What runs on tequila, perfume, or heating oil and was once given to the general public for R&D testing? The incredible 1963 Chrysler Turbine car, one of which is owned by Jay Leno. We had a chance to catch Jay’s car up close at the Art Center Car Classic this year.
One listen to the engine or one look at the rear design, and you know you’re in the jet age. Just 55 of these cars were ever produced, and according to Jay, interested parties wrote to Chrysler to request one. Those who were accepted were given the car for 90 days and asked to record their experiences with the car. If only R&D still happened that way! This turbine would take any oxygen-burning fuel, has just one spark plug, no cooling system, and no fluids to change. If those benefits aren’t enough, there’s also no warm-up time – just start it and go!
Jay says he first fell in love with the car at age 14, during a visit with his family to the 1964 World’s Fair. Unfortunately, the car cost far to much to produce – about $13,000 at the time, when a comparable Cadillac cost approximately $6,000. Other downsides included so-so mileage and emission issues.
Sadly, 46 of these cars were destroyed, as Chrysler would have had to pay hefty import fees on the Italian bodies these turbines featured. Of those that remain, most are in museums, but we’re lucky enough to live in So Cal, where once in a while, we get to catch Jay Leno cruising the streets in this space-age masterpiece.