The  Chrysler Turbine Car

As I sat in Miss Moses music class at Thomas Jefferson Jr High in 1964,  I heard a sound through the open window that was rare for the valley, even at the airport. It was the sound of a jet engine,  and it was right outside the window.  I looked out to the corner of Quarrier and Morris Streets, and there.... at the light.... was the most amazing car I'd ever seen:  It was the experimental Chrysler Turbine car!   It had a sound like a jet taking off,  and I would hear that sound many times from the music room, and every time I had to get up to see it again.  Miss Moses failed to see what all the fuss was about.

Charleston WV photos

Could you blame me for looking?

Charleston WV photos

The car would run on anything... including Moonshine.

Charleston WV photos

Charleston WV photos

Charleston WV photos

I'm happy to have witnessed this car on the streets of Charleston.



Crysler Turbine

In 2021, a priceless  Turbine went up for sale....

With enthusiasm high, Chrysler announced in February 1962 that it would build approximately 50 turbine-powered cars for a public real-world test program. Styling was done in-house, overseen by the new design chief, Elwood Engel. Engel replaced Exner in 1961 and introduced a more sophisticated, slab-sided design language, which he honed while working at Ford – which explains the Turbine's passing resemblance to a late 50s Ford Thunderbird. The jet-age motifs were more subdued than the wild fins and chrome of the Exner era, and the Turbine Car was understated yet distinctly elegant. To save on tooling costs, Chrysler contracted with their longtime partners Ghia in Turin, Italy, to build the body shells, which were then shipped to Michigan to mate with their bespoke chassis. All except one were painted a unique shade of bronze with a black vinyl roof and bronze interior.

Fifty-five Chrysler Turbine Cars were built, encompassing five prototypes and 50 production cars. Chrylser opened the program to a nationwide pool of applicants who vied for a chance to drive one of the vehicles free of charge, for three months at a time over two years. It allowed Chrysler to compile massive amounts of data and priceless public relations from a relatively small pool of vehicles. After the highly publicized test program, all 50 cars returned to Chrysler for evaluation. Engineers crash-tested one prototype and, to prevent the remaining lot from becoming “used cars” and tarnishing the project's image, consigned 45 of the remaining production cars to a Detroit scrapyard where they were summarily crushed and burned. While this seems appalling today, it is not uncommon for a manufacturer to destroy prototypes to protect their technology.

Unfortunately, the cars never really overcame shortcomings like poor fuel economy, terrible emissions and destructive exhaust heat. The Turbine Lab got off 55 Chrysler Turbine Cars during its research. Five are in museums, two are owned by Chrysler, one is owned by Jay Leno and this one is up for grabs. The rest were destroyed and burned to the ground:

Thankfully, one Chrysler exec came up with the idea of setting a few cars aside for static display in educational museums around the country. Nine were spared, including three retained by Chrysler. At the same time, six went respectively to the Museum of Transportation in Kirkwood, MO, The Henry Ford, The Smithsonian Institution, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles (later the Petersen Automotive Museum), the Detroit Historical Museum, and the Harrah Collection Museum of Reno, NV. Today, all nine of the legendary Chrysler Turbine Cars remain, yet only two are in private hands – one in Jay Leno's Collection, and the other, chassis number 991231, is offered here for the first time in over 30 years.

991231 was acquired by Domino's Pizza founder and noted car collector Tom Monaghan. Frank Kleptz acquired the Turbine Car from Mr. Monaghan in the late 1980s while at the AACA National Meet in Hershey. It was not running at the time, though Kleptz did get spare engines along with the deal. In the late 1990s/early 2000s, Kleptz got serious about getting the Turbine Car up and running, and he enlisted the help of GE Engine Services, who reproduced several essential precision parts and aided in the rebuilding of the engine. While it has seen limited use over the past decade, it remains operational and has recently been test-fired, making it one of just a few running examples extant.

Cosmetically, the car is in beautifully well-preserved original condition. The paintwork and bespoke trim are in excellent order, and it wears original tires and color-keyed wheel covers. The orange-bronze interior is relatively conventional in its layout, except for the stylized center console with its unique controls and levers, lending the car a distinctly space-age and purposeful character. It is accompanied by a vast file of engineering drawings, technical information, and historical documentation. The sale will also include a spare engine and transmission assembly.

As one of only two Chrysler Turbine Cars in private hands, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire one of the most fascinating, technically sophisticated American cars of the twentieth century. The remarkable Chrysler Turbine Car was the pride of the Kleptz Collection, and it will undoubtedly take center stage in its next custodian's collection.

Crysler Turbine


See more on this car HERE