The gas turbine engine was first patented in 1791 by John Barber, but it wasn't until 1939 that one was actually put into commercial use. That year saw the first industrial gas turbine engine in Switzerland as well as the first successful use of the design in an airplane: the Heinkel He 178, the first aircraft to fly using only turbojet power.
Over the past few decades, numerous automakers tried to take advantage of the engine's power and flexible use of fuel, but none succeeded in overcoming its disadvantages to bring a gas turbine powered car to market. Aspiring race car driver Casey Putsch did build a street-legal Batmobile with a turbine engine, but this isn't the kind of mass market ride most car companies have in mind.
As hybrid electric cars like the Toyota Prius take a larger share of the market, gas turbine engines could be used to extend their range. The key is making them small and inexpensive enough to make sense for personal vehicles.
So far, Jaguar Land Rover is ahead of the game. Working with SR Drives and Bladon Jets, it received a grant from the British Technology Strategy Board in January 2010 to develop a micro gas turbine for use in a powerful but low emissions car.