Contributed by Sandy and Steve Gray, from Hamilton Ontario, Canada, and Snowbird in Port Charlotte, Florida
Do you know what an Oldsmobile Jetfire is? Most of you are likely unfamiliar with these cars as we had been too…. until recently. Last year when attending ‘Oldsmar Days’ in the north Tampa area of Florida we saw our first Jetfire. What caught our attention was the factory turbo under the hood: this car was built in 1963! The owner was not at the car to ask more: but the world wide web helped me find out more when I got home.
The Jetfire was built in 1962 & 1963 and was the first North American production car with a turbo – beating the Corvair to the market by a few weeks. As all F85’s, it was equipped with an aluminum 215 CID V8, but only the Jetfire had the Garrett liquid injected turbo that produced 215 HP and 300 lb of torque. In the two years of production, there were only 9,607 Jetfire’s out of the over 213,000 Oldsmobile F85’s built. This specialized set up required particular attention by its owners and as a result, there were many issues due to improper owner maintenance. The rarity of the car was greatly compounded by the fact that in the mid 60’s Oldsmobile offered to Jetfire owners the opportunity to have the turbo replaced with a 4-barrel carb set up at no charge! As a result, 80% of the Jetfire’s turbos met this demise so by the late 60’s there were less than 2,000 of these cars remaining turbo intact!
I have a soft spot for cool and rare cars so I decided I wanted a Jetfire but not just ‘any Jetfire’ – I wanted a light-colored car with a blue or red interior …. anything but black and was only interested in an unmolested car, close to original as possible with little or no rust. I also decided I wanted a 1963 model and I really only wanted a 4-speed manual which was under 17% of production. I know my husband was relaxing comfortably knowing I was searching for “a needle in a haystack”. However, I am very much a ‘car girl’ and I am a follower of many automotive enthusiast forums on the web and Facebook, it was only a matter of time! Crazy but true, less than 2 months of seeing our first Jetfire: A 1963 turbo intact, rust-free survivor 4-speed car was recovered from the original owner’s drive-in shed in Tuolumne, California where it had been for 33 years. I had learned about this car through an Oldsmobile Facebook page so I private messaged the poster. It was white with a red interior, 4 speed: just what I wanted, and it needed to be mine. After a bit of discussion, I offered to purchase the car ‘as is – right now’ but I was turned down: they intended to get the car back on the road, then sell it. I kept in touch regularly and was assured I would be the first to know should they decide to sell it. Persistence pays off and 4 months later we were on a road trip to California to pick up my Jetfire!
5,285 miles round trip, 8 ½ days, 435 gallons of gas – 14 mpg trailer only, 11.5 mpg with Jetfire. What an Adventure!
As for that first Jetfire we first saw in Florida: that is owned by Felix Garcia from Clearwater. Through the love of Jetfire’s we are now internet friends and we hope to meet this coming winter car season should the Olds Nationals get canceled in Nashville!
Stay tuned for a follow-up article on its restoration!