Vibrationless power from a lightweight, simple, compact engine has long been the dream of automobile designers. That's why they look to the gas turbine engine. A gas turbine is a simple engine. Its basic element is a turbine wheel, which has a ring of blades around the outside of a hub. When a mixture of air and combustion gases flows through the ring of blades, it causes the wheel to rotate (like a windmill) and this is how power is produced in a gas turbine.
The gas turbine engine is light and compact and has only a fraction of the number of parts of a piston engine. It runs smoothly, without vibration, and can use any of a wide variety of fuels. Since it operates with excess air, the fuel is burned completely and practically no noxious fumes, such as carbon monoxide, are produced.
The piston engine, by its nature, cannot match the vibrationless operation that is char- acteristic of the gas turbine. Moreover, the piston engine has been brought to its present high degree of efficiency and dependability by intensive development over many years. It is, so to speak, nearing its peak, while the gas turbine engine is in its infancy in the automotive industry and its potential for improvement is vast. The gas turbine engine thus is highly desirable as a power plant for passenger cars, trucks and other vehicles. It has already demonstrated its efficiency and reliability as an aircraft power plant. However, it has not been practical merely to adapt an aircraft- type gas turbine engine for use in an automobile. Operating conditions are different, and so are the economic requirements.
Most of the time an aircraft gas turbine runs at constant speed, while an automobile engine operates at widely varying speeds and must have quick response to meet variable power demands. It also must provide "engine braking" to aid in slowing the car. An aircraft gas turbine engine spends most of its operating time at high speed and high alti- tude where it is superior to the piston engine. The automobile gas turbine, on the other hand, competes where the piston engine is king and must offer comparable fuel mileage over a wide operating range.
An automobile gas turbine must be quieter and have a lower exhaust temperature than an aircraft gas turbine. The automobile engine must be compact so it can fit in the engine compartment, and its manufacturing cost must be low so it is within the reach of the average automobile buyer. Thus it cannot use the high-temperature alloys, made of scarce and costly elements, that are used in aircraft.
This is a big order, but Chrysler Corporation engineers have overcome these problems and have developed a practical automotive gas turbine. By developing a "regenerator"-- a rotating heat exchanger--that recovers much of the heat from the exhaust gases, they have made it possible for the turbine engine to achieve good fuel mileage and low ex- haust temperature, much cooler than a piston engine, in fact. To provide efficiency, flexibility and optimum performance over the full speed range, they have perfected a variable nozzle system for directing gas flow to the power turbine.
Chrysler research scientists formulated new high-temperature alloys which use mate- rials that are available in quantity and at reasonable cost. They also utilized production methods (casting turbine wheels in one piece, for example) which avoid some of the complex and costly operations used in manufacturing aircraft gas turbines.
In these ways, Chrysler engineers have solved the special problems of an automotive gas turbine and developed a practical engine. Now, before it can be produced in volume, this engine must prove itself in the hands of the average motorist.
Since Chrysler Corporation looks forward to a day when the gas turbine will be an accepted power plant for family cars, the current limited-production engine is being offered in a practical highway car, not an "idea" car nor an experimental car that has little usefulness beyond that of a demonstrator. It is a personal car--a four-passenger hardtop coupe that would suit the desires of thousands of ordinary motorists. At the same time, in keeping with its role of a limited-production car introducing a revolution- ary vibrationless engine, it is an especially luxurious car with its own individual styling, leather upholstery, power accessories, and a unique control console.
A limited number of these turbine-powered vehicles will be made
available during 1963- 64 to selected users in all sections of the country.
The experience of these drivers with turbine-engine cars under a wide variety
of driving conditions is expected to furnish indications of public reaction
to the benefits of turbine-powered passenger cars and thus to be a guide
to the next phase of the Corporation's turbine program.
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