Street Rod Life

Experimental 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle Runs On Steam


The pursuit of alternative energy is certainly not a 21st century venture. Even Henry Ford tinkered with alternative fuels when he designed the Model T to run on gasoline with the tolerance of other power sources like kerosene. Steam is one thing builders have always turned to as well.


Back in the 1960s, smog was starting to become a great concern, especially on the west coast. By the time the decades was wrapping up, the United States government started to press on automakers to make their vehicles more smog friendly. This prompted General Motors to take a crack at the science experiment you see here in the form of a 1969 Chevy Chevelle powered by steam.

Bill Besler bought the remains of a steam engine company, Doble, and was invited by GM to help them build a steam fueled automobile — so he did just that with the SE-124 creation.


To achieve the results, the engine from the Chevelle was sawed in half and the rear part was left attached to the bellhousing. The block’s plumbing was totally so it could handle the steam, and it became a dual purpose compound engine. The right side of the engine housed a high-pressure cylinder — the steam was then routed to the other side of the engine in a  low-pressure cylinder. Exhaust runs through a condenser, and then the process starts all over again.

The steam powered car could reach speeds of 65 mph and averaged 15 mpg — this is an impressive number for the time period. So, what happened to the Besler made SE-124? It has has moved around a little bit and is currently sitting in a private collection. Word is, it doesn’t run, but the owner wants to one day get it moving again.