Tuesday 15th May 1962
The semi-production Chrysler Turbine Car, designed by Elwood P Engle and built by Carrozzeria Ghia, was introduced to Chrysler dealers at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
Chrysler began researching turbine engines in the late 1930s, led largely by engineer George Huebner, who was one of a group of engineers who started exploring the idea of powering a car with a turbine after the end of World War II. Other members of the secretive Chrysler Research team that worked on automotive turbines included engineers Bud Mann and Sam B. Williams. After continually improving their turbine design, and most notably engineering a solution to heat exchanging-related problems in the form of a regenerator, the team’s efforts reached an early state of maturity when they mated a turbine to a stock 1954 Plymouth Belvedere. Chrysler proceeded to test the Belvedere, and claimed that its turbine engine contained 20% fewer parts and weighed 200 pounds (91 kg) less than comparable conventional piston engines. The company publicly unveiled the Belvedere at its Chelsea Proving Grounds on June 16, 1954, in front of over 500 members of the press.
On March 23, 1956, Chrysler unveiled its next turbine car, a 1956 Plymouth, which Huebner drove 3,020 miles (4,860 km) on a four-day trip from New York City to Los Angeles. The success of the coast-to-coast journey led Chrysler to double the size of the turbine program and move it from Highland Park to a more spacious facility on Greenfield Road in Detroit. The program began producing numerous patent applications from 1957, in no small part due to the contributions of metallurgist Amedee Roy and engineer Giovanni Savonuzzi. The next iteration of the Chrysler turbine engine was placed into a 1959 Plymouth, which averaged 19 miles per US gallon (12 L/100 km; 23 mpg‑imp) on a trip from Detroit to New York City.
After Chrysler named former accountant Lynn Townsend as its new president in 1961, the company unveiled its next, third-generation turbine engine on February 28, 1961, which it mated to a variety of vehicles, including a 1960 Dodge truck and the Chrysler Turboflite concept car. Further refined third-generation turbines were installed into a 1962 Dodge and a Plymouth Fury that were also driven across the country, although after arriving in Los Angeles on this occasion Huebner spent two hours giving members of the media rides in a turbine-powered car. By February 1962, Chrysler had barnstormed its fleet of turbine cars to its dealers across North America, as well as in Europe and Mexico, ultimately visiting 90 cities, giving almost 14,000 people rides, and being seen by millions more. The third-generation turbine program ended at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1962, where Chrysler displayed its current turbine-powered fleet, but shortly before the show had announced its forthcoming fourth-generation turbine engine and its plans to put it in a limited run of 50–75 cars that would be loaned to the public at no cost in late 1963.