In the early 1960s, General Motors was riding an unprecedented wave of creative design and engineering, spurred on by European newcomers like Volkswagen and internal competition between the brands. Chevrolet led the way with their innovative Corvair, while Buick experimented with lightweight aluminum engines. Pontiac developed the compact tempest with independent rear suspension and rear-mounted transaxle. Oldsmobile brought the relatively conventional, compact F-85 to the scene in 1961. The crisp and attractively styled F-85 was the smallest Oldsmobile of the postwar era to date and featured Old’s version of the new 215 cubic-inch aluminum V8. Olds, Buick, and Pontiac shared the new aluminum 215, but the Olds version featured revised heads and valve train.
In 1962, Oldsmobile upped their game by injecting the F-85 line with some serious performance. The Jetfire Coupe was based on the 2-door F-85 convertible shell, with the grafted-on roof of a Buick Skylark. It featured one of the world’s first turbocharged production engines – the other being found in its GM stablemate, the Chevy Corvair.
Olds and Garrett’s engineers worked together to develop the Jetfire, which featured the alloy 215 V8 engine with a big Garrett T5 slapped on it and some mechanical wizardry of a Rochester carburetor. Because they lacked a complete understanding of turbocharging principles, they used the high-compression version with a heady 10.75:1 ratio. The intent was to mitigate lag, but the side-effect was severe detonation under load, requiring a complex solution to cool the intake charge through methyl alcohol injection and backup systems to limit boost via wastegates and solenoid valves. The system required owners to top up a reservoir of fabulously named “Turbo Rocket Fluid” to keep their F-85 Jetfire from blowing itself to smithereens. In practice, owners often forgot to refill the tank, and despite built-in safety systems, warranty claims piled up quickly, and untrained dealer mechanics were baffled. Many owners opted for a warranty conversion to a four-barrel carburetor, and most Jetfires had their turbos removed.
It was a shame because the F-85 Jetfire was a seriously quick car. When dialed in, the Jetfire engine produced 215 horsepower and 300 ft-lbs of torque at 3200 rpm – making it almost twice as fast as the entry-level model. Oldsmobile sold just 9,617 F-85 Jetfires in its abbreviated two-year run, but experts believe that just 150 or so exist today, putting it among the rarest production GM cars of the period.
As they used to say on television – do not adjust your set. What you see here is a 1962 Oldsmobile F-85 Jetfire Wagon – a car never built by General Motors in this specification. GM only offered the turbo as a hardtop coupe, but this car was built to full Jetfire Turbo specs by the highly respected champion of turbo Oldsmobiles, Jim Noel of Bloomington, Minnesota. Noel got into the business of Jetfires out of necessity, as he ran them daily in the early 80s. Over the years, he developed many important updates and fixes for common problems, amassing an impressive collection of NOS and lightly used original components and providing rebuilding services for owners and restorers.
In 1986, Jim Noel found this rare 1962 F-85 3-seat wagon for sale at the Oldsmobile Nationals in San Francisco. It was a solid, low-mileage, rust-free California car needing some TLC, acquired for just $250! Jim’s goal was to build the car as if it were a special order from GM, with all the necessary Jetfire parts and running gear. He had to fabricate most of the exterior trim, as it was never made for the wagon body. The interior is nearly all sourced from an original Jetfire, including the center console and instruments. Noel added a power rear window, an AM/FM radio, and a period-correct roof rack for the full “deluxe” experience. He also fitted an original Jetfire turbo drivetrain, four-speed manual with floor shift, and all other factory parts. The result is a car that would be indistinguishable from the real thing – if GM ever made one in the first place!
In 2002, after showing the car and taking home many accolades, including three 1st prize awards at the Olds Nationals, Jim Noel sold his one-off wagon. A collector and enthusiast on the East Coast acquired it and held it in his private collection for approximately 20 years. Recently out of that collection, this unique Oldsmobile is offered in excellent condition, with a well-preserved restoration and all the correct details and special parts made by Jim Noel intact. The red paintwork is attractive and well finished overall, with beautifully straight trim and brightwork that belies the age of the restoration. Similarly, the interior is superb, showing virtually no wear on the authentic vinyl upholstery and nylon carpets. It has been enjoyed sparingly since being built, but recent testing has found it to be a delightful car to drive – with surprising performance for an early 60s American wagon.
This fascinating and unique Olds Jetfire wagon is the product of one passionate enthusiast’s dream. It will undoubtedly make a welcome addition to any diverse collection and is sure to turn heads on the road or the show field.
Offers welcome and trades considered