Before the movement to make plug-in hybrids and full-electric cars, car manufacturers and concept designers knew that there was a need to come up with a viable replacement for the standard combustion engine that has been common in cars for most of their existence. At one point in time, cars like the Chrysler Turbine paved the way for gas-turbine engines, and people thought they had the potential.
This wasn’t necessarily true and time showed that gas-turbine cars wouldn’t be the next big thing for cars. After 55 Chryslers Turbines were produced, several more concept cars went in for design, but due to cost and maintenance nothing much came and gas-turbine engines in cars were left in the past.
Even the popular car manufacturer Fiat took a stab at their version of a gas-turbine car in 1954 that never made it to full production – which is probably why you’ve never heard of it.
Fiat eventually scrapped their plan for the Turbina because of a lack of interest, abysmal fuel economy and it’s tendency to overheat. Fiat continued to make concept cars over the next years but the designers chose to left the gas-turbine behind. You can see one on display at the Automobile Museum of Turin in Italy.
In 1987 Toyota made their attempt at a concept car with a gas-turbine engine, much later than some other manufacturers that had already seen this plan flop. This wasn’t the first time Toyota had debuted their use of gas-turbine engines as they were taken to the Tokyo Motor Show in 1975. The one used in the GTV wasn’t particularly fast and had a high-rev that produced less than 150hp.
General Motors Firebird
General Motors didn’t just settle with one gas-turbine toting concept car, but instead had several renditions over the years, each better than the last. The design team was inspired by the famous fighter jets of the time, not just in design but also in a mechanical application, and made several cars that had the gas-turbine engines.
Pontiac, also a section of General Motors, did create the full-scale production Firebird that many car enthusiasts have known and love, and these cars are completely unrelated from the gas turbine concepts that they share a name with.
The C-X75 isn’t the first iconic Jaguar to be forgotten, but this one has something special, and – you probably guess it – it’s a gas turbine engine. It is incredibly different from the rest of the cars on this list, however, because it uses gas micro-turbines in the concept version, which was later adapted to be a hybrid electric car, perhaps the closest any of these gas turbine cars got to depicting the future of engine power.
As cool as they may sound, gas turbine engines were expensive to produce and maintain – even though they required less maintenance – and they were incredibly inefficient with fuel. They didn’t quite fit the bill to replace combustion engines, and while it’s sad that they didn’t continue on, it is still interesting to know that at one point in time, some people thought they were the engines of the future.