In 1961, the Chrysler Turboflite was considered to be the way all cars would be in the future. This futuristic concept car was imagined as the wave of the future. Concept cars are supposed to be the cars that we all dream of. This car is certainly telling of what automotive designers wanted back in the early 60s.
This particular concept was also interesting in the fact that it was a joint venture between Chrysler and Italian design firm Ghia, which was known for being the partner behind the Karmann Ghia.
Space Age Design
This was also telling of the times, as Americans were fascinated with the idea of space travel and going to the moon. In 1962, John F. Kennedy made his famous speech in which he promised that we would indeed go to the moon. The Turboflite was made to look like a rocketship or space ship that traveled on the road. The gas turbine engine was also supposed to show people that internal combustion engines would eventually give way to rocket powered cars.
The front ‘hood’ area was minimized to reduce wind resistance, and the headlights tucked away under the fenders when not being used. The roof was replaced with a canopy that automatically tilted up and forward whenever the door was opened. The door handles were recessed into the body panels and merely needed to be pressed to open the door. The canopy also allowed “Dukes Of Hazzard” style entry for the cool kids, since the door didn’t need to be opened to enter or exit. The side windows opened outward on hinges that were mounted on the canopy to allow ventilation when needed.
Technically Amazing For The Time Period
Out back were a pair of stablizer bars that resembled a wing similar to what Chrysler would eventually use on the Plymouth Superbird and Dodge Daytona a few years later. However, with the Daytona and Superbird, this wing was there to add downforce and stability at high speeds.
The Turboflite was definitly a futuristic concept car, as it used the spoiler as an air brake that automatically activated when the driver hit the brakes. This worked much like the flaps on an airplane’s wings that tilt on landing. It could be disabled for city driving when not needed. The problem was a matter of technology – old fashioned drum brakes simply could not stop the car quickly enough to make it safe, so the air brake was there to add additional stopping power. The rear spoiler also contained something that did not become standard for 25 years, which was as 3rd brake light. These did not become required until 1986.
Turbine Engine Power
The CR2A turbine engine was utilized since it was very innovative in its used of a turbine nozzle design. This technology allowed the turbine to spool up to full operating speeds in 1 1/2 seconds, producing acceleration that would rival any traditional V8 engine of the era. However, this type of engine comes with a price. Fuel economy was only around 10 miles per gallon. Yes, this turbine engine burned traditional gas station pump gas, as opposed to jet fuel used by jets.
Impressive Inside, Too
The interior featured futuristic (at that time) brushed aluminum trimmed seats. The car also had electroluminsecent lighting in the door panels, and aircraft style panels for instruments. This included gauges for exhaust gas temperature, which is critical for a turbine engine. The accelerator and brake pedals were much larger than normal cars, which made for an odd design. The driver had to rest their foot on both pedals, and applying the brake meant pushing down a bit before it activated. The car did not have a horn button, but it had a switch on the inside of the steering wheel to honk the horn.
The Turboflite was a really cool looking car with impressive features, but sadly this futuristic concept car never was made. The number of problems with turbine engines outweighed the benefits. If you really like this car, Amazon even sells a promotional poster with its picture.
One cool fact about this car is that the idea of a high speed airbrake has actually been used recently. It is now a feature in the Bugatti Veyron, which is a car that costs well over $1 million. Maybe the engineers of that time were just too far ahead of the times.