The Oldsmobile Jetfire was the first turbocharged passenger car, along with the Chevrolet Corvair Monza. However, Oldsmobile’s system was far more complex and powerful than Chevrolet’s. Back in the early ‘60s, each GM division was in competition with the others. So, they worked hard to present something better than their competitors.
Oldsmobile chose turbocharging as the new technology they wanted to perfect. Their engineers took the compact F-85 model and retained its small 215 CID V8 engine that produced 185 HP. They also gave it a new forced induction intake system. It included a Garett turbocharger and a special “Turbo Rocket Fuel” tank. It consisted of distilled water, methanol and a corrosion inhibitor mixture that went into the fuel and air mixture to prevent detonation.
In those days, turbochargers were primitive and prone to detonation or pre-ignition, which could ruin the engine. For the standards of the day, the Jetfire V8 was state of the art technology and initially, the market was interested. The new V8 engine delivered 215 HP, which was one HP per cubic inch. This made it one of the best performance cars of the day.
With the 0 to 60 mph time of around eight seconds, it was almost as fast as the Corvette. However, the Jetfire had problems from the beginning, but most of the issues were owner-related. People praised the power delivery of the new Jetfire model, but they weren’t used to the operating procedures a turbo engine required.
But most owners forgot to fill up the “Turbo Rocket Fuel” tank with distilled water, methanol and a corrosion inhibitor mixture. This caused a loss of power and failure of the engine in the long run. After just two years and around 10,000 Jetfires, Oldsmobile decided to kill the car and ditch turbocharging technology.