(Gas Turbine Vehicle)
ig-name manufacturers often used wild concept cars to duke it out in order to establish automotive dominance within the market, with the most outthe-gate designs thrusted into the public eye just for the sake of keeping that brand name relevant. But there can be a lot of innovation found in these forgotten pioneers — the kind of stuff that is only really being explored and implemented properly now, some 30-plus years later.
Toyota has always maintained a slightly less crazy stance with its concept cars, looking to produce concepts as close to production vehicles as possible, and much of what was developed in the ’80s and ’90s ended up contributing heavily to their production counterparts.
This month, we’re taking a look at the Toyota GTV (Gas Turbine Vehicle), debuted at the 1987 Tokyo Motor Show. Yep, Toyota stuck a damn jet engine in a car and made it work. But this ain’t the kind of fire-breathing monster you’re picturing; it doesn’t send 20m long flames of death out the rear, melting
anything in its path or require the ‘driver’ to strap themselves on top of a thin alloy-panel-clad missile of sketchiness — it was much, much, more refined.
It used Toyota’s in-house developed ‘Gas Turbine II engine’, which consisted of a one-stage turbine that was used to drive a compressor, while a second turbine was connected to the driveshaft, taking the place of a torque converter. And, unlike earlier turbine engines to be tested in automotive use, such as that used in the Chrysler Turbine Car, the GTV had a de-coupled gas turbine, meaning that power output was delivered by the separate (second) turbine, with a two-stage heat exchanger designed to reduce the exhaustgas temperature and a regenerator that took waste heat and transferred it to the incoming air, increasing efficiency.
With this kind of application, you can forget four-digit rpm, as the compressor turbine spun up to 68,000rpm while the output turbine spun at up to 65,000rpm. To put those kinds of RPM through the automatic continuously variable (CTV) transmission was not going to work. Toyota’s engineers installing a reduction gear train like those found in land speed racers. The gearbox would go on to become the cornerstone of many future production models, as did the four-corner double-wishbone air suspension; however, the GTV never quite made it to dealership showrooms. Toyota was definitely heading in that direction, though, and it is probably one of the automakers closest to production concepts, as it let journalists test drive and review the car in prototype form.
Kevin Radley wrote of the car in the February 1988 edition of Popular Science, “It is like sitting in the cockpit of a jet fighter at takeoff. The sounds coming from the front of, below, and behind the car are what I would expect to hear at Edwards Air Force Base, not here at Toyota Motor Corporation’s Higashi Fuji Proving Ground. It is a high-pitched jet engine scream that rises in note and volume as I slide the conventional automatic transmission selector from neutral into drive and flick the electric parking brake off.”
Based on a Toyota Carina, with a profile reminiscent of the Z30 Soarer and design elements that mimic a bugeye DC2, it wasn’t hard on the eyes and could very well have made for a popular production car. Information around why it was binned before reaching the production process is unclear, but sources suggest that it may have been due to inability to find a way to make the turbine function with the reliability and efficiency required. Who knows? All we can say is that we wouldn’t say no to giving it a whirl, wherever it may be kicking about these days.
Toyota called it the ‘dream engine’, due its ability to run on just about any combustible fuel. The prototype was run on domestic kerosene, while it was also capable of running on methanol and vegetable oils
The turbine output was reduced by 10.13:1 before being delivered to the gearbox, giving the GTV a sturdy 110kW and a maximum 333Nm of torque
Disclaimer: we cut the springs with photoshop, because everything looks better lowered, right?