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STRANGE OLDE TRUCKS - 1965 FORD GAS TURBINE

A LOOK BACK in Ford History--Jan. 10

January, 1955: Ford Reveals Experimental Turbine

In January, 1955, Ford Motor Company became the first auto company to publish results of its research and development work on gas turbine, or “jet,” engines for automotive use. Ford shared with Society of Automotive Engineers members the results of three years of research on turbines, compressors, burners, regenerators and other components. Ford researchers believed that optimizing those components was the key to adapting the gas turbine for automotive use. But the turbine’s high operating speed and temperature would ultimately prove insurmountable. In 1970, after 18 years of research and development, Ford began to build and sell turbine engines for heavy truck, bus, marine and industrial use. But supplier and technical issues closed the Ford turbine venture in 1973. While automotive use of turbines remains prohibitively expensive, Ford research on materials—especially ceramics and high-temperature coatings—has been very helpful in controlling emissions. Reader:

In January, 1955, Ford Motor Company became the first auto company to publish results of its research and development work on gas turbine, or “jet,” engines for automotive use. Ford shared with Society of Automotive Engineers members the results of three years of research on turbines, compressors, burners, regenerators and other components. Ford researchers believed that optimizing those components was the key to adapting the gas turbine for automotive use.

They installed a 150 hp, low-pressure regenerative turbine in a 1954 Ford, but the results were unimpressive. The focus of automotive applications shifted gradually to trucks and in 1966, a turbine powerplant was installed in the C-800, the largest truck Ford built at that time.

Five years earlier and impressed by a 300 hp Ford turbine prototype, the U.S. Defense Department contract with Ford to develop a 600 hp version. The result was “Big Red,” a towering super-transport prototype. After its debut in 1964, it made several cross-country runs at costs comparable to diesel operation.

An improved version, the first turbine designed for a specific commercial application, was introduced in 1966 for highway testing in Ford’s W-1000, a heavy-duty tractor used in over-the-road service. Other turbine engines underwent testing in a Contintental Trailways bus used on cross-country routes and in part of the Ford truck fleet hauling parts between Michigan and Ohio.

Among its major advantages, the Ford turbine engine offered low noise, low emissions, low oil consumption and little vibration, easy cold-weather starting, extended overhaul life, high torque at low speeds and instantaneous full-power capability.

Military tanks, helicopters and jet airliners use gas turbines because they are smaller than reciprocating engines with better power-to-weight ratios. But high fuel consumption at idle and the costly materials required by their high operating speeds and temperatures have precluded successful turbine automobiles, except for one-off demonstration vehicles and dragsters.

In 1970, following 18 years of gas turbine research, Ford opened its Ohio Engine Plant in Toledo to build and sell turbine engines for heavy truck, bus, marine and industrial usage. But Ford closed the plant in 1973, after continuing issues of turbine heating and a devastating flood that shuttered a single-source supplier’s only plant

While the cost of turbine technology for automotive transportation remains prohibitive, Ford research on turbine materials—especially ceramics and high-temperature coatings—has been very productive in controlling auto emissions.
 

STRANGE OLDE TRUCKS - 1965 FORD GAS TURBINE






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