Weston native knew the turbine car well 2011.06.02

Written by David Green.


Elaine Angell always enjoyed the drive from Detroit down to Adrian to visit her family—when she was riding in a Chrysler Turbine Car, that is.

“We drove it to Lenawee County several times to visit my parents,” she said. Elaine grew up in Weston and graduated from Sand Creek High School.

“It was real interesting to drive through Adrian,” she remembers. “It got some heads snapping.”

That was back in the first half of the 1960s, when the turbine car existed, before they were all collected and destroyed.

Elaine’s late husband, Peter, was a Canadian who returned from World War II and went to school at McGill University. He graduated first in his engineering class and the Chrysler Corporation snapped him up, Elaine said.

The concept for the turbine car was already thought up when Peter was hired, but he played a role in the production of the unusual automobile.

“The gas turbine engine was a big secret to everybody for a long time,” Elaine said. “Peter was so interested in the project.”

She remembers him coming home from a 12-hour day once and soon going to sleep. Before long a telephone call came and Elaine was hesitant to awaken him, until she learned it was her husband’s boss.

Peter took the phone call, then cheerfully got up and returned to work. He put in another 12 hours—a sign of the dedication and interest in the project by those lucky enough to be involved.

The turbine car was a real smart-looking vehicle, Elaine said, styled by an Italian designer. General Motors also made a turbine car, but there’s was only for display. Only Chrysler had a working model.

“It had an interesting noise to it that drove our dog mad,” she said.

The Angells weren’t allowed to own a turbine, but Peter could bring one home now and then. He was also was part of a team that took a turbine to other cities to show it off.

“It was Chrysler’s claim that it could run on most anything,” Elaine said. 

That’s how she happened to obtain a bottle of the famous Arpège perfume. Peter returned from a showing in Paris where Arpège was used as fuel.

Not too many years passed until Chrysler decided the turbine car would no longer exist. They were rounded up and destroyed.

“I cannot for the life of me imagine why it didn’t take off,” she said. “Everyone seemed to be happy with it. It was a lovely car and I really hated to see it go to the junkyard.”

All she’s left with now are some model cars and other memorabilia. Even the models are quite valuable now.

Elaine’s son tell her that he knows exactly how many she has and that she better not get rid of any of them.

• Take a look at Elaine’s Chrysler Turbine Car memorabilia June 9 at Stair Public Library in Morenci. Michigan Notable Book author Steve Lehto will visit the library at 7 p.m. to discuss his book, “Chrysler’s Turbine Car: The rise and fall of Detroit’s coolest creation.”

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