Chrysler Turboflite 1961

By 1963, Chrysler was on track to do what no other carmaker had ever attempted-to make a gas-turbine-engined car and put it into the hands of consumers.

Chrysler Turboflite 1961
Chrysler Turboflite 1961

Chrysler Turboflite 1961

  • YEAR REVEALED  1961
  • PLACE OF ORIGIN  Detroit, Michigan, and Turin, Italy
  • HISTORICAL STATUS  prototype
  • ENGINE  gas turbine
  • MAXIMUM POWER  140bhp
  • LAYOUT  front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
  • BODYWORK  two-door/single-canopy, four-seater coupé
  • TOP SPEED  unknown
  • NUMBER BUILT  one

 It first installed a gas-turbine engine into a Plymouth in 1954, and two years later felt confident enough to try a “real life” voyage from New York to Los Angeles, driven by Chrysler’s research chief George Huebner. Some 50 further prototypes, and engines for laboratory-testing, were built until company bosses sanctioned the Turboflite.

The Chrysler Turboflite was presented as a showcase for the final CR2A engine-a unit said to weigh half as much as a conventional Chrysler V8, with only 60 moving parts instead of 300. It had been extensively road-tested in a Dodge truck in 1960. The Turboflite’s super-aggressive styling was by Chrysler’s Maury Baldwin, with an enormous airfoil at the back sporting a pivoting lateral blade that was supposed to act as an airbrake to slow the car down.

When either of the two doors were opened, the cockpit canopy automatically raised, using a pair of struts, to admit driver and passengers. A touch of the hot-rod was provided by the exposed front wheels and chrome frontal treatment. Luxuriously plump seating and electro-luminescent mood lighting created an inviting aura. The Turboflite-which probably never ran under its own power-was built to Chrysler’s precise design in Italy by revered coachbuilder Ghia, as a prelude to its manufacture of the Chrysler Turbine bodies.

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