Welcome to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and to have some fun in the process. This week, the featured car is a pioneer of sorts. It was described as the hottest new Oldsmobile since the high-compression Rocket V-8s were first introduced in 1949. It was also the first production turbocharged V-8 built in America, with breathtaking performance to the tune of one horsepower per cubic inch of displacement. Introducing the Oldsmobile F-85 Jetfire, equipped with a new kind of power under the hood in the form of the sensational Turbo-Rocket Engine with fluid injection. But does it belong in the Obscure Muscle Car Garage?
The Oldsmobile division of General Motors pioneered the use of turbochargers in production cars with the introduction of the 1962 F-85 Jetfire Sport Coupe in April of that year. It beat Chevrolet’s turbocharged Corvair Monza Spyder to market by about a month. The F-85 was among the three senior compacts introduced by GM for 1961 (along with the Pontiac Tempest, and the Buick Special) and each division was busy pushing the envelope as far as performance and luxury, with various levels of success. When introduced, the power plant chosen for Oldsmobile was a 215 CID overhead valve, aluminum V-8 that developed 155 horsepower.
For 1962, there was an optional 185-horsepower version of the same engine for better performance, but the bigger news for this year was the addition of an even hotter version, the turbocharged “Turbo-Rocket” engine, which brought the horsepower up to 215, or the then-vaunted one horsepower per cubic inch. The engineers had done their homework in an attempt to make the installation as durable and trouble-free as possible. To counteract detonation, a know problem with engines with the high 10.25:1 compression ratio, a fluid injection system was fitted. This device, used a mixture of half water and half methyl alcohol carried in an under-hood reservoir. The fluid was injected into the intake manifold when maximum power was called for, and the rate of use varied with how much power is called for by the driver. Fluid levels were also dependent on the driver… the more you pushed, the more you used. The internal components of the engine were strengthened to withstand the higher operating pressures due to turbocharging, and a larger radiator was also fitted to keep things cool under pressure. In the further interest of engine durability, maximum turbo boost was limited to a conservative five psi.
The Jetfire proved much quicker than the normally aspirated models. The zero to 60 acceleration times dropped from 10.9 seconds in the 185 horsepower model (it was 14.0 for the 155 horsepower car) to a very respectable 8.5 seconds, as reported by Car Life magazine (5/62). The Jetfire’s zero to 80 mph times improved to 16.4 seconds, compared with 20.2 seconds achieved with the 185 horsepower model. The Jetfire was engineered more for mid-range passing and hill climbing performance than for high speed, and because of this, its top speed was only 3 mph higher (107 mph) compared with the lower horsepower version (104 mph). This was mostly due to the fact that the boost was reduced to four psi once speed goes above 75 mph.
Oldsmobile offered the turbo engine for just two model years. According to published sources, only 3,765 Jetfires were produced for 1962, and another 5,842 of the redesigned version were produced for 1963. Chevrolet would carry on with its turbo until 1966, by which time its air-cooled flat-six was developing 180 horsepower from 164 Cubic Inches (2.7L). Oldsmobile phased out these unique cars when the new 1964 intermediates were introduced with body-on-frame construction, and a conventional 330 Cu In V-8. This also spawned the more conventional Oldsmobile 442 in response to the wildly successful Pontiac GTO. Turbocharging disappeared from the automobile scene until 1975 when Porsche introduced it on its evergreen 911 sports car. Saab followed in 1977 with its turbocharged Saab 99.
So, is this first turbocharged V-8 worthy of being included in the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, or is it just a pretender to what was just around the corner? It is time for you to vote, and leave a comment within this posting about how much you love this feature (or not…)
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