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My Turbine Powered Honda CRX

My name is Ralph Roberto and I am a self-employed welder fabricator. I was always into cars and have built many before. This time I wanted to try something different. The idea for a gas turbine came to me last year when I was contracted to install new exhaust systems in several diesel standby generators for a local telephone company.

The last generator was powered by a Solar T-62 gas turbine. After examining the cracked stainless steel exhaust system, I thought it would be necessary to “pre-heat” the metal so I asked the standby generator operator to “start it up” for about 5 minutes. It was at that moment that I knew I had to have one!

I looked on e-bay and found a Garrett GTP 30-67, a small, single stage gas turbine (smaller than the T-62) which I bid on and won. The turbine made its way to me in about 2 weeks. I then built a small test stand with an engine percent gauge and an EGT gauge. I ran the engine for several hours on the stand. It ran perfect so now I had to find a car.

After looking for about 2 weeks, my girlfriend found a CRX in the local paper for about $600. It was a good choice – small and light with a back panel well suited for the turbine exhaust. After getting the car home, I removed the complete drive train, interior, and fuel tank. I fabricated framework in the rear of the car that would mount the turbine and also provide a place to mount aluminum panels as air baffles for the turbine air intakes.

The turbine engine has an air starter with an auxiliary power take-off mounted to it. The turbine output shaft normally spins at 8,000 rpm but the power take-off is reduced to 4,000 rpm which is much better suited for a hydraulic pump.

I decided to make the car front wheel drive using a later model Honda 5-speed transmission which I had to fabricate special mounts for. A hydraulic fluid reservoir made from a portable air tank was mounted against the firewall, as well as a large hydraulic oil cooler and filter mounted in the radiator support. All the hoses on the car were sized for continuous duty.

The body on the car is stock, for now, with the exception of the interior. It has had the radio and heater controls removed (this little car seemed to get much smaller as more of the components were installed). The original fuel tank was modified so the hydraulic lines could actually run through the center of it and under the car to the front. A bulkhead/firewall was mounted right behind the seats and has a 3/8 lexan window separating the interior of the car from the engine compartment.

I have driven the car a few times and it has plenty of power. It’s not that loud. I drove a small skid steer the same day and the car was a lot quieter. The car drives great and is tons of fun. I plan to have the bugs worked out by the time snow falls so I can install a body kit and make it look as well as it runs.

This has to be the best project I have ever done because it’s so different. There aren’t any suppliers out there for this type of car so I’m really learning as I go along. I will send updates as I progress.

My turbine-powered CRX is no longer a dream, it is now a real car. It is registered and I have been driving it almost daily (635 miles so far).

The car had some issues with hydraulic pump drag on startup that kept the turbine from winding up to proper 'light off' speed. I solved that problem by installing a hydraulic fluid bypass. This allows fluid to return back to the hydraulic tank during startup so the turbine can spin freely without drag.

Once the engine has started, the valve is closed and the pump resumes normal operation. The original Vickers aircraft hydraulic pump was replaced with an Eaton 72400 hydrostatic pump.

This pump is completely tunable (pressure flow and response time) while the old Vickers pump was not. I also used a "gutted" hydraulic pump to install a drive pulley on so I could run a 24V, 70A alternator. So far I have attained a top speed of 80 mph and there is plenty more to go. This car gets lots of looks. In stop and go driving, the fuel mileage could be better, but on the highway it is OK.

In addition to adding another fuel tank, I am considering replacing the hydraulic drive motor. Fully adjustable hydraulic volume (with electric control, ranging from 6.7 c.i. down to 2.6) would totally eliminate the 5 speed gear box and provide infinite gear ratios. I will send more updates as continue to test the car.

Article by: Ralph Roberto

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