Contributed by Sandy and Steve Gray, from Hamilton Ontario, Canada, and Snowbird in Port Charlotte, Florida
The previous article was about finding the Jetfire and from everything we saw when we finally laid our eyes on the car, we knew we had found the car all classic car enthusiasts hope we will magically stumble upon. After getting the car home and starting the cleanup and tear down process we realized the true gem we had purchased! The car needed a lot of cleaning and degreasing and all the mechanicals needed to be completely gone through. We decided we would not ‘restore’ the car but do more of a preservation clean up.
The turbo units are very unique in this car: being a Garrett Research fluid injected turbo similar to what the old war planes used. Due to the rarity of the cars (and therefore lack of demand), there were no companies making aftermarket parts specific for this model. Fortunately, in years past there was a hand full of Jetfire enthusiasts that were determined to not let these cars become extinct. Many of the turbos removed back in the 60’s by Oldsmobile were scrapped but some were saved and continue to surface at swap meets. Jetfire and F85 enthusiasts have parted out many cars destined for metal recycling: Jetfires, as well as non-turbo F85’s & early Cutlass models and there, are some stockpiles out there. One of those long time enthusiasts is Jim of Minnesota (whom I refer to as the Turbo Guru) who over the years has sourced the necessary parts for restoring the turbos and has become the go-to guy for rebuilding these unique units. Fortunately for me, he is still happily restoring them, and my turbo not only looks brand new, but it will also work like new too!.
The amazing 215 Aluminium block was not used after 1963 by GM who switched back to cheaper but much heavier iron blocks. However, the rights were purchased by Rover and found its way into not only the Rovers, but MG’s, Morgan’s, and Triumph’s with the basic engine design revamped over the years and was in production up to 2004. Due to that longevity, there are engine rebuilders that specialize in these aluminum V8’s as well.So back to my story: after cleaning, disassembling, and more cleaning we decided that mechanically we would rebuild the entire system: done once and done right. So as mentioned the turbo, as well as the engine block, were farmed out ‘to the professionals’ and we would do everything else.
Underneath we have the car cleaned up with a few hard to get at areas needing a bit more attention but everything is rust free. We pulled the gas tank which physically is in amazing condition however it smelled so bad we knew it needed special attention. We added a couple of gallons of solvent and two big handfuls of ball bearings, capped all the openings and put in in the back of our pick-up truck bed and it self-cleaned over a few days of errands!
We have never been ‘factory spec’ restorers: we Resto-mod most of our classics to be nicer handling and driving than when they were built back in the 60’s and 70’s. However, this car is different and will stay virtually factory stock: it is getting a minor ‘Day 2’ treatment. We were lucky to find a NOS dash clock that we have installed, and we added a tachometer below the dash which we color matched to be less obvious. We are switching out the full wheel discs for Oldsmobile dog dish hub caps on white wheels (body color) with red stripe tires. Since we need to replace the carpet anyway, we have added Dynamat sound deadener to the floors as we do for all our classic cars. I am also planning a sway bar for the rear end to firm up the handling.
Since the two major components under the hood would end up looking new: we decided to restore the entire engine bay. The engine bay was in rough-looking shape, so we have cleaned primed and repainted the engine bay, as well as all the components paying attention to replicating the factory, finishes as best we can. The Turbo Rocket Fuel tank has it’s own fluid gauge and I managed to take that apart and figure out how to repair it. The TRF tank also has a unique Turbo Rocket Fuel Filter which is the same AC brand fuel filter use in many mid 60 GM’s however not labeled the same. With the help of my daughter’s graphic skills and cutting machine, we designed a stencil to recreate those and they are available to other Jetfire enthusiasts too. Many of the ‘under the hood’ labels that are Jetfire exclusive have been supplied to me by my turbo rebuilder. There are a few other Jetfire only components that no one has attempted recreating that I am also turning my attention to – because if I don’t do it, who will? The large unique oval air cleaner used a very basic foam filter which was adequate, but not optimal. Eric, a next-generation enthusiast approached K&N who created ‘their version’ of a proper air filter. Eric also found a company that could design and reproduce a vital seal that goes between the turbo and the manifold. It is like a huge oval twin flanged grommet and without it the turbo would not seal to the manifold. By the way, Eric also mastered the skills of turbo restoration and Jim’s guidance is the next generation Go-To Turbo guy!
We are continuing working on the preservation of my Jetfire. I have been working diligently on all the exterior brightwork and body badges. You can see from my photo how nice the grill and surrounding area look all polished and repainted! We are nearing the point of wanting to put the engine back into the car however, I do have one major problem. We delivered our engine block to D&D V8 Aluminium in Michigan quite a few months ago and it is ready and waiting – but right now the Canadian/US border is closed to non-essential travel! Don’t they know how essential my engine is? The upside of not having the engine here is that I am not feeling under pressure to get things done and I am truly enjoying the restoration process.
The Jetfire is finding a new audience now and more of these cars are materializing out of barns and garages! If you are fortunate enough to see one at a car show, take the time to check out its unique features! Click HERE for part 1 of the Jetfire