Forgotten concept: 1954 Fiat Turbina
Taking 'jet-inspiration' to a whole new level
In 1950s, jet age reached its pinnacle. There were many cars that featured tailfins, jet-inspired dashboards, and some were even designed to look like actual planes. But, Fiat took it one step forward.
Credit: Car Styling
In 1954, they presented a gas-turbine powered car, called Turbina. It was made 8 years before the Chrysler Turbine, and Fiat was the second car maker to introduce a car powered by a gas turbine. The first company was Rover, but Fiat said that “Turbina was the first turbine car made in Continental Europe”.
Demonstration run at the Turin-Caselle Airport. Credit: Italian Ways
They started working on this car in 1948, and the first test on the famous Fiat rooftop track happened 6 years later, on 14th April 1954. The car was presented few days after the tests at the Turin-Caselle Airport, where Fiat’s test driver Carlo Salamano did some demonstration runs. All important people from Fiat were there, including Gianni Agnelli, Vittorio Valletta (president of Fiat) and Dante Giacosa (leading engineer and director of the technical office). After the demonstrations, Turbina was displayed at the 36th Turin Motor Show, where it got huge attention.
Credit: Old Concept Cars
People were amazed by the car’s streamlined shape. The red and white paintjob made it stand out even more. Jet inspiration could be seen everywhere on it, including the chrome-ringed turbine exhaust, along with the huge fins. With its height of 124cm and length of 4.3 meters, it wasn’t really massive. And since the car was just an experiment/concept, Fiat never put any headlights or taillights.
Credit: Car Styling
They never made a proper interior either. To be honest, it didn’t really need anything special, since the car was just used for demonstration runs and few presentations at shows. So, on the inside you have one bucket seat to accommodate the driver and two pedals which he can use to operate the car (one pedal to go, one to stop). But, if you thought that Fiat was only making a jet-inspired exterior, you’d be wrong. The dashboard looks like it came from an actual fighter-jet, with around 15 gauges scattered along the panel. There were tachometers (one for gas generator, one for the power turbine), oil temperature indicators, bearing indicators, combustion gas indicators, fuel pressure and lubrication circuit pressure indicators.
Turbina's interior. Credit: Old Concept Cars
The engine was behind the driver. It was made of two-stage centrifugal compressor, three combustors, and three turbines. Two of those turbines were driving the compressor, and were sending power to the third turbine, which was powering the rear wheels. According to Fiat, the Turbina could output 300hp at 22.000rpm, and could reach the top speed of 250 km/h (160 mph). The body was shaped in a wind tunnel and when it was finished, it had a drag coefficient of 0.14. For 30 years, the Turbina held the record for a car with the lowest drag coefficient.
Credit: Autoconcept Reviews
However, due to high fuel consumption as well as overheating issues, Turbina was killed off. But it proved one important thing. This was one of those little weird cars that tried to do something, but eventually they fade into oblivion. But, it came and showed us what it was capable of and left a significant mark in automotive history. If you want to see the Fiat Turbina, it’s displayed at the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile in Turin, Italy.
Credit: Italian Ways