Monday, October 5, 2020

CHRYSLER'S TURBINE CAR, a history of squandered opportunities to reduce carbon emissions

CHRYSLER'S TURBINE CAR: The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation 
$9.99 ebook editions, available now 

 Rating: 3.5* of five 

  The Publisher Says: The fascinating story of an almost-forgotten automotive phenomenon 

 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. Lehto takes these first-hand accounts and weaves them into a great story about the coolest car Detroit ever produced. 


 My Review: A short, concise history of the very thing the title declares: The coolest creation ever to come out of Detroit!
Oh wow! Oh cool! Oh my GOD why didn't they make this?!
Well, after reading this book, I know why: It was too far ahead of its time, and when its time came, the company was on the ropes. 

The author spoke to everyone he could find still living who participated in the most amazing PR campaign of all time: Chrysler made 50 of these babies and, over the course of 1964-1966, lent them out to 203 drivers for 90 days apiece. The 50 cars racked up over 1 million miles of travel, and had less than 1% downtime in all of that driving. Reliability was clearly not a huge issue. But what *was* a huge issue was the way the turbines needed to be manufactured, basically each one by hand. There was, in that pre-computer-control era, no way to automate the process of making the engine parts. 

But then the what-if machine kicks in: The cars didn't need to use gasoline, or even petroleum products...they ran one car on tequila, and another on peanut oil. Had manufacture gone ahead, perhaps advances in technology would've speeded up computer-aided design and production. This kind of technology could've reduced carbon emissions....

Imagine a world where the car smells like a deep fryer and sounds like a jet, leaving water as its exhaust. Lost chances. The very source of all good fiction. *turns on private bubble machine*

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.