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Ford built a Boeing turbine-powered Thunderbird in 1955

The Ford Thunderbird launched for the 1955 mannequin 12 months with a reasonably standard lineup of engine choices, however the Blue Oval additionally experimented with one thing fairly unorthodox. The corporate as soon as stuffed a gasoline turbine engine right into a 1955 Thunderbird.

Ford archivist Ted Ryan posted a photograph of the turbine-powered Thunderbird and testing notes on Twitter on Tuesday. They’re artifacts from a time when automakers thought of generators as a attainable various to traditional piston engines.

The mission started in August 1955 and the automotive was prepared for testing in March 1956. The aim of the mission was “to acquire expertise with gasoline turbine engine packaging and operation,” in line with the testing notes. Ford additionally sought to be taught “the particular benefits and issues related to such a powerplant.”

To that finish, Ford invested $188,000 (in 1955 {dollars}) within the turbine-powered Thunderbird prototype. Sourced from plane producer Boeing, the turbine was mounted the place a traditional engine would usually go, however with a large exhaust outlet simply behind the entrance wheels.

 

1955 Ford Thunderbird gasoline turbine prototype

Outcomes have been combined. Positives included good medium-speed acceleration, a very good power-to-weight ratio, an absence of vibration, and low upkeep necessities. Nevertheless, the notes additionally talked about “critical acceleration lag in startup,” in addition to issues with the front-mounted exhaust and “quite a few different traits that represented downside areas.”

For sure, Ford by no means put a turbine-powered Thunderbird into manufacturing, but it surely wasn’t the one Detroit automaker experimenting with turbine energy. The Chrysler Turbine Automotive appeared in 1962, and Chrysler even distributed 50 automobiles to prospects for real-world analysis.

Chrysler did not get a lot additional than Ford, nonetheless, and many of the Turbine Vehicles have been scrapped after their loans ended. 9 survive immediately, largely in museums. Two are identified to be in non-public arms, together with one in Jay Leno’s assortment.

In the meantime, the Thunderbird continued on for many years in many alternative types, however by no means a turbine engine. Manufacturing of the final, retro-styled T-Hen ended after the 2005 mannequin 12 months, although Ford has saved the trademark present to keep up management over the enduring nameplate.



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