• Truck Rewind: 1966 Chevy Turbo Titan III is Still Futuristic By Today’s Standards

    Chevy Turbo Titan III concept

    Even by today’s standards, the 1966 Chevy Turbo Titan III looks formidable. It was full of futuristic innovations of the day. Coupled to a 40-foot, stainless steel trailer, the Turbo Titan III was a gas turbine-powered semi that made it all the way to a rolling prototype before the project was scrapped. Turbine power was all the rage back in the 1950s and 1960s with several vehicles built by the Big Three (among others) being tested all over the country. None of them made it to production as turbine power proved to be not as well suited to land-going vehicles.

    [Editor’s note: we are kicking off a new “Truck Rewind” series of articles. Let us know what you think in the comments below.]

    Powered by a 280 horsepower GT-309 turbine power plant, maximum torque of 875-lbs could only be achieved at idle. An Allison 6-speed automatic transmission was connected to the power turbine gear which was connected to the turbine’s output shaft. The Gross Combined Weight (GCW) was 76,800 lbs.

    The 1966 Chevrolet Turbo Titan III’s main shaft spun at 35,000 rpm and had to be gear-reduced to a more manageable 4,000 rpm.

    1966 chevrolet turbo titan interior steering

    There were many innovations aside from the turbine. The massive front intakes also housed sideways-opening popup/popout headlights. While Chevrolet used a current-day semi platform, the exterior was covered in fiberglass and many functions, like the tilting cab (for turbine access), were electrically powered. The interior had NASA-like seats and the steering system consisted of two small wheels that was connected to the power steering.

    All in all, the rolling testbeds proved that General Motors was just as curious as the competition regarding turbine’s potential. A curiosity that never made it to production. Still, it’s gratifying to see Chevrolet’s creative side flourish focusing on a truck.

    Chevrolet invited TFLtruck out to Las Vegas to drive their new Tahoe Custom, a new entry-level model. We not only towed the new 2018 Polaris RZR XP 1000 Turbo DYNAMIX, we got to drive the RZRs too!

    Nathan Adlen
    Nathan Adlen
    Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.

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    33 thoughts on “Truck Rewind: 1966 Chevy Turbo Titan III is Still Futuristic By Today’s Standards

    1. Nathan – – –

      Any idea about fuel mileage?
      Modern diesel-semi’s, — with PACCAR, or Detroit, or Cummins engines — at 80K lbs GVWR, get between 5 and 8 MPG typically.
      Chrysler killed its turbine car (albeit a prototype) because it ate diesel at 16 MPG; did not accelerate all that fast; was VERY expensive; was hard to start in the cold; and blasted a huge amount of exhaust wind and heat behind it. But it was fun to see and hear! (It came to the RPI campus for students to drool over in ~1965.)


      1. Turbines are coming to your trucks. Back then, they made the mistake of hooking a transmission to them instead of just connecting the turbine to a generator like all the new vehicles that have already come out and are coming out.
        So when this range extender turbines come out, you can choose whichever fuel you want to use: diesel, gas, biodiesel, whichever pump you want to pull up to.
        Heck, pour your old vegetable or olive oitl down your fuel tank.

        1. My experience with gas turbines was very fuel specific. I’m reasonably sure that certain military turbines might be multi-fuel,but I think that tech is expensive.Might be more expensive than a small clean diesel,just to run a generator.

            1. Yes, but my dreams are different than yours.

              When I wake up, there is another aannouncement of real developments of micro turbine range extendors and the like.

              I don’t want to know what the drugs have done to your dreams.

            2. Rambros Bro Hal – you need to learn to separate dreams from reality. Come back down to earth, study harder in science class, learn to differentiate cool concepts from harsh reality

          1. Multi-fuel capability isn’t expensive, but it usually compromises on economy and power. Turbines care very little, however. Comes down to the fuel having enough lubricity for the pumps on the thin end, to being able to effectively spray/atomize it on the thick end.
            Big challenge with turbines is their air consumption, which for land applications must be filtered.
            I’m not certain what kind of thermal efficiency they can hit, but we have HD diesels near 53% before a secondary using a rankine cycle to recover some more.

        2. I heard their coming out with a new turbine powered generator that runs in liquid cement. It burns so clean you can’t even smell the unicorn farts coning out of the imaginary tailpipe!

        3. Not any time soon. With current technology, piston engines are a fair bit more efficient. They are also less expensive to manufacture and there is existing infrastructure to maintain them. Turbines are cool, but you are not going to find them under your hood in the next few years.
          Also, turbines are not quite as fuel independent as you might think, particularly when one considers the emissions requirements they would need to meet in a vehicle such as a pickup truck.

    2. Andre – – –

      TFLT: “[Editor’s note: we are kicking off a new “Truck Rewind” series of articles. Let us know what you think in the comments below.]”

      YES!!! Love old trucks. They are a strong part of American history. Am especially fond of pickups from the late 1930’s into the 1950’s: even brands we don’t see any more, — like IH, Willys, Diamond T, Diamond REO, and Studebaker.


      1. Agreed. I would also like to see more historical articles. Depending on how much you can dig up perhaps it should become a regular weekly or monthly thing. It is always interesting to look back at where we were (or might have been in this case) and see how it compares to where we are now.

    3. In the sixties the dreams of the designers must have been pretty cool. Nowadays it seems like the designers just bring out the next color paint job. Like the black edition or the midnight edition. Next the charcoal edition.

    4. Love the retro stuff. I am new to your sites. I now check them everyday. I was thinking that tfl should bring in Mike Rowe on occasion for work truck segments. Such as going to various work locations where trucks are being used. Kind of a tfl dirty jobs.

    5. In addition to my previous email, you should expand into tfl travel. Taking cars/trucks to all sorts of destinations from: tourist attractions to overland excursions; parking a smart car in New York City; participating in the Petty Experience at NASCAR tracks (I have done this); and showing viewers where race tracks are located that allow the public to use; etc.

        1. I’m an old guy,and I like the direction,(basically) where the new trucks are going,just not the size. For me,my next new truck will be some brand of diesel midsize,with a decent helping of bells and whistles ;}>

        2. Jay S – – –

          JS: “The old guys want to talk about old trucks, but us younger guys want to have articles on the future and near future trucks and technologies.”

          Isn’t it possible to have both on the same website? (^_^)….


    6. Workhorse says they will not use the 3 cylinder range extender. They are going with a bigger engine. Good stuff. Just like I was advocating.

      What do you know. maybe I know what I’m talking about.

        1. They didn’t say, but they did say Mercedes might be a possible maker. Would be great to see a Mercedes diesel, those can be very durable engines, and ridiculously efficient when combined with electric.

      1. Rambros Bro. – – –

        RB: “Workhorse says they will not use the 3 cylinder range extender. They are going with a bigger engine.”

        Gee, maybe Workhorse will eventually discover that they will have to work themselves up to a nice American V-8. Yup, that ought to do it. Won’t even need electric motors… Ooooops (^_^)…


        1. No you still don’t understand. But what is new.

          A big American v8 would be ideal like I have advocated. Like the GM 6.2 . Hook that up to a generator to make it a range extender with electrified wheels or motors, and you could be very efficient AND have all your power.

          I know, this is difficult for YOU to understand.

          The GM 6. woul be great because you could work the cylinder deactivation into using it as a generator–choosing how much power you want out of the engine at any time.

          Starting to get it? No, well, keep processing. You might get it some day. By then, they will have it for you to buy in the consumer market.

    7. This is several decades before my time but I absolutely love these types of articles. For one, I would have never even known this existed before until you guys(TFL) made this an article. I have visited the Henry Ford museum and they have some seriously sweet old vehicles but there is much much more in our history than at that one museum. Really really cool guys! Keep it up👍

    8. Mercy do you see nostrils on that old gm truck!? I can say there was no sinus congestion there.

      Ah back to the turbine engine that was well before it’s time and to expensive to operate. Plus lot other issues. I think it same holds true today.

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