Chrysler’s Tequila-Fueled Car and the President Who Rode It
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The Story of Chrysler’s Tequila-Fueled Car and the Mexican President That Dared to Ride It

Tequila-Fueled Car

Today found only in museums and Jay Leno’s private collection, Chrysler’s tequila-fueled car was a media sensation in the 1960s. (Photo: Jay Leno’s Garage)

In 1963, Chrysler debuted 55 experimental turbine cars that could run on anything flammable; kerosene, diesel fuel, jet fuel — and apparently even tequila.

The car’s design was a hodge-podge of colorful retrofuturism, decked out with plenty of intricate doo-dads and silver linings that cemented its look firmly in the 1960s. To say that the car is a coveted collector’s item would an understatement; Chrysler destroyed all but nine of them in 1966, two of which are in its possession, six in museums and the last in Jay Leno’s private car collection.

But back in their heyday, the cars were the talk of the town. Following a much-publicized debut at the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, New York, dozens of Chrysler Turbines were given out to the public to test drive across the country.

While the orange automobiles buzzed about the United States powered by all means of fuel and alcohol, one was touted around the globe for a world tour. It eventually ended up in Mexico for a public demonstration with President Adolfo Mateos.

Though the car’s practical utility mainly hinged on its ability to drive with the likes of diesel fuel and unleaded gasoline, Chrylser representatives frequently boasted about the more unusual fuels that could work instead; stuff like hairspray, perfume and peanut oil. Legend has it, President Mateos asked if it could run on tequila.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the cars had never been tested with agave spirits. The Chrysler team quickly phoned chief engineer George Huebner in Detroit and asked him to perform some tests. Engineers ran a few bottles of tequila through a sample turbine engine and called back to say that everything appeared to run smoothly.

President Adolfo was promptly invited into the Chrysler Turbine down in Mexico and taken on the first-ever drive in a tequila-fueled car. A local news clipping published on January 13, 1964 declared:

“Tests performed here established that the new turbine-powered Chrysler would run on 80-proof tequila.”

Only two years later, unpromising road tests led Chrysler to destroy the vast majority of the remaining turbine cars in circulation.

If you’re interested in taking a peek at one of these booze-chugging relics, you can find them on display at the St. Louis Museum of Transportation as well as the Stahls Automotive Foundation Museum in Baltimore.

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Pedro Wolfe is the managing editor of Tequila Raiders. With several years of experience writing for the New York Daily News and the Foothills Business Daily under his belt, Pedro aims to combine quality reviews and recipes with incisive articles on the cutting edge of the tequila world. Pedro has traveled to the heartland of the spirits industry in Tequila, Mexico, and has conducted interviews with agave spirits veterans throughout Mexico, South Africa and California. Through this diverse approach, Tequila Raiders aims to celebrate not only tequila but the rich tapestry of agave spirits that spans mezcal, raicilla, bacanora, pulque and so much more.