Sunday, May 16, 2010

Book Review: Steve Lehto's new book on Chrysler's Turbine Car to be published Oct. 1

DETROIT -- Author Steve Lehto's new book, Chrysler’s Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit’s Coolest Creation, is scheduled to be published by Chicago Review Press Oct. 1, 2010. It has a foreword by Jay Leno.

In 1964, Chrysler gave the world a glimpse of the future. They built a fleet of turbine cars -- automobiles with jet engines -- and loaned them out to members of the public. The fleet logged over a million miles; the exercise was a raging success.

These turbine engines would run on any flammable liquid -- tequila, heating oil, Chanel #5, diesel, alcohol, kerosene. If the cars had been mass produced, we might have cars today that do not require petroleum-derived fuels. The engine was also much simpler than the piston engine and required less maintenance. The cars had no radiators or fan belts and never needed oil changes.

Yet Chrysler crushed and burned most of the cars two years later; the jet car’s brief glory was over. Where did it all go wrong? Questions about how and why the program was killed have never been satisfactorily answered.

Steve Lehto has interviewed all the surviving members of the turbine car program. Here he takes these firsthand accounts and weaves them into a great story about the coolest car Detroit ever produced.

Steve Lehto is an adjunct professor at University of Detroit Mercy. His book Death’s Door: The Truth Behind Michigan’s Largest Mass Murder (concerning the 1913 Italian Hall disaster in Calumet) was named a Michigan Notable book in 2007.

Chrysler’s Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit’s Coolest Creation is already listed on with a pre-publication order price.

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