13 Great Centennial RVs – 7 of 13
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William Powell “Bill” Lear was an inventor par excellance. He developed the first workable radio for automobiles and founded Motorola, as well as the “endless loop-tape cartridge” — otherwise known as the 8-track tape — and a corporate-sized jet that still bears his name.
In 1968, Lear established Lear Motors Corp. and began working on his idea for a low-pollution engine that could work on steam. Similar in form and function to the boilers of steam cars built in the early 20th century, the power system was to include a steam turbine that vaporized steam in a vapor generator, drawing automatically on the turbine’s 24-gallon water tank. The engine could burn either kerosene, diesel or 80-octane unleaded gas. Either the main turbine or a second, smaller unit was envisioned for powering all of the motorhome’s ancillary demands, thereby eliminating AC generators or propane tanks.
In 1972, Lear began laying the groundwork for his Coachome, a 24-foot rig (with an estimated 12,000-pound GVWR) that would be powered by a smaller version of his Lear Vapor Turbine. Pumping out about 150 hp, the little turbine — operating through an automatic transmission designed to capitalize on the unique torque characteristics of the engine — was claimed to be able to push the vehicle to speeds in excess of 70 mph.
The coach itself was envisioned to be every bit as advanced as the proposed drivetrain. Built around an aircraft-style aluminum monocoque shell, the Coachome was designed with front- and rear caps crafted of ABS plastic.
Unfortunately, the Lear steam turbine-powered Coachome never made it into production. Like steam proponents before him, Bill Lear eventually discovered that the system simply had far too many drawbacks for pedestrian use. After spending an enormous amount of money, Lear was forced to give up on the idea.