AUTOS: Time for Turbines

In 1954, Sam Williams, a taciturn, strong-minded research engineer, quit his job at Chrysler Corp. and set out to prove that the auto engine of the future would be a gas turbine. With $3,000, he founded Williams Research Corp. in Walled Lake, Mich. Though the company quickly grew (it has annual sales of about $10 million), customers wanted the small turbines for light airplanes, not cars. Detroit continued to favor the conventional internal combustion engine.

Williams is being vindicated. Last week his experimental car, a specially fitted American Motors Hornet, with a turbine engine tucked away under the hood, made...

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