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Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The 1962-63 Oldsmobile F-85 Jetfire

oldsmobile_f-086

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?

1962 Oldsmobile F85 Jetfire-001

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.

1962 Oldsmobile F-088

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.

1962 Oldsmobile F-087

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.

63olds_jetfire_001_jpg-001

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.

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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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Do you think the Oldsmobile F-85 Jetstar should be included in the Obscure Muscle Car Garage?

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Currently there are "39 comments" on this Article:

  1. danleym says:

    Wait a minute- there were no turbocharged vehicles made between 1963 and 1975? I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just surprised.

  2. TurboBrick says:

    From a modern standpoint that whole thing is just bonkers. High compression turbo with a draw through carb, no knock sensors or bypass valve. At least they mounted the turbocharger up high so you can pop it off easily, since it's probably going to require frequent replacement. I love it.

    This would be a pain in the ass to live with as a daily driver, as that rocket fuel tank is going to need to be constantly filled up and you probably had to buy the stuff in tiny cans from your Oldsmobile dealer.

    • dukeisduke says:

      On the Corvairs, Chevy designed the turbo plumbing so that exhaust restriction would strangle the turbo at higher RPM. That way, they could get away without adding a wastegate. I wonder if a similar strategy was used here?

      • Ate Up With Motor says:

        The Jetfire most certainly had a wastegate; there was also a sensor in the bottom of the fluid injection reservoir that would automatically pop open the wastegate if the tank was empty. It was a much more sophisticated package than the Monza Spider/Corsa turbo.

        The fundamental problem with the Jetfire aside from market expectations was that Oldsmobile gave a lot of attention to engine durability in hard use — preventing people from hurting the engine by pushing too hard — but didn't take into account the fact that a lot of F-85/Cutlass buyers almost never opened the throttle more than halfway or spent any time above about 3,000 rpm. Prolonged disuse wouldn't do the system any favors and of course a lot of people didn't bother to keep the injection tank full and thus complained that there was no power (no fluid = essentially no boost). Dealers didn't want to deal with the complexity of the turbo hardware and responded by pulling it and adding what I assume was a standard Cutlass manifold and four-barrel.

        Olds had more or less the same problem with its J-2 carburetor setup back in 1957. The J-2 had three two-throat carburetors, like the subsequent Pontiac Tri-Power setup (which the Olds people felt was a ripoff of their setup, engineer Pete Estes having gone from Olds to Pontiac during the J-2's development). The problem it faced in service was, again, that Olds drivers mostly just drove on the center carb and rarely pushed hard enough to open the front and rear carburetors. The latter would then gum up and generally become a pain in the ass, so dealers would disconnect or remove them.

        • dukeisduke says:

          Thanks for the reply – if I'd looked closer, I'd have noticed the wastegate. I remember reading about the Jetfire years ago (maybe an old Popular Science, from when they were still new). The Turbo Rocket Fluid thing was a bad idea (let's see how good people are about putting in diesel exhaust fluid before their cars stop running, especially second and third owners).

          I always enjoy reading articles at your site, like the ones about the Hydra-Matic and the Automatic Safety Transmission. Good stuff.

        • Mister X says:

          I like these and never owned a Jetfire, but I've been up close and personal with a couple, a neat piece of automotive history that I always thought was too complex for the 'average' driver to maintain, and by the time I was looking to buy a nice one, circa 1982, they were mostly gone or priced too high for my taste.

          I still see them occasionally at car shows, and it's always a treat, as they are very unique and rare.

          I have owned about 7 or 8 Corvairs with factory turbochargers, and I liked the simplicity and larger turbo than the Jetfire had, those were fun little cars and I surprised quite a few hot rods with them, especially with my white '65 Corsa because I 'breathed on' the engine kinda heavy, lowered it, and I gutted the interior and put a roll bar in and daily drove. Yeah, in your 20's it doesn't matter if you don't have windows, door panels, carpet, the other seats, etc..

  3. dukeisduke says:

    Gee, I went into AutoZone the other day, and they were completely out of Turbo Rocket Fluid. I was pissed.

    /

  4. dukeisduke says:

    By the way, the 215 V8 was designed by Buick, and the designs and tooling later sold to BMC, where it went on to power plenty of British cars like Range Rovers, TR8s, Rover 3500s, etc.

    • Batshitbox says:

      But then it became known as the "Al-Yoo-Mini-Yum" V8. Rover also improved the casting process that led to so many scrapped blocks back at GM and eventually led them to ditch the design altogether (I think in favor of the Fireball V6). And for whatever, the Buick and Olds heads were bolted on differently from one another. Yay for internal competition!

      • Slow_Joe_Crow says:

        Actually Rover took the casting process back to basics. In a foreshadowing of the Vega debacle GM introduced an advanced die casting process to make the V8 blocks with iron cylinder liners cast in place. Unfortunately the liners tended to shift during the pour resulting in lots of scrap blocks. Rover reverted tot he old-school process of sand casting the block and then pressing in the iron liners after casting.

        • dukeisduke says:

          But, the Vega blocks were cast using a high silicon alloy, then the bores were chemically treated to expose the silicon, making for hard, liner-less bores. This is conjunction with tin-plated aluminum pistons.

        • Ate Up With Motor says:

          Rover found that there was no one in Great Britain who could do the die-casting with any confidence, which was the main reason they went back to sand-casting. After Rover got the license to make the engine, they also hired as a consultant Joe Turlay, the Buick engineer who designed it in the first place — naturally, Turlay knew better than anyone the sort of issues Buick had with the engine and understood the running changes they'd made to address them, which weren't necessarily reflected in the engineering documentation.

    • JayP2112 says:

      The block castings still had BOP (Buick-Olds-Pontiac) on the block. Rover left the castings as-is and called it "Better Overall Power."

      Cheeky.

    • Ate Up With Motor says:

      The block was Buick (and I think supplied by them), but Olds had its own heads and pistons. The Olds 215 is similar to the Buick, but they're not identical.

  5. Gooberpeaz says:

    I had a '62 Cutlass with the high-comp 215 CI engine. 10.25 compression ratio meant only the best premium fuel or it would ping like crazy. For a car of its age, it would scoot.

  6. toplessFC3Sman says:

    It looks like the turbo is only being driven by the passenger-side bank of cylinders too. This would explain only 5 psi of boost, since only half the air flow (less actually, since the drivers side bank would flow better with no back-pressure) of the compressor ends up going thru the turbine. It's always struck me as odd when manufacturers do this, since each bank will be performing differently, and the side that's driving the turbine will be more prone to knocking. For something like this, ideally you'd want different valve timings on each bank too; no idea if they did that though.

    I know Saab had a similar setup in their V6 turbos in the 9-5 in the late 90s, primarily for packaging.

  7. vroomsocko says:

    You had me at "Turbo-Rocket Engine with fluid injection".

  8. Batshitbox says:

    I'm totally all for this. The F-85 in any form is a favorite of mine. I recently discovered them while researching the aluminum 215 V8. The Garrett turbocharger must be hard to find spares for.

  9. Maymar says:

    Probably moreso than obscure muscle car, this is probably the predecessor to something like the 335i coupe that's almost standard-issue to men of a certain age and income. Even moreso than that 2002 Turbo.

    Or at least it would be, if it sold adequately well.

    This is not a vote against it of course, love to have it included.

  10. Gooberpeaz says:

    Did anyone else pick up a, er, "vibe" from the guys in the front seats?

  11. Van_Sarockin says:

    Lovely car, but not a muscle car. The chassis is too small, and the power isn't being produced with more displacement and crazy cams. This car deserves to be in a far better garage. Too bad GM couldn't stick with the technology, refine it, and stay competitive with the euros.

  12. MVEilenstein says:

    I voted no, because it comes off as more of a high-end performance coupe, sort of like an M3, in my mind. I could be wrong.

    When I think of muscle cars, I think of a repurposed family sedan, stripped down and with a huge engine stuffed in it.

  13. Mad_Science says:

    I absolutely love these.

    I see them as the Antithekera Mechanism (Google it) of automobiles: technology previously believed to only exist much later.

    Imagine if they'd kept with uni body, small displacement turbocharged aluminum engines for the following 50 years…

  14. rustylink says:

    How many muscle cars have a Rocket Fluid reservoir?

  15. Forethought says:

    My Dad knew very little about cars but he definitely knew a bargain when he saw one. I was the car nut in the family so in 1964, I accompanied him to a local used car lot to take a look at a '63 Jetfire. White with dark red interior and really cool Red/orange/yellow Jetfire symbols at the end of the body side molding and interior door panels, it had me at first sight and the boost gauge on the center console really got my 13 year old heart pounding. While Dad dickered with the salesman, I popped the hood, saw the empty "Turbo-Rocket Fluid" bottle and rummaged in the glove box for the manual.

    **continued**

    • Forethought says:

      About the time I was reading what the fluid was for, I heard the sales guy say "Well, I think there's something wrong with the engine. It doesn't have much power but I can give you a real sweet deal if you drive it off today." I pulled Dad aside, told him what I'd just read, he made an offer to the salesman and we drove off the lot in that Jetfire, with less than 8,000 miles on the clock, for $1150.00…not bad for a car that retailed, with air conditioning, power brakes and steering and automatic transmission, for over $3500.00!

      **continued**

      • Forethought says:

        Dad purchased a case of fluid at the Olds dealer the same day, we filled up the reservoir and the performance problems were history. The car ran strong, especially when the trasnmission downshifted from 3rd to 2nd for passing, but handling left a lot to be desired as did the transmission. The car always ran hot and while it didn't appear to cause any engine problems, the automatic continually overheated – burning fluid and, finally bands and clutches.

        Dad traded it in for a beige 1965 Cutlass Supreme a year later but even with a slipping transmission, he got $1500.00. I hated the Cutlass but never forgot that Jetfire. I still puruse eBay and Hemmings every once in a while on the odd chance that a white '63 Jetfire shows up.

  16. Robert Besnon says:

    Just one question on the 1962 jetfire turbo did they ever produce a convertible and if so how many ?? I know were there is at least one

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