Chrysler Turbine Car Documentary Captures The Apex of America’s Jet Age

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The Chrysler Turbine Car seemed impossible, perhaps even ridiculous. Yet when this jet car for the masses debuted, it was an instant hit. The design was revolutionary yet realistic, and with that incredible, fantastic sound under the hood, the message was clear: the future is here. Generations later, the Chrysler Turbine Car and the program that saw its launch are remembered as life-changing experiences.

The Jet Age

The Hagerty Drivers Foundation captures the dynamic story behind the people who re-wrote the rules of automotive design in its latest documentary, The Chrysler Turbine Car: Engineering a Revolution, available for free on its official YouTube Channel.

With archival audio clips and video footage, Hagerty’s filmmakers show us a brief history of life in the United States in the 1950s. Economic prosperity flows from the post-World War II boom, the word historians use to describe society at the time. It’s an era where baby boomers discover their formative years in a then-new concept called “the suburb.” Meanwhile, President Eisenhower has enacted the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which gave birth to our modern interstate system. And behind the scenes in Detroit, a skunkworks engineering team at Chrysler was building a car for the jet age. 

Heart & Soul

The Hagerty Drivers Foundation created something remarkable, if not extraordinary, with The Chrysler Turbine Car: Engineering a Revolution. The 70-minute documentary is a joy to watch. Everything is direct from the vantage point of the engineers and mechanics who oversaw the Turbine’s original program and the historians working to preserve and share its legacy. The Chrysler Turbine Car: Engineering a Revolution is told by those who know every nut and bolt of that car, and it’s simply fantastic. 

“Understanding the work that was going into this new technology, the amount of time and passion that was going into making these vehicles work – I wish everybody could talk to the guys that made them run,” said Brandt Rosenbusch, Stellantis Collections Manager, who appears in the film. “All the men and women that put their heart and soul into these vehicles have made them icons in the automotive world.”

Featured experts on screen with Rosenbusch include Steve Lehto, author of Chrysler’s Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit’s Coolest Creation; Bill Carry, National Turbine Service Supervisor; Bud Mann and Jerry Gross, engineers on the Chrysler Turbine Program; Terri Coppens, General Manager of the Stahls Automotive Collection, and comedian and car collector Jay Leno. 

Chrysler Turbine Car (Serial No. 9912-31) on display at the Stahls Automotive Foundation in Chesterfield, Michigan. One of the few surviving cars, this one was added to the National Historic Vehicle Register in 2022. The foundation seeks to educate, motivate, and inspire young people with a passion and appreciation for vintage vehicles.

“The Time of Our Lives”

Most touching is the story of Mark Olson, whose family was selected in 1965 to drive a Chrysler Turbine Car for several months during the combined engineering trial and marketing blitz behind the car in the 1960s. Olson was 16 at the time and was, in his words, a loaner and a geek. Around the 44-minute mark, Hagerty’s filmmakers give Olson a patch of road to open up and share his story. 

As we hear Olson speak, it’s something many of us can relate to; the idea that cars (or a car in particular) can forever change our lives. For Olson, it was the Chrysler Turbine Car. Listening to him talk about sitting in the car at night in the garage and how being part of a national program at the time helped him get out of his shell. It’s a real treat to hear such a story. Olson’s inclusion in The Chrysler Turbine Car: Engineering a Revolution is the proverbial icing on the cake, a stellar addition that sends this already excellent documentary into overdrive.  

Where to Watch

The Chrysler Turbine Car: Engineering a Revolution is available on the official YouTube channel of the Hagerty Drivers Foundation. One night after work or over the weekend, take a little time to watch this gem of a documentary. It’s an endearing story about this wild idea, a jet-powered car, and the people who brought it to life and rallied behind it to make it something special.

Carl Anthony is the Managing Editor of Automoblog and the host of AutoVision News Radio and AutoSens Insights. He is a Midwest Automotive Media Association member and on the board of directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation. Like many Detroiters, Carl is holding out for a Lions Super Bowl win. 

Chrysler Turbine Car Photo Gallery

Photos: Hagerty Drivers Foundation.

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