Because of the heat they generate and the tremendous speeds they operate at, gas turbine engines really don’t belong on the road. There have been a few famous exceptions, such as the Y2K Superbike that Jay Leno owns, but we’re pretty sue you guys have never seen a truck powered by one.
In 1966, Chevrolet really did think it was on to something when it launched the Turbo Titan III, fitted with the GT-308 prototype gas turbine engine that produced 280 hp at 35,000 rpm.
The engine had been in development for a decade and a half and GM engineers had previously fitted it to Firebirds and busses. After being completed in 1966, the Turbo Titan III prototype was sent on a nationwide promotional tour. “The point is that whatever kind of truck is in the offering from Chevrolet, it won’t be put up for sale until it’s absolutely right. That’s always been the Chevrolet Way!” said an official Chevy brochure at the time.
Guess it didn’t work out, since we don’t have gas turbine trucks on our highways today.
To be fair to Chevrolet, Ford and Chrysler also tried to develop these types of engines. All the companies believed gas turbines would be smoother when running, start more easily in cold weather and offer instant heat and window defrosting on colder days. The exhaust gasses would also be cleaner and a variety of common liquid fuels could be used.
The Turbo Titan was also interesting from a design point of view. Retractable square headlamps were mounted within the large functional air intakes in two banks of three lamps each that rotated on a vertical axis. Even the turn signals were retractable to reduce drag.
Inside, the most interesting feature was the so-called dial-steering system that Chevrolet thought would replace the steering wheel. Eventually, the project had to be scrapped due to government regulations and huge manufacturing costs. But the Chevrolet of 1966 was clearly not afraid to think big.