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TURBO HISTORY

Boost School

The turbocharger started out in 1905 with a patent by Alfred Buchi. He called the patent exhaust driven pre-compression. Nope, it wasn’t called a turbo straight away but that’s exactly what it was. An exhaust driven turbine with a compressor wheel on a common shaft. But the prototype Alfred Buchi built based on his patent wasn’t a success, it was massively unreliable and it would take another 15 years before Alfred Buchi’s idea was proven in practice.

In 1920 an airplane called the Packard Le-Pere Lusac 11 did something that was considered impossible for a very long time. It climbed to an altitude greater than 10.000 m or 33.000 ft and it did this by relying on turbo power. It ran a V12 Liberty engine which was turbocharged by a giant turbo built by the General Electric company in their turbine research department headed by Sanford Moss. The turbocharger that brought the Lusac 11 beyond 10.000 metres and proved Alfred Buchi’s idea was a good one was one of the first properly working turbochargers ever made.

It still wasn’t called a turbo, funnily enough GE called it a turbo supercharger. World War 2 was a great time for turbos as General Electric and Ford together made more than 300.000 units and strapped them to legendary airplanes such as the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 Liberator, the P-38 Lightining and the P47 Thunderbolt. A German plane called the Focke-Wulf FW 190 also ran a turbo which helped it outrun many other war birds. In the 50s car and truck manufacturers started experimenting with turbos on their vehicles but without much success, that is until 1962 when GM introduced the Oldsmobile Jetfire and the Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder, the first ever turbocharger passenger cars.

The Jetfire seems to have been names by 6 year old transformers fans, as the engine was called the Turbo Rocket and you needed to top it up with Turbo Rocket Fluid to get the promised performance out of it. Turbo Rocket Fluid was actually a 1/1 mixture of water meth and it was necessary to prevent the Jetfire from experiencing massive detonation. Unfortunately the Jetfire and the Corvair proved to be unreliable and they had to be removed from the market after just one year. Although they weren’t a success in terms of sales these cars were important boost pioneers that demonstrated the potential of turbos on passenger cars.

In 1973 BMW introduced the next big step in the history of boost, the BMW 2002 Turbo. BMW managed to squeeze out 170 hp from the 2002 2.0 liter engine and make it a real pocket rocket of the 70s. Although the car was fun and fast it also had massive turbo lag, largely due to it’s very low 6.9:1 compression ratio that was needed to prevent knock due to yet undeveloped turbo technology and the lack of a inter-cooler. But it was a step forward, the 2002 didn’t need any water-meth to prevent self-destruction. 1975 perhaps the greatest breakthrough in the history of the turbo was made when Porsche introduced the first 911 Turbo.

This car was a major milestone for the turbocharger as it managed to change perceptions. With it’s giant rear wheel arches and whale tail spoiler the 911 screamed speed and power. When it was released the single turbo flat six of the 911 made it the fastest production car in the world. Thanks to this car the public no longer associated turbos with something unreliable, quirky and cause for horrible mpg, now they associated turbos with power and speed.

In 1978 Mercedes introduced the first ever passenger turbo diesel car the, the Mercedes 300 SD and proved that diesels and turbos are a match made in heaved. The 80s started out with a bang as Maserati introduced the first ever twin turbo passenger car in 1981. It was called the Biturbo. The 80s was a massively important time for the turbo as the technology started evolving and many flagship vehicles from many manufactures around the world were turbocharged.

Today the turbo is an absolutely critical player in the trend of downsizing. What does the future bring? Well, with the ever rising number of Hybrid drive-trains many see the the future of the turbo in the form of the e-turbo. It will consume electricity to totally eliminate turbo lag, but it will also generate electricity during it’s operation.

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