Hat tip to “David P.” for today’s post which is adapted and expanded from LiveTrucking. Also, “B-Squared” supplied the last two images.
“Big Red” was 96 feet long and 13 feet tall. The gas turbine engine developed 600 horsepower.
No doubt inspired by “The Jet Age” in aviation, auto and truck builders in the mid-1950s into the mid-1960s experimented with gas turbine engines in cars and trucks. General Motors built three gas turbine-powered show cars, Firebird I, Firebird II and Firebird III for the 1953, 1956 and 1959 Motorama shows. Chrysler had begun looking into the development of turbine powered cars prior to World War II, but that program was shelved during the war. After the war, Chrysler once again began the development of a gas turbine engine for automobile use. Of the auto and truck manufacturers, Chrysler took turbine development the furthest and stayed with it the longest, a story we will cover next week. Not to be left out of turbine development, Ford built a fantastic turbine powered truck and put it on the road and show circuit in 1964. The cab and dual trailers were painted red and this behemoth of a truck came to be called “Big Red.”
Ford’s turbine powered truck was reported to run completely silent. There was six and a half feet of standing room in its cab, which contained a TV for the passenger to view from his reclining seat. Side slats on the TV prevented the driver from being distracted. The cab was fitted with a refrigerator, oven, sink and beverage dispenser. There was an on-board toilet with an electronic waste incinerator.
Driver and passenger entered the cab via a ladder that dropped down automatically when the door was opened.
The truck pulled a double trailer with up to 170,000 pounds capacity, and measured 96 feet from the front of the cab to the back of the last trailer.
The turbine developed 600 horsepower and the truck was reported to have a completely smooth ride up to speeds of 70 miles per hour thanks to a unique suspension system developed for this experimental vehicle.
Big Red could run almost non-stop, taking a break only to change drivers. The huge truck successfully made several trips around the country.
Ultimately though, like most concepts, it never made it to market. Gas turbine engines have two significant problems for automotive and truck use: high fuel consumption and poor engine braking. Chrysler’s work with gas turbines showed them how to significantly reduce these drawbacks, but apparently Ford chose to throw in the towel on turbine development.
“Big Red” was eventually purchased by the legendary NASCAR racing team, Holman-Moody, but the current location remains a mystery. There are rumors that the truck was returned to Ford’s proving grounds in Dearborn, Michigan, where it is slowly rotting away.
Check out a vintage video, highlighting the features of this ‘futuristic’ rig, below:
“Big Red” was as long as seven Ford Cortinas.
Above: Gilmore’s “Gas-a-teria” was one of the first self-service gas stations. Below: Yes! I can drive a stick! The “Mazda-rati” has a 6 speed manual transmission.