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    Thread: Indianapolis 1967 - Technological Innovation Hotbed of Motorsports...

    1. Get Off My Lawn!!! vwlarry's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 05:40 AM #1
      Forty years ago this coming Sunday, something pretty wild (almost) happened at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A racing car unlike any other that had ever been built before, or since then almost won the Indianapolis 500. After leading (without opposition) for 171 of the 200 laps of the race, the STP/Paxton Turbine Car of Parnelli Jones fell out of the race on the 197th lap, due to the failure of one small bearing in the car's reduction gearbox. A.J. Foyt then took the lead from Jones and won his second of ultimately four Indy 500s ('61,'64,'67, and 1977).
      The STP Turbine Car was a phenomenon. Conceived, designed, and built at the STP Corporation's laboratories by STP's president, Andy Granatelli and his brother, Vince, virtually the only parts that were not fabricated by the company were the Paxton 550-hp turbine engine and the wheels and tires. The car was based on a backbone chassis that was shaped almost like a big "dogbone", with a central member separating the engine, mounted on the left side, and the driver's cockpit on the right side. The car had a Ferguson four-wheel-drive powertrain that was adapted to the high-rpm turbine powerplant with reduction gearing. Without going into micro-detail about the car's other features, it was simply a rolling techno-revolution in racing car design, and the amazing thing was that it seemed to come out of almost nowhere, since the car had been built largely in secret, and unveiled early in '67 when practice at the Speedway began for the 500 in May. One of the intriguging things about the Turbine Car was its uncanny quietness. The word of the month at Indy was "Whoooosh!", as this was the sound the car made while flying around the track at record speeds. It was nearly silent, in comparison to the roaring V8 Cosworth-Fords and Offenhausers that it was competing against.
      The STP Turbine Car was a sensation, and it was probably the first racecar that I personally ever paid much attention to other than drag-racing cars. Growing up in Indiana, the Indianapolis 500 was always given at least some attention during May by most folks, but this new turbine-powered exotic machine got everybody's attention that year. I think in some ways that this particular car, and the sensation it created in the media, became a kind of turning-point for motorsports in America. After the "Heartbreaker 500" of '67, Indianapolis began its huge growth of later years, ultimately becoming THE happening of American motorsports until the CART/IRL feud took that away in the late 1990's.
      A few shots of the '67 STP Turbine Car:


      (Left to right) Andy Granatelli (president of STP), driver Parnelli Jones, and Andy's brother Vince, sitting on the pitwall after the Turbine Car dropped-out of the 500 with less than seven miles left to the checkered flag. A study in frustration and sadness.

      Do you enjoy old cars and long-winded stories about them? If your answer is "yes", then you might enjoy my blogpage. Try it here: http://vwlarry.blogspot.com . Leave a comment, too; I love feedback! Thanx for reading.

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    3. Member Sledge's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 07:43 AM #2
      If current US open wheeled oval racing wanted to differentiate themselves from F1, replacing the piston engines with these puppies would do the trick. Run'em on 100% alchohol or biodiesel for good measure. [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emthup.gif[/IMG]
      "The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering."
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    4. Member Bustov's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 01:27 PM #3
      nice read, Larry you need to write a book, seriously

    5. 05-25-2007 01:35 PM #4
      Quote, originally posted by Bustov »
      nice read, Larry you need to write a book, seriously

      Several books really, Indy auto racing alone would fill a book and he could make a nice series of car history books.

    6. 05-25-2007 02:44 PM #5
      And as usual, they were quickly outlawed....I would love to know why the technology wasn't further developed from the Chrysler and Rover turbine car experiments. Sure there were issues back then, but I would figure that some 30 plus years of knowledge may make them useful in some sort of automotive application

    7. Member Sledge's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 03:03 PM #6
      Quote, originally posted by Jamblastx »
      I would love to know why the technology wasn't further developed from the Chrysler and Rover turbine car experiments.

      1) Cost
      2) Much lower fuel efficiency than a piston engine in city driving.
      3) Cost
      4) Exhaust was hot enough to roast a bison.
      5) Did I mention cost?
      "The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering."
      - Doctor Who (Fourth Doctor) "Face of Evil"

    8. Member mraguilar's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 03:08 PM #7
      Quote, originally posted by Sledge »
      1) Cost
      2) Much lower fuel efficiency than a piston engine in city driving.
      3) Cost
      4) Exhaust was hot enough to roast a bison.
      5) Did I mention cost?

      1,3,5: costs can be offset with production volumes
      2, Keep spinning a turbine on its optimal range is now possible due to CVT's
      it only leaves the 4 for engineers to think about, they should find some insulating compound.

    9. 05-25-2007 04:09 PM #8
      Also, the exhaust is hot enough on a turbine engine to be used as a steam power generator. Seriously. That is how most natural gas fired powerplants work. The gas is burnt in a huge turbine with the output shaft connected to a generator. Then the exhaust is used to boil water to turn a steam turbine, which also has a generator output shaft. Very efficient setup.

    10. Get Off My Lawn!!! vwlarry's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 04:47 PM #9
      Example: Several years ago at a collector car get-together in Bloomington, IL, I had the privilege of being able to climb into and all over one of the remaining Chrysler Turbines of 1964. The owner left the engine "idling" for hours while onlookers like me had the chance to experience the sound and the heat of the exhaust. It was a warm summer day, but nevertheless, the sheer volume, as well as the great heat, of the exhaust flow kind of shocked me. The tailpipe had a diffuser built into it, but it was very large, and it just blasted hot-exhaust out behind the car, which was, it must be noted, almost odorless and smoke-free. The owner stated that the stall, or what could be called the "idle" speed that the engine was spinning at was something like 3,500rpm, if I remember correctly. It was dead-smooth, as would be expected, and had a mild-yet-piercing kind of "wail" in its note from underneath the hood, almost exactly as one hears from a small jet engine on an aircraft. One could place one's hand on the engine itself and not sense that it was actually running, it was so smooth.
      I've always read that the fatal flaw of the turbine engine, for automotive applications, was that it is, by nature, a "constant speed" powerplant, and not easily adaptable to the widely varying throttle-openings and closings and rpm-changes that typical automotive usage demands, which the reciprocating piston engine excels at. The "lag" of a turbine is massive when attempting to apply power and accelerate (imagine the worst turbocharger lag you've ever experienced and multiply it exponentially). At Indianapolis, the STP Turbine racer did not need to cope with these things, other than being able to build power quickly out of the turns, which was "tunable" in the narrow rpm-range that was involved in this effort.
      The Chrysler Turbine car of 1963-64. 50 were constructed and loaned to families all over America for their personal use over a six-month period, in order to evaluate "real world" practicality. All but ~4 have been destroyed IIRC:
      Do you enjoy old cars and long-winded stories about them? If your answer is "yes", then you might enjoy my blogpage. Try it here: http://vwlarry.blogspot.com . Leave a comment, too; I love feedback! Thanx for reading.

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    11. Member Sledge's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 04:51 PM #10
      Quote, originally posted by vwlarry »
      I've always read that the fatal flaw of the turbine engine, for automotive applications, was that it is, by nature, a "constant speed" powerplant, and not easily adaptable to the widely varying throttle-openings and closings and rpm-changes that typical automotive usage demands, which the reciprocating piston engine excels at.

      There have been many attempts to make a turbine with variable vanes to offset this problem. None have been successful.
      "The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering."
      - Doctor Who (Fourth Doctor) "Face of Evil"

    12. 05-25-2007 05:08 PM #11
      Quote, originally posted by vwlarry »
      I've always read that the fatal flaw of the turbine engine, for automotive applications, was that it is, by nature, a "constant speed" powerplant, and not easily adaptable to the widely varying throttle-openings and closings and rpm-changes that typical automotive usage demands, which the reciprocating piston engine excels at.]

      I wonder if a turbine would be a great match for a hybrid system. The turbine simply idles and changes pace every once and a while, and powers the locomotive system.

    13. Member Sledge's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 05:12 PM #12
      Quote, originally posted by Corbic »
      I wonder if a turbine would be a great match for a hybrid system. The turbine simply idles and changes pace every once and a while, and powers the locomotive system.

      It could be. You just have to deal with the cost of materials and the immense waste heat problem.
      "The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering."
      - Doctor Who (Fourth Doctor) "Face of Evil"

    14. Member mraguilar's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 05:45 PM #13
      Quote, originally posted by Corbic »
      I wonder if a turbine would be a great match for a hybrid system. The turbine simply idles and changes pace every once and a while, and powers the locomotive system.

      or a CVT

    15. 05-25-2007 06:06 PM #14
      The race as it is today doesn't seem to be the experimental showcase of technology as it once was. The cars and teams all seem to be so limited.
      Aren't the cars all running the same engine and chassis?
      I wasn't around in 1967, but I imagine that the race was a lot more exciting then than it has been in the past few years.

    16. Member Bonfire's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 07:33 PM #15


      Some pics from last summer. Awesome car. [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emthup.gif[/IMG]

    17. 05-25-2007 07:39 PM #16
      Quote, originally posted by Sledge »
      It could be. You just have to deal with the cost of materials and the immense waste heat problem.

      Maybe some sort of system to recoup energy from the heat would work.

    18. 05-25-2007 09:06 PM #17
      The turbine car they ran in '68 was even more interesting. It was much more aerodynamic, with a "wedge" shape, and the engine was directly behind the diver, as opposed to the '67's, which sat next to the driver. The car was designed by Colin Chapman, and had FWD as well. The driver was Joe Leonard, and he put the car on the pole, but the engine failed with about 20 laps to go, or thereabout. I think they banned the turbines within a year or two.

    19. Get Off My Lawn!!! vwlarry's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 09:13 PM #18
      Quote, originally posted by Corbic »
      Maybe some sort of system to recoup energy from the heat would work.

      Chrysler Corporation became involved in gas-turbine-power research and development in the early fifties; building a series of experimentally powered Plymouths and Dodges with successively more refined turbine engines and powertrains. By the time they built this '63 model, they had reached the point where a decision was rumored to be near on whether to commit to a production version of what they'd developed, thus the series of cars and the distribution to consumers for testing.
      Part of the refinement of the Chrysler automotive turbine was the engine's "regenerator", or at least I think that's what they called it. Under the hood of the car is a large plenum surrounding the actual engine, and within it is some kind of system that recycled the waste-heat from the exhaust to superheat the intake charge, thus increasing efficiency and also, I believe (going from memory here so forgive me errors) enhancing the turbine's responsivness to throttle inputs (reduced lag). Even with this seeming reduction in the exhaust's temperature through this re-use of its heat, the exhaust was still searingly hot, and of large enough volume (like a jet engine's exhaust coming out the back of a car) to be a real problem to manage safely. That Chrysler I looked-over that day in Bloomington was just simply reeking of heat from both ends. The owner said that the air-conditioning system inside the car was specially designed for that car to compensate for the heat-input from the powertrain into the passenger compartment.
      The ironic thing about this Chrysler was that, as with other turbines, it had no actual "cooling system" on it. The huge volume of air passing through it served as the engine's cooling medium. No fins, no fans, no hoses, no radiator, no antifreeze, etc. That was definitely an advantage, at least of sorts.
      Do you enjoy old cars and long-winded stories about them? If your answer is "yes", then you might enjoy my blogpage. Try it here: http://vwlarry.blogspot.com . Leave a comment, too; I love feedback! Thanx for reading.

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    20. Get Off My Lawn!!! vwlarry's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 09:23 PM #19
      I just did a google and found a really good page on Chrysler's turbine engine history. It's here: http://www.allpar.com/mopar/turbine.html for anyone interested.
      As I always like to point out (for some more like won't shut the hell up ), America's automakers have a magnificent heritage of experimentation and innovation that is sadly overlooked and ignored today in the current environment of Detroit-Bash-Boogie. It always irks me that Europe and Japan get practically all the credit for creativity. In many ways, it's almost like the other way around, except for the past few decades of dormancy/confusion/idiocy that largely took over Detroit's carmakers. For most of their history, America's automakers have been the "innovation locomotive" of the entire automobile industry, with the others following, and at best refining the basic ideas laid down by our engineers and designers. It's worth it to try and set the record a little bit straighter, IMO.
      Do you enjoy old cars and long-winded stories about them? If your answer is "yes", then you might enjoy my blogpage. Try it here: http://vwlarry.blogspot.com . Leave a comment, too; I love feedback! Thanx for reading.

      “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” - Aristotle

    21. Member TurboWraith's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 09:38 PM #20
      Quote, originally posted by vwlarry »
      Example: Several years ago at a collector car get-together in Bloomington, IL....

      When exactly? I live in Peoria, pretty much the next city west. I went to college in Bloomington and have pictures somewhere of likely the very same car you are talking about. I remember the guy running it that day, I couldn't believe the amount of heat being put out. But then again, a turbine engine is really just a chamber with a big fireball than spins a few fans as the heat escapes.

    22. Get Off My Lawn!!! vwlarry's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 09:47 PM #21
      It was either '99 or '00. I forget the place's name, but they have an annual big swapmeet/car show there, and there's a little bit of everything. The Turbine Car was parked out in front of the main building, and the owner kept it running for a long long time, and v. kindly chatted with anyone and everyone about the car, and allowed us all to touch and examine it at will. It was really cool. If you were there that day, you might also remember the Stout Scarab car that was also parked in the front lot (how bizarre is THAT?). I lived in Champaign at the time, and attended this show several times in the late nineties. Great event; really eclectic, casual, and fun.
      Do you enjoy old cars and long-winded stories about them? If your answer is "yes", then you might enjoy my blogpage. Try it here: http://vwlarry.blogspot.com . Leave a comment, too; I love feedback! Thanx for reading.

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    23. Member TurboWraith's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 09:58 PM #22
      Heheh, I remember seeing the Stout Scarab (though at the time I had no idea what that thing was). My roommate and I went down there twice to see all the cars. Bob Taylor's Classic Auto was the name of the place hosting the event I think, but its been a while so that could be way off.
      Always was a lot of fun, those couple shows we went to is what really started to spark my interest in cars. I also found the pinnacle of my favorite car (at the time) there. An '88 Pontiac Fiero with about a 3" chopped top that had the windshield leaned back to meet the lower roof line. This car was powered by a LT1 V8.
      I think this is the actual car, after some googling....



      Modified by TurboWraith at 9:10 PM 5-25-2007

    24. Get Off My Lawn!!! vwlarry's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 10:13 PM #23
      Quote, originally posted by vincentobrien »
      The race as it is today doesn't seem to be the experimental showcase of technology as it once was. The cars and teams all seem to be so limited.
      Aren't the cars all running the same engine and chassis?
      I wasn't around in 1967, but I imagine that the race was a lot more exciting then than it has been in the past few years.

      This is one reason why my passion for motorsports has cooled in recent years. The "spark" of individual creative genius has been almost laundered-out of racing through the nearly total conversion of racing into a "product" rather than a genuine sporting endeavor. Yeah I'm an olde fart and a contrarian in most people's eyes around here, but I think most people realize, at least to themselves, that I am right about this. Taking just the Indianapolis 500 into account, and not even getting into the equally brilliant history of innovation and creativity of Grand Prix/Formula One, as well as other forms of major motorsports, the fascination of human striving for a "better idea", as well as the beautiful freedom to pursue those ideas to fruition, are missing in today's ultra-sanitized and ultra-conformist motorsports scene. They're only hurting themselves by making it so stultifyingly boring to behold, IMO. Auto racing's hellbent rush to please everybody is going to be its own undoing if they don't change something pretty soon.
      Do you enjoy old cars and long-winded stories about them? If your answer is "yes", then you might enjoy my blogpage. Try it here: http://vwlarry.blogspot.com . Leave a comment, too; I love feedback! Thanx for reading.

      “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” - Aristotle

    25. Awaiting Email Confirmation mAdD INDIAN's Avatar
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      05-25-2007 10:35 PM #24
      Quote, originally posted by vwlarry »
      ....the fascination of human striving for a "better idea", as well as the beautiful freedom to pursue those ideas to fruition, are missing in today's ultra-sanitized and ultra-conformist motorsports scene. They're only hurting themselves by making it so stultifyingly boring to behold, IMO. Auto racing's hellbent rush to please everybody is going to be its own undoing if they don't change something pretty soon.

      Here's the thing though, when they allow innovation like that, it leads to a 'parade' instead of a race. Fans complain, so they dumb it down so everyone is relatively equal.
      This is actually a complex problem. Innovation isn't as cheap as it used to be. All the teams have reached such a high level already, finding those extra tenths requires significantly more money. So much money in fact, that not everyone can try. It's hard enough to fill the Indy 500 field as it is, with the 'cheap' leased chassis & engines. Imagine how hard it would be to develop an innovative chassis/engine/package for a one-off race.
      I'm excited for the upcoming seasons of F1, especially if they force some form of re-generative energy systems. A lot of innovation will be seen there. That said there is still innovation, it just isn't obvious. Keel-less chassis, seamless gearboxes, carbon-fiber transmissions, complex electronic differentials - and that's only the innovations found on the car itself. There are countless other innovations made in the team and its logistics.


      Modified by mAdD INDIAN at 3:40 AM 5-26-2007

    26. 05-25-2007 11:03 PM #25
      Drift racing inspires many "one-off" crazy cars. It attracts everything from major manufactures, to small teams and privateers with minimal sponsorships.
      Cars range from near stock to simply crazy cross brand engine swapped, insane machines. RB20DETT powered 350Zs, SR20DET FDs, 2JZ powered WRXs so forth.
      People get creative and try to constantly create not only mechanically unique cars, but also visually unique. Red smoke, scented tires, crazy body kits, so forth.
      However, the majority of people here bitch about it... go figure.

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