Project 1221

 

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The Gas Turbine Engine
 

The gas turbine engine is widely used as an aircraft powerplant, because of its unique capability to meet exacting requirements for performance, endurance and dependability.

Some of the exceptional qualities of the gas turbine engine as an aircraft powerplant are: reliability, durability, compactness, high specific power output, reasonable cost, high thermal efficiency, freedom from vibration, ease of maintenance, operating flexibility.

In automotive applications the main advantages of the gas turbine engine compared to a reciprocating engine of the same power are extreme simplicity, absolute absence of vibration, smaller dimensions, lower weight and the possibility to use virtually any kind of fuel.

With only one spark plug and just a fraction of the moving parts of a conventional engine, maintenance and repair costs are minimal. A gas turbine engine does not even need periodical tune-ups.

The gas turbine engine is self-cooled by its own aspiration air, therefore a cooling system does not even exist.

At the same time, as the gas turbine engine operates with excess air, the fuel is burned completely and virtually no noxious fumes such as carbon monoxide are produced.

Concerning operation, a gas turbine engine starts instantly, even in the coldest weather, needs no warm-up and is able to provide full power within seconds, while also providing instant heating to the passengers, if required.

The main disadvantage of a gas turbine engine is a higher cost, compared to a reciprocating engine of the same size, due to the high revolving speeds and temperatures that are reached during operation. As a result very high standards of engineering and manufacture are required. This additional cost can be justified either by large-scale production or by high-end products.

Fuel consumption, which was comparatively higher at the beginning of experimentation almost 60 years ago, no longer is an issue. Already 20 years ago, it was almost in line with the fuel consumption of reciprocating engines of equivalent power.

Concerning reliability, it is worth noting that gas turbine engines have been designed in order to continuously operate at virtually 100% of their potential, during their entire programmed life span while ensuring complete safety in flight.

In an automotive application maximum power is requested only occasionally and when this occurs it is only for extremely brief periods of time (seconds compared to hours). Therefore, it is easily deduced that gas turbine engines absolutely constitute the most reliable choice that can be made.

Furthermore, with the exception of normal oil-changes, no other kind of engine maintenance is anticipated during the entire life of a gas turbine-powered vehicle, rendering it quite a unique ownership proposition.

Thinking of the frequent and very costly mechanical care required by the average supercar (and not only), the obvious conclusion is that no reciprocating engine of comparable power could even come close to the reliability and practicality of a gas turbine engine.

Last but not least, the capacity of a gas turbine engine to use almost any kind of fuel would render a turbine-powered vehicle fully usable everywhere in the world, even in places where the quality of available fuel may not be good.

Therefore, where other cars and certainly all other supercars would have to stop, all the planned Project 1221 supercars will keep going virtually on anything, if need be even ...vodka (or substitute with your favourite spirit).

In everyday real-world conditions the gas turbine engines developed for Project 1221 will be running on common diesel fuel while those clients that happen to also use a private plane would be able to nonchalantly fuel-up with kerosene and jet fuel as well.

Incidentally all these fuels, because of their lower volatility, offer a welcome safety advantage when compared to petrol (gasoline), the fuel of choice for the average supercar.

The Fascination of the Gas Turbine Engine

The adoption of a gas turbine powerplant in a car imparts a unique personality and makes its experience unforgettable, both for the driver and the passengers.

The total absence of any kind of mechanical noise or vibration in the passengers' compartment is surprisingly combined with fierce, effortless performance on demand, never before possible in a road car. To the outside world the rumble of a conventional reciprocating engine, as more or less emitted by all cars, is instead substituted by the characteristic whir that is associated only with air-travel.

The first gas turbine powered experimental vehicles started to appear during the 1950's in the United States and in England.

In the following years of experimentation several gas turbine-powered road cars as well as race cars appeared, notably at the Indianapolis 500 miles, the Formula 1 World Championship and the 24 Heures du Mans.

Nonetheless and to the present day, the gas turbine engine is still confined to the aviation industry, while the automotive industry has been reluctant to finally adopt it in regular production.

Experimentation did endure the '70s energy crisis and it is public knowledge that, among Detroit's "big three", Chrysler in particular was on the verge of starting regular production after its M-body New Yorker turbine car was presented in 1981.

More or less at the same time Chrysler sold off its subsidiary company Chrysler Defense, including the M1 battle tank program, supposedly obliging to a condition of loans granted in 1979 by the U.S. Government. Subsequently the M1A1 / M1A2 Abrams tank enjoyed production powered indeed by a 1 500 hp gas turbine engine while, surprisingly, production of the Chrysler turbine car did not ever occur.

As it is in vogue for various other issues, a conspiracy theory has as well emerged regarding the aborted automotive application of the gas turbine engine, admittedly somehow inexplicable from a technical point of view.

This mysterious technological and industrial paradox, together with the inherent qualities of the gas turbine engine, has contributed in the spontaneous creation among enthusiasts of a cult for turbine cars.

The fact that turbine cars have only existed as either experimental concept cars or isolated race cars does nothing else than add to the mythical aura surrounding them.

The Gas Turbine Engine