Even Opening the Hood or Trunk in a Chrysler Turbine Car Was Difficult

It had a weird engine, and it was hard to see it. It was even harder to get in the trunk.

Courtesy Steve Lehto

Chrysler spent a lot of time and money making turbine powered cars. When the company put a fleet of them on the road in 1963, it decided to pull out all the stops. A unique car was designed to house the turbine powertrain and it was built by Ghia in Italy. And, as you might guess, the special-built cars had all kinds of neat details which were overshadowed by the remarkable power plant. For instance, many people who encounter one of the Ghia-built Turbine cars cannot figure out how to get into the trunk. Even getting the hood open confused people in 1963.

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Much has been written of the 55 bronze Turbine cars built by Chrysler and lent to the public as part of a big publicity stunt in the early 1960s. When each Turbine car was dropped off, a representative from Chrysler would walk the customer through all of the nuances of Turbine car “ownership.” First, to pop the hood, one had to get inside the car and find an unmarked black knob under the dashboard. Pulling this would release the hood. While under-dash hood releases are common nowadays, they were very uncommon in 1963, the year these cars first hit the road. Chrysler knew that the cars would generate an inordinate amount of curiosity and didn’t want the cars being molested when their users parked them in public places.

Chrysler

More confusingly, the trunk could not be opened from outside of the car, even with a key. In fact, there is nothing on the outside of the car to indicate how the trunk opens or even if it can be locked. This really confused people. While researching my book on the Turbine Car program, I spoke with several people who worked in museums that have these cars in their collections. One person explained to me how you had to lie under the car and find the “trunk cable” to get the trunk to open. When I expressed surprise, he told me that Chrysler had made the trunk difficult to get into and had placed a hidden cable under the car in an out-of-the-way place on purpose.

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Courtesy Steve Lehto

What that person did not know is something very few people would be able to figure out without being told: there is an unmarked lever next to the rear driver’s side passenger seat that opens the trunk. That is what the “hidden trunk cable” is attached to. When a consumer was lent the Turbine Car and given the introductory walk-through, this lever was pointed out. After all, the trunk is where the spare tire and the batteries are located. And, in theory, even a Turbine Car could get a flat tire or need a jump-start. The glovebox manual that came with the cars back in the day also included a page on how to open the hood and the trunk, but who reads those?


Steve Lehto is a writer and from Michigan. He specializes in Lemon Law and frequently writes about cars and the law. His most recent books include , and . He also has a where he talks about these things.

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