MotorCities National Heritage Area
Frank_Wulfers_Elizabeth_Cropped.jpg

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of Robert Tate’s Collection
Posted: 05.02.2018


file 20180502164301 The Turbo Titan IIIThe Chevrolet Turbo Titan III show truck During the 1960s, General Motors had designed many great looking, advanced and powerful trucks under a great design team led by Bill Mitchell. The Turbo Titan III model was introduced to the public in 1966 as a great looking show truck. The cab design was very impressive, and GM called it the “Truck of Tomorrow.”

file 20180502164424 The Turbo Titan III
The Turbo Titan III was made of fiberglass and steel. The space-age design took over 15 years of research and development, including many new and exciting innovations that made the truck stand out at shows. The interior offered the following new features: an astronaut seat design, a FM stereo radio, a two-way radio telephone, integral headrest, retractable seat belts and special instruments that monitored the gas turbine engine. The truck also offered front turn signals that popped out when the lights were actuated.  The design was offered in a great looking metallic blue color.
file 20180502164538 The Turbo Titan III
During the early years, two prototypes based on production trucks, the Turbo Titan I and II, started the design process that led to the popular Turbo Titan III model. The truck offered an electrically operated tilt cab, with great looking leather seats and a vinyl interior all designed in metallic blue. The most unusual interior feature, however, was the fully adjustable pedestal-mounted steering console with compact twin dials which replaced the conventional steering wheel. The steering wheel system was developed by GM’s Saginaw division. A custom 40-ft stainless steel box trailer was also designed and created for the Turbo Titan show truck project. The cab side windows were a top-hinged design that would swing up electrically for the driver. The glass area of the cab was tinted for maximize effectiveness when using the air conditioning system for the driver and passenger. The outer panels, along with the upper structure design of the cab, reminded me of some of the early design concepts of Syd Mead.
file 20180502164807 The Turbo Titan III
The Turbo Titan III model semi-tractor was a fully functional prototype which was reportedly driven coast to coast several times and used for many shows as well. GM advertising called it “The Chevrolet Way.” The frame on the show truck model wasn't much different than a standard truck model frame during the time of its introduction. The show truck models were displayed at the World's Fair and many other popular places as well during the 1960s.

file 20180502164947 The Turbo Titan IIIAn ad for the Chevrolet Turbo Titan IIIThe Turbo Titan III truck was propelled by a GT-309 gas turbine engine, the power source at the heart of Chevrolet’s unique truck of tomorrow concept. The GT-309 engine was a product of over 15 years of intensive development and research. However, GM also recognized that it would have been very costly to produce that engine in quantity.

file 20180502165123 The Turbo Titan IIIAn ad featuring the specifications for the Chevrolet Turbo Titan IIIIn conclusion, the Turbo Titan III had marked the first time that Chevrolet trucks had built a special vehicle to test the gas turbine engine. Many consumers at the time thought that the truck was a one-off experimental show truck that was quite exotic for future markets. In short, it was a glimpse into the future of trucking! 

Bibliography
Dammann, H. George. “Sixty Years of Chevrolet.” Crestline Publishing 1972.
General Motors “The first 75 years of transportation products by the editors of Automobile Quarterly magazine.” 1983.