”

    Call Chrysler; as of 3-4 years ago, they still had it in their heritage warehouse in [REDACTED].

  12. Rando

    This should go in the Hudson Jet posted earlier.

  13. David C

    This very cool but I had no idea that any of these were in private hands. Back in I guess 63 or 64 a neighbor of mine one a contest and got to drive a turbine car for I think it was a year. I got a ride in it! Very cool stuff. I still remember it well. Believe it or not Chrysler was actually secretly experimenting with turbines on the road in the fifties! I can’t help but think that Leno would be very interested.

  14. dutchb340

    I saw a live running Chrysler Turbine car at the Mopar Nationals in 2005. It was one of the original cars from the 60’s that had been turned over to an auto Museum as a non-runner for display and they were able to get it running. Talk about a strange sound, that turbine spinning at whatever the idle speed was! and when it moved away from the crowd that had gathered around it, the hot air blast coming out the back! They had it driving around the event, whenever it stopped it was mobbed with curious Mopar fans!

  15. ClassicCarFan

    Rover car company in the UK did a lot of work on gas turbine powered cars in the 1950s and early 1960s. They had provided engineering support for the early aero jet engines late in WWII and apparently got the turbine bug ! they even built one that ran (relatively) reliably at le Mans.

    Classic car trivia…. The Rover P6 car that was launched with a regular gasoline engine in 1963 has unique front suspension designed to allow a wide engine bay specifically because at the body design stages they were still anticipating that it would need to accommodate the gas turbine engine. Unfortunately, by 1963 Rover (same as Chrysler, and others) had come to the conclusion that they could never make it work practically in a passenger car application. I think the killer problems were – slow start up, dealing with the unwanted exhaust heat, appalling fuel consumption, and as someone else hinted above… converting the high revs/low torque output to the driving needs of a typical car.

  16. Rocco

    Don’t know much about these.
    I can tell you the trans behind it is the smaller 904 Torqflite designed for 6cyl. and small V-8’s.
    I would’ve thought they would at least put the stronger 727 Torqflite behind it. But if it was designed for the Aspen, the 727 probably wouldn’t fit the tunnel.
    Also, I just noticed there is no provision for a normal starter. Does anyone know how these were started?

  17. Bruce

    There’s a ton of stuff on You Tube. Pretty interesting history. The sound is pretty wild also.

  18. jim shoe

    with the thermocouples still attached I assume this walked out of Highland Park in someones lunchbox LOL

  19. jim s

    great peice of history. i too am surprised it made it to ebay. should be interesting to see what it sells for. great find.

  20. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Blindmarc thanks…. I saw it and wanted to submit it as well….hell of a crate motor !

  21. Blindmarc

    I just wanted to say thank you for the praise. I’m a very poor nobody nowadays, and glad I could bring a positive vibe, and a rare find around the world….to barn finds.

    • David C

      You know where I live in Snellville, Ga. the city slogan is “Everybody is Somebody in Snellville”
      One great thing about “Barn Finds” is that everyone is a contributor in a common interest. Don’t sell yourself short.

    • Roseland Pete

      Oh no, thank YOU.

  22. Andrew

    This idea will never fly.

  23. Jim Benjaminson

    The 1977 LeBaron pictured is/was a prototype and was more or less held together with bubble gum. It was never used in the government testing. The government got Aspen’s with turbine power. Check out http://www.turbinecar.com for complete and ACCURATE information on the turbine program.

    • Steve B

      Thanks for posting the accurate Info/link. Yes even though this engine may never run again (appears to be missing the fuel injection at a minimum) it’s still a fascinating artifact. BTW I still have some of your Plymouth books and enjoy reading your work on Allpar.

      • Jim Benjaminson

        Thanks Steve – still get calls for the books but they are out of print. Do see them on eBay once in awhile at crazy prices. Found some on the booksellers sites for even more than crazy prices!

  24. Justin

    Parnelli Jones drove a 4 – wheel drive turbine car in the 1967 Indy 500 that was also equipped with an air brake. He was lapping cars when of all things, a $6.00 transmission bearing failed with less than 4 laps from the finish and this included an accident that he was involved in! 1967 was the only year that a turbine car ran at Indy as the rules changed and turbine engine cars were not allowed to race there again.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1967_Indianapolis_500

    An Interview with the winner, Texan, A.J. Foyt
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysGNu5BkxSI

    The Wide World of Sports -1967 Indy 500
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVzKKYlu5vw

    • Dan Voigt

      In 1968, Andy Granatelli had two turbine powered, Lotus chassis 4-wheel-drive cars for the Indy 500. The were wedge-shaped and were driven by Art Pollard and Joe Leonard. They both failed within a couple of laps of each other when the driveshafts to the fuel pumps failed. And, because of concern over the Kerosene fuel burned in the 1967 turbine race car, the 1968 models ran unleaded gasoline. After the 1968 Indy 500, USAC all but banned the use of turbine-powered cars.

  25. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Just a thought: This is indeed a Chrysler Turbine, which was never made available to the public. IF Chrysler never allowed their employees to take home old cancelled projects, couldn’t they lay claim to this item?

    I would think that this would be something they would want back.

  26. Evan Allen

    well, I saw it hit $9,300 and now it’s gone.

  27. racer99

    Leno?

  28. Evan Allen

    so, it hit 10k and disappeared, hit 9.6k (with a 1968 Dodge Coronet attached) and was removed, now it’s at a starting bid of $7.5k (with a 1968 Dodge Coronet attached) and has no bids. I’m confused.

  29. racer99

    I’m with Evan — the listing has some lame excuse why it had to be relisted and explains that has no association with the Coronet it’s listed with (it also points out that the transmission is a dummy empty piece attached for show). Seller has no seller transactions in last year and only 5 total transactions in last 6 months. Really sketchy. As mentioned in previous posts, makes you wonder how this thing ended up with this seller.

  30. Jim Claussen

    To the best of my recollection…..the ~ 50 turbine the.st cars turned over to the public for a brief period of time we’re NOT the very stylish coupes as Jay Leno owns. Rather they were standard production Plymouth bodies with the turbine package and may have had special decoration/trim/insignias and reportedly were disassembled and / or destroyed. I’m hunting for articles and pics to support my statement. MOPARS forever.

  31. Jim

    There were ~ 200 standard body dodge. Plymouth’s with turbines turned over to ~ 200 chosen citizens for driving and evaluate. my family’s MOPAR dealership in NW Indiana were selected to deliver 1. Never to be seen again at the dealership. Very few of the special models remain. Jay Leno’s. And it’s believed all 200 of the test models were destroyed or dismantled also.

  32. Jim

    Incorrect. ???? NOT……

  33. Rick

    This car resembles a 1975 through 1977 Cordoba with a higher than normal ground clearance. I can live with that. But, if it doesn’t have rich Corinthian leather, then it’s not the car for me.

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