Toyota Built A Gas Turbine Sports Car In The ’70s

Toyota Built A Gas Turbine Sports Car In The ’70s
Photo: Toni Scott

In 1977, the world was still recovering from the shock of the oil crisis. Toyota looked at its economical, 73-mile-per-gallon (29 kilometres-per-litre), fuel-sipping Sports 800, and said yeah, that’s still not enough efficiency. As a result, Toyota began work on a hybrid adaptation it had initially investigated for fun in the mid-’60s.

Photo: Toyota

Toyota’s idea for hybrid vehicles in the mid-’70s: Plop a gas turbine under the hood of a Sports 800 with a huge hood scoop. It showed the car at the 1977 Tokyo Motor Show, along with other absurdly wild exhibits including a sliding-door F110 sedan.

Graphic: Toyota

The turbine system was hooked up to an electric generator, which in turn sent its power to a chopper inverter that was then sent to either an electric motor mounted at the front of the transmission tunnel mated to a two-speed transmission or a small battery for storage and auxiliary power, depending on the drive load.

It remained RWD and put out 30 horsepower, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but the car only weighed about 2,200 pounds (997 kg) even with the addition of a literal jet engine to it. So the car was at least capable of motion.

Photo: Toyota

The best part of the car is definitely its interior, however. It looks similar to a stock Sports 800 with the exception of the tachometer. Note that it is marked in x 10,000 increments. Yes, redline on this motor was ninety thousand RPM, with a tach that hit 100,000.

The sheer cool factor of seeing a tachometer for an turbine motor makes me upset that feature wasn’t carried over to today’s hybrids and EVs–it adds a reminder that yes, the noises are different, but the process underlying propulsion is still completely wild.

Photo: Toyota

Toyota eventually diverged their turbine R&D from their hybrid R&D in the ’80s after realising that cramming jet engines into sports coupes may not be the most efficient way to use a battery system, but the car still presumably exists – it was last seen at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, where Toyota took these pictures of it.