In the post-war era, the success of jet engines on airplanes inspired car manufacturers around the world to experiment similar technology on four wheels. Along with the Rover Jet 1 and the GM XP-21 Firebird, the Fiat Turbina was one of the first cars ever to be propelled by a gas turbine.
Work on the prototype started in 1948. The selected layout was a mid-engined two-seater coupe based on the production Fiat 8V. The final design by the engineer and designer Fabio Lucio Rapi showcased streamlined vertical stabilizing fins and a sleeker body without headlamps for improved aerodynamics.
The Fiat Turbina is a pleasure for the eyes, but the true highlight of this car is hidden under its aerodynamic skirt. The power plant consisted of three different turbines all working together. Two acted as compressors for the third, which in turn powered the wheels. The temperature of the gases entering the generator were about 800 degrees C. It has no gearbox because the generator unit and driving turbine act in a similar manner to a hydraulic torque converter.
The total weight of the power plant was equivalent to engine/clutch/gearbox/rear axle of an ordinary car. This lightweight engine combined with a very spartan interior kept the total weight below 2200 pounds.
The engine went through various stages of refinement reaching 295bhp at 30500 rpm. With a drag coefficient of only Cd=0.14 and thanks to its flowing red graphics, the car was capable of reaching a top speed of about 160mph.