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Historic experimental Chrysler ‘Jet’ Car gets feature-length documentary

Hagerty Drivers Foundation documents automotive icon with free in-depth film on the history of the Chrysler Turbine Car

Traverse City, Mich.—The Hagerty Drivers Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, has debuted a documentary on the history of the Chrysler Turbine Car. 

The film The Chrysler Turbine Car: Engineering a Revolution traces Chrysler’s groundbreaking efforts beginning in the 1950s to disrupt the automotive industry with their multimillion-dollar turbine research program.

With the economy booming, the jet age at its peak, and the Jetsons representing the model TV family, Americans expected a marvelous cutting-edge future. The Chrysler Corporation was the only company with the gumption to double down and deliver the closest thing to a REAL jet car for the masses. 

Steve Lehto, turbine historian and author of Chrysler’s Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit’s Coolest Creation, and comedian, car collector, and Chrysler Turbine owner, Jay Leno, are just two of the many people that provide insight into this fascinating endeavor.

Told from the point of view of the engineers and mechanics that were responsible for the program and historians that have spent decades researching this incredible aspect of American automotive history, the film preserves the important story of Chrysler’s attempt to re-write the rules to automotive transportation. 

While the program was a remarkable engineering feat, what really set Chrysler apart from its crosstown Motor City competitors is the user test program. In an unprecedented PR blitz and engineering trial, the Chrysler Corporation built 55 prototype cars in 1963 and 1964 and gave them to 203 members of the general public to gather user feedback.

In the documentary, the Hagerty Drivers Foundation interviews Mark Olson, the son of one of the chosen users. Olson was a 16-year-old car enthusiast when Chrysler delivered the experimental vehicle to his family’s driveway.

He tells of what it was like to drive through small towns in America at a time when the mere idea of jet cars captivated the public and how that experience changed his life. 

“While the Stahls Automotive Collection features many incredible examples of automotive history, our Turbine car is a standout,” said Terri Coppens, General Manager, Stahls Automotive Collection. “We are excited to present it to the public and see it inspire young people to understand the history of the automobile. This documentary uncovers and captures the heart of the people that were originally behind this car and those that continue to bolster its history all these decades later.” 

Brandt Rosenbusch, Collections Manager Stellantis, said, “I think it’s really important that this car is documented in the Library of Congress so that future generations can come and see what people saw, smelled, and felt in the 1960s when these vehicles were on the road. 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. All the men and women that put their heart and soul into these vehicles have made them icons in the automotive world.”

The Chrysler Turbine Car: Engineering a Revolution is being released for free on YouTube by the Hagerty Drivers Foundation to advance its mission to preserve America’s automotive past for future generations.

The Chrysler Turbine Car at the center of the documentary, Serial No. 9912-31, owned by the Stahls Automotive Collection in Chesterfield, Mich., was added to the National Historic Vehicle Register in 2022 to further preserve this important aspect of automotive heritage. 

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