This newly acquired Chrysler Turbine had better get ready for some exercise
Last month, Mark Hyman sold a rare 1963 Chrysler Turbine car and promised that its new owner wouldn’t remain anonymous for long. He wasn’t kidding. The iconic experimental car’s new home was revealed Thursday morning on Fox & Friends: it now belongs to Stahl’s Auto Museum, in Chesterfield, Michigan.
“We are very excited to add this historical gem to the Stahl’s Auto Collection and let our guests see what an amazing vehicle the Turbine is,” says Terri Coppens, the museum’s general manager. “It was a very tough secret to keep from our volunteer staff, but they were very excited and thrilled to see what was behind the thick plastic walls (of the box that was built to keep it under wraps).”
The Turbine (chassis #991231) is one of only nine surviving examples, one of which is owned by Jay Leno.
Coppens says the Turbine will share a room with another ultra-rare automobile, Tucker #1015, but it won’t be a static display piece.
“Have no fear, the car will be started and driven,” Coppens says. “We believe that all our vehicles need to be driven like they were built to be. It’s their purpose.”
Beginning in 1953 and continuing into the early 1980s, Chrysler engineers were relentless in their pursuit of a turbine-powered car that was both fuel-efficient and on-budget. The crown jewel of the program was a 50-car fleet of ’63 Turbines. To gauge feasibility and generate publicity, Chrysler loaned “the famous 50” to private individuals around the country, and from 1963–66 a total of 203 people drove a Turbine car for three months and evaluated its performance.
The results were promising. The cost of building the cars, however, was not. The price tag of $10K to produce each vehicle was more than three times more than the average cost of a mid-range vehicle in the 1960s.
When the loan program ended, the cars were returned to Chrysler, which kept three of them. Museums received six others—deactivated and delivered with a crated turbine engine and transmission for display. The rest were sent to a Detroit scrapyard and destroyed.
Chrysler still owns two of the Turbines; the third was sold to Leno after the Walter P. Chrysler Museum closed about a decade ago. The other six were given to the Detroit Historical Museum, The Smithsonian Institution, The Henry Ford, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles (now the Petersen Automotive Museum), the Museum of Transportation near St. Louis, and the Harrah Collection Museum in Reno, Nevada. At the time, Bill Harrah owned one of the largest automotive collections in the world, but following his death in 1978, most of his 1450 vehicles were auctioned off. That included 1963 Chrysler Turbine no. 991231, which was originally purchased by Domino’s Pizza mogul Tom Monaghan, a noted car collector and the former owner of the Detroit Tigers.
Monaghan sold no. 991231 to Frank Kleptz in the late 1980s. The turbine makes a modest 130 hp, idles at 18,000–22,000 rpm, and has a comfortable cruising speed of about 70 mph. It remains one of a handful of operational ’63 Turbines.
Beautifully preserved in its original metallic bronze paint, the car also wears its original tires and color-keyed wheel covers. Styling features include three large dash gauges, a stylish center console with unique controls and levers, taillights that look like jet burners, and a horizontal twin exhaust.
“It’s the ultimate dream car for a museum or an event or an individual,” says Dave Kinney, publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide, “because it made such a dramatic impact on automotive history.”