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Friday, October 17, 2014

Turbine Time!: Hot Wheels 1963 Chrysler Turbine and Knight Ridder KITT



Ok, first off this is not a story based on the upcoming Turbine Time in the 2015 Hot Wheels line, but actually based on two prior cars that were both introduced in 2012 and both featured jet turbines in their engine bay's.


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One for real, the other fantasy

Chrysler has been experimenting with turbine motors since the 1950's, up to the point that it was ready to fit one unit into an upcoming concept car.  The car was called Turbine car and it was introduced on the 1963 Auto Show circuit.  Styling featured aircraft touches like turbine fins around the headlights, the front fender vents, and the rear taillights with turbine exhaust reverse lamps reminiscent of fighter jets.  The interior featured seating for four just like any large sedan of the 1960's, but with turbine fins in the console ends, a driver-oriented gauges with switches, gauges, and shifter just like the type found in airplanes.  Elwood Engel designed the car, who came from Ford after designing the 1963 Thunderbird, and the bodies made by Ghia in Turin, Italy.  The engine is a gas turbine motor that features a fin for combusting gas and fuel, which passed onto the next fin to spin the drivetrain before exiting out of the exhaust.  This engine also allows for different fuel mixtures from tequilia to Chanel No. 5.  Idle spins at 14,000 RPM and when it goes it goes swiftly and smoothly with a jet-like noise from the engine, making 135 hp. and 425 Ib-ft. torque through a Torquefile automatic transmission.  Chrysler made 55 of them for experimental testing with the public by selecting 55 candidates to lease the car for a year and drive them around in daily activities.  When the program failed to succeed, Chrysler bought all of the cars back and crushed them (for liability purposes), except for a few that survived, with two that currently run.  One belongs to the Chrysler museum while the other is owned by Jay Leno.


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Two decades later a new TV show emerged in the 1980's with a tale of a man, Michael Knight, who is hired to defeat crime with an advanced weapon known as Knight Industries Two Thousand, or better known as KITT.  It was called 'Knight Rider' and it lasted for four years.  The car was based on the new third-generation Pontiac Firebird, and likely boosted credibility for the Firebird just like the movie 'Smokey and the Bandit' did for the second-generation Firebird.  The wedge-shape is clean, with the addition of a blacked-out taillight bar, KITT California plate, front scanner light in the center, and on later versions additional driving lights in the grille slots.  The interior features the same four-person layout and T-tops, but the dashboard is driver-oriented and filled with lots of technological features.  The steering wheel is smaller and better fits the hand, the gauges are digital, KITT's voice bars in the center above the steering wheel, and a TV screen for any additional instructions.  There's lots of buttons and functions that I have room to describe here, so check out KITT on Wikipedia.  The motor is a turbine just like the Chrysler Turbine car, but outfitted with afterburners to add more power through an eight-speed automatic, and to a top speed that was clamed to be 300 MPH in Super Pursuit mode.  This mode has the front bumper extend, with the upper section raising up to create a front spoiler, a raised hood scoop, raised side front fender and rear fender vents, and a rear hatch that raises up to reveal additional taillights that look like missiles from a James Bond film!


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Turbine gold, fast black

When I first heard Hot Wheels was going to do the Turbine car, I immediately looked for one.  Not only did I find one, but I also found another to open and to show off here.  This was introduced in the 2012 Boulevard line and it looks good with the copper paint, with matching interior and wheel colors.  Metal base and rubber tires, along with a vinyl top and Turbine logos finish off the stock look, and boy it's a beaut!  The details on the headlights and taillights are incredible, as does the interior with the driver-oriented interior.  Unfortunately, just like a few other cars with only one style, this one had limitations, so when it was released in the 2013 Cool Classics in yellow with racing logos (based on the actual Turbine car used for racing), it was received with less fan-fare and became a pegwarmer.  As for the future of this casting holds for recolors i'm not sure, just as long as it's the same copper as the original.


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As for KITT it was released in 2012 in much bigger fanfare.  I was lucky to score two of these at a Big Lots one day, and I must say I can understand the popularity.  The jet black exterior is nicely done, with only the red light at the front and California KITT plate at the rear.  The base shows the proper details including the Turbine motor, monster transmission, and suspension parts to assist in the Turbo Boost jump mode.  The interior is the best I've ever seen done in a Hot Wheels 1:64 cars: not only does it have the proper details visible in the see-thru sunroof panels, but the dashboard has extra details (in paint!) to show-off the numerous digital numbers, buttons, and screen's.  The only caveat was the blacked-out PR5 looks out-of-place.  This problem was solved in 2013 when it appeared in the Retro Entertainment series with the same look, yet featured the correct disc wheels with rubber tires and a blacked-out metal base.  The dashboard was painted black, yet still featured the same gauge display.  Another version called KARR, it's archnemesis, was made also that year with a two-tone black/silver exterior.


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And that's not all:  for this year the third variation arrived, the Super Pursuit mode.  While the interior, metal base, and wheels with rubber tires carry-over, the body is new with the raised scoops, front bumper, and rear hatch for the added benefit of achieving 300 mph.  However, this casting has been criticized with more hate than love compared to the smooth KITT of 2012.  Still, if you want to have the two different modes of display for the KITT, this is the way to go.



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While KITT variations may be done, don't forget about the other KITT's of yore, including the '57 Chevy Bel-Air in blue, the Pontiac Banshee concept car, and the 2008 Shelby GT500KR Mustang.  As for Team Knight Rider, look back to 1997 as Hot Wheels has made a set of those vehicles before.

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