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The Engine Swap of the Century Award goes to…

Greg Kachadurian November 7, 2012 All Things Hoon, Project Cars 32 Comments


… This Datsun 280ZX Turbo I spotted at Atlanta’s Sunday morning car show, Caffeine and Octane. This car rolled into last weekend’s show and immediately captured everyone’s attention as the undeniable sound of a turbine engine filled the parking lot. It took us all by surprise when we realized it was in fact coming out of that black Datsun you see here. As the owner finally pulled into a spot, and with massive amounts of heat refraction coming out of the bonnet, the largest crowd I’ve ever seen around a single car was in complete shock to find an auxiliary power unit “out of a military jet” as the car’s source of power. Just because.

With the crowd as big as it was, it was hard to talk to the owner, but if I heard correctly, that’s a Garret GTP turboshaft engine “out of a military jet” living comfortably where the standard straight six used to be. Engines like this are generally used to provide power for aircraft or helicopters, but not here. Through some type of witchcraft, power is sent to the rear wheels through a 5-speed manual gearbox. It supposedly wasn’t built for speed, as the owner claimed power was in the low 200 range. 

Apart from the jet fighter sounds, it also has the looks to match with flat black paint and “ejection seat”, “tie down”, and aircraft tail number stickers galore. Above the fuel cap was “jet fuel only”, but the day I saw it she was running on kerosene and can burn diesel and vegetable oil as well.

When asked why he built it (or bought it, not really sure), the owner simply said “just because”. Good man. 

Images © Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian 2012 



    Just hearing it gives my right foot a boner.

    [youtube xpOCdcanDAo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpOCdcanDAo youtube]

    • stickmanonymous

      I see from the video that the tach doesn't work. Which is a pity, because it would be so cool to see 40 000 rpm on the clock.

      • hglaber

        I hope he at least reconnected the FLOOR TEMP light .

    • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

      The period ding-ding is classic.

      My '85.5 720 had a buzzer, I think.

  • Spring-heeled Jack

    Thunderbirds are go!

  • Impressive, but I still prefer last century's model:

    <img src="http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3237/3061603972_90a529a7ff.jpg&quot; width="450">

  • boostedlegowgn

    I'd say he just took this coke-tastic Z on the on-ramp to the Highway To The Danger Zone.

  • I wonder if it melts the asphalt, idling at a stop light.

    • TDI_FTW

      I was wondering whether it would melt the asphalt or the bumper of the car behind him

  • skitter

    I don't think I've ever seen a direct drive turbine car before. Does it have a big flywheel after the first reduction but before the clutch? Or as a part of the clutch?

    • Robert J


    • I would think that a (pretty damn tough) CVT arrangement would be just the ticket here.

      Perhaps DAF missed a trick by not putting turbines in the 44 range.

      • skitter

        Now I'm curious:
        Rover JET series: Split turbine, no shaft between compressor and power stages, power stage drives wheels directly.
        Chrysler Turbine: Lightly modified Torqueflite
        GM Firebird series: Split turbine with two speed manual transmission
        STP-Paxton Turbocar and Lotus 56: Torque converter to direct drive
        EcoJet: Four speed torque converter automatic.
        M1 Abrams: torque converter automatic, also tested with Wankel APU (!)

        The homebuilt turbine cars I read up on used hydraulic drives for the same effect as a CVT or the experimental locomotives with a turbine driving a generator driving an electric motor.

      • Damn mobile thumbs

  • smokyburnout

    Looks like it was bought: http://www.racingjunk.com/Other/2599089/Gas-Turbi

    Also, I rewatched one of Leno's EcoJet videos this week and remember someone saying it had to be an automatic, not a manual, because it'd overrev like crazy as soon as you took load off the turbine making your first shift. Guessing that's not actually true?

    • Tom

      It depends on how the fuel controller was set up. There is no reason for it to over rev if the fuel control has a governor to control speed. APU's on aircraft absorb tremendous loads from their generators and pneumatics for engine starts.

      A characteristic of turbine engines is that they become more efficient and much more powerful with speed … so without any governing they tend to over rev to the point of destruction rapidly. Those tendencies are managed by the fuel control unit.

  • BobWellington

    Seems like it would make for a nice cruiser.

  • pizzahoon

    I knew I saw it before, on that other site, written by our own fabulous Mr. Emslie. It still had something tacked on the headlights then.

    • Pointedly familiar. Those Dagmars stick out… in my memory.


    With the power to suck like that, I'd say she's more than just a Fair Lady.

  • Tom

    I ran to the sound and talked to the car's builder at Caffiene and Octane. The engine requires 24 volts to start, with a second battery mounted in the trunk wired in series. The engine looked to be a GTP30 which can have output shaft rotation of 6,000 to 8,000 RPM. He had engineered his own reduction gear in a bell housing. He did some really neat engineering to pull his conversion off.

    How about the same engine, in a motorcycle?

    [img ]https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-ebKqmCuB6Ig/TXXpdY7tiJI/AAAAAAAAGsA/Ws7HpNYBmGA/s400/gtp_5510.jpg[/img]

  • Not part of the intersecting sets of Can and Should.

    Coming to an Arizona cliff face near you soon… after the JATO bottle is bolted in.

  • TrueBlue315

    I liked it even more with the SR-71 inlet strakes. Just fantastic.

  • Mike

    Anyone know why it was towed out Sunday? I heard various rumors ranging from "out of Jet-A" to "the police won't let him drive it".

    • GregKachadurian

      Not exactly sure why either. He told me it was towed from home but dropped it off a block away so he could drive it in to the show and that he had "borrowed" a license plate from one of his other cars to do it.

  • Van_Sarockin

    Quite the build. Mulitfuel capability is practical advantage these days.

  • bhtooefr

    For what it's worth, Jet-A is essentially kerosene, and diesel is a close relative.