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Chrysler's Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation Hardcover – October 1, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
Steve Lehto is a master of making history into a readable and interesting dialog with the reader. I knew most of the story from my own research and acquaintance with many of the contributors before Steve started. So when I say I found the book extremely well written and able to capture and hold my attention, which means it is just plain good! Bravo Steve for giving the world a record in print of not only the unique cars but the people who created then and had the chance to drive them.
After I received my copy I found it very hard to put down. I knew how it ended and as I already knew most of the story from my own research but the chronological and quickly moving manner Mr. Lehto put the whole book together made it an absolute joy to read and remember.
If you count yourself a "gear head" of any age and love to read a lot of "inside" information about technology and vehicles in particular, you must read this book! If you enjoy stories about people who were dedicated engineers, visionary designers and creative dreamers, you need to read this book!
History can be boring and dry or it can come alive, Steve has brought life back to a story that should have been told so our children and grandchildren can know that the 60's were not only about peace protests, the Viet Nam war, assassinations and bad corporations. Mr. Lehto shows that innovation and concern for the future was a common theme running through the people who wanted to see the piston engine replaced by an exciting and wonderful engine - the turbine.
I am the son of one of the 203 users and drove one of the Chrysler/Ghia turbine cars in 1965.
In the mid-1960s, Chrysler Corporation, then the third largest American automaker, broke all the rules of a notoriously conservative industry by developing a practical, reliable automobile powered by a 130-horsepower gas turbine engine--a "jet engine." Even more startling, Chrysler loaned a hand-built batch of these cars to normal, ordinary drivers for their daily use, free of charge. From October 1963 until January 1966, 203 carefully selected drivers in 48 states each got one of 50 Ghia Turbine Cars to drive for three months. Collectively, this "civilian test team" put more than a million miles on the fleet. I was of high-school age then, living in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I still vividly recall seeing and hearing a brilliant metallic bronze Turbine Car whooshing around my neighborhood. I never found out who the lucky driver was, but the sight, sound and smell of the stunning Italian-designed coupe made a strong impression on me.
That's why my interest in "Chrysler's Turbine Car" was high even before I cracked open the cover. I'm pleased to say the book far exceeded my expectations. About half of it--90+ pages--is about the "user program," by which Chrysler engineers found out what would happen in the real world with their state-of-the-art vehicle in the hands of the general public. It was a bold, audacious program that proved the feasibility of turbine-powered cars for everyday driving. It also showed that turbine engines were far more reliable than piston engines, and had several other important advantages. Also--a fact few people appreciated at the time--they could burn almost anything, including leaded and unleaded gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, jet fuel, heating oil, alcohol, tequila and perfume (Chanel No, 5, reportedly).
"Chrysler's Turbine Car" is authoritative, detailed, comprehensive, exhaustively documented and exceptionally well-written. It's a fast read, filled with technical facts and enlightening anecdotes, and I regretted that it ended after only 188 pages (not including endnotes, a bibliography and an index). Mr. Lehto sandwiches the tale of the user program in between the fascinating history of Chrysler's turbine engine development (Ghia Turbine Cars used fourth-generation engines) and the disheartening story of the demise of Detroit's only successful effort to create a viable turbine-powered car. The revolutionary powerplant could not survive in an era of Federal air quality and mileage standards, OPEC oil embargoes, skyrocketing fuel prices, Chrysler's management and quality problems, burgeoning imports and a whole litany of other ills--most of them not the fault of the engine itself. The experiment that Chrysler had pursued for over 20 years soon faded into automotive oblivion, leaving a legacy of little more than a few cars in museums--and lingering smiles on the faces of those few drivers fortunate enough to have experienced "the future" in the mid-1960s.
What happened to America in the 70's that caused defeat of the development of the turbine car to be snatched from the jaws of victory? The Federal congress, the regulatory agencies, and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries were just a few of the factors that turned this dream into a debacle. The author of this book, Steve Lehto, did an excellent job of chronicling this part of American automotive history. His style of writing and organization of the subject matter makes this book totally enjoyable reading.