The gas turbine engine is widely used as an
aircraft powerplant, because of its unique capability to meet
exacting requirements for performance, endurance and
Some of the exceptional qualities of the gas
turbine engine as an aircraft powerplant are: reliability,
durability, compactness, high specific power output,
reasonable cost, high thermal efficiency, freedom from
vibration, ease of maintenance, operating flexibility.
In automotive applications the main
advantages of the gas turbine engine compared to a
reciprocating engine of the same power are extreme simplicity,
absolute absence of vibration, smaller dimensions, lower
weight and the possibility to use virtually any kind of fuel.
With only one spark plug and just a fraction
of the moving parts of a conventional engine, maintenance and
repair costs are minimal. A gas turbine engine does not even
need periodical tune-ups.
The gas turbine engine is self-cooled by its
own aspiration air, therefore a cooling system does not even
At the same time, as the gas turbine engine
operates with excess air, the fuel is burned completely and
virtually no noxious fumes such as carbon monoxide are
Concerning operation, a gas turbine engine
starts instantly, even in the coldest weather, needs no
warm-up and is able to provide full power within seconds,
while also providing instant heating to the passengers, if
The main disadvantage of a gas turbine engine
is a higher cost, compared to a reciprocating engine of the
same size, due to the high revolving speeds and temperatures
that are reached during operation. As a result very high
standards of engineering and manufacture are required. This
additional cost can be justified either by large-scale
production or by high-end products.
Fuel consumption, which was comparatively
higher at the beginning of experimentation almost 60 years
ago, no longer is an issue. Already 20 years ago, it was
almost in line with the fuel consumption of reciprocating
engines of equivalent power.
Concerning reliability, it is worth noting
that gas turbine engines have been designed in order to
continuously operate at virtually 100% of their potential,
during their entire programmed life span while ensuring
complete safety in flight.
In an automotive application maximum power is
requested only occasionally and when this occurs it is only
for extremely brief periods of time (seconds compared to
hours). Therefore, it is easily deduced that gas turbine
engines absolutely constitute the most reliable choice that
can be made.
Furthermore, with the exception of normal
oil-changes, no other kind of engine maintenance is
anticipated during the entire life of a gas turbine-powered
vehicle, rendering it quite a unique ownership
Thinking of the frequent and very costly
mechanical care required by the average supercar (and not
only), the obvious conclusion is that no reciprocating engine
of comparable power could even come close to the reliability
and practicality of a gas turbine engine.
Last but not least, the capacity of a gas
turbine engine to use almost any kind of fuel would render a
turbine-powered vehicle fully usable everywhere in the world,
even in places where the quality of available fuel may not be
Therefore, where other cars and certainly all
other supercars would have to stop, all the planned Project 1221 supercars will keep going virtually on
anything, if need be even ...vodka (or substitute with your
In everyday real-world conditions the gas
turbine engines developed for Project 1221 will be
running on common diesel fuel while those clients that happen
to also use a private plane would be able to nonchalantly
fuel-up with kerosene and jet fuel as well.
Incidentally all these fuels, because
of their lower volatility, offer a welcome safety advantage
when compared to petrol (gasoline), the fuel of choice for the
The Fascination of the Gas
The adoption of a gas turbine powerplant in a
car imparts a unique personality and makes its experience
unforgettable, both for the driver and the passengers.
The total absence of any kind of mechanical
noise or vibration in the passengers' compartment is
surprisingly combined with fierce, effortless performance on
demand, never before possible in a road car. To the outside
world the rumble of a conventional reciprocating engine, as
more or less emitted by all cars, is instead substituted by
the characteristic whir that is associated only with
The first gas turbine powered experimental
vehicles started to appear during the 1950's in the United
States and in England.
In the following years of experimentation
several gas turbine-powered road cars as well as race cars
appeared, notably at the Indianapolis 500 miles, the Formula 1
World Championship and the 24 Heures du Mans.
Nonetheless and to the present day, the gas
turbine engine is still confined to the aviation industry,
while the automotive industry has been reluctant to finally
adopt it in regular production.
Experimentation did endure the '70s energy
crisis and it is public knowledge that, among Detroit's "big
three", Chrysler in particular was on the verge of starting
regular production after its M-body New Yorker turbine car was
presented in 1981.
More or less at the same time Chrysler sold
off its subsidiary company Chrysler Defense, including the M1
battle tank program, supposedly obliging to a condition of
loans granted in 1979 by the U.S. Government. Subsequently the
M1A1 / M1A2 Abrams tank enjoyed production powered indeed by a
1 500 hp gas turbine engine while, surprisingly,
production of the Chrysler turbine car did not ever occur.
As it is in vogue for various other issues, a
conspiracy theory has as well emerged regarding the aborted
automotive application of the gas turbine engine, admittedly
somehow inexplicable from a technical point of view.
This mysterious technological and industrial
paradox, together with the inherent qualities of the gas
turbine engine, has contributed in the spontaneous creation
among enthusiasts of a cult for turbine cars.
The fact that turbine cars have only existed
as either experimental concept cars or isolated race cars does
nothing else than add to the mythical
aura surrounding them.