Jul 24, 2023
For Sale: An Oldsmobile Jetfire Turbo Rocket V8
This is an original Oldsmobile Jetfire Turbo Rocket V8 engine, it was pulled out of a 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire, and it has the unique distinction of being the world’s first turbocharged V8 production
This is an original Oldsmobile Jetfire Turbo Rocket V8 engine, it was pulled out of a 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire, and it has the unique distinction of being the world’s first turbocharged V8 production engine.
The title of world’s first production turbo V8 would be historically significant enough, but the Jetfire Turbo Rocket was also just the second production engine with a turbo fitted after the Chevrolet Corvair Spyder Turbo which had been released a mere two weeks earlier.
Here you see the Garrett T5 turbocharger mounted above the V in the engine. The system sent the intake charge through a single carburetor directly into the engine, it was very hot and as such it needed a water-methyl-alcohol blend injected into the intake to cool it down and avoid engine knock.
The Jetfire Turbo Rocket V8 was developed by Oldsmobile working together with Garrett AiResearch, a company that up until that time had largely been making turbos for larger industrial applications. The smaller-diameter Garrett T5 turbocharger with an integral wastegate was developed and used for the Oldsmobile, producing a relatively mild 5 PSI of boost.
The Oldsmobile 215 cubic inch V8 was based closely on the Buick 215 V8, an engine that would famously go on to become the Rover V8. It also formed the foundation of the Repco 3.0 liter V8 used by Brabham to win the 1966 and 1967 Formula One World Championships – though of course that engine was highly modified.
The turbocharged version of this engine was given a 10.25:1 compression ratio, an unusually high figure for a forced-induction engine. To avoid knock it was given a complex water-methyl-alcohol injection system that was called Turbo-Rocket Fluid.
This period ad for the Oldsmobile Jetfire Turbo Rocket shows the turbo layout. It was a unique concept for the time and this drawing would be the introduction to turbocharging for many who saw it. Image courtesy of Oldsmobile.
This fluid was injected into the intake manifold air-stream to cool the intake charge which arrived hot directly out of the turbo, there was no intercooler in the system. With the Turbo-Rocket Fluid reservoir full the system is said to have worked relatively well, though it arguably wasn’t ready for mass-production use.
Many Oldsmobile Jetfire Turbo Rocket owners didn’t fully understand the water-methyl-alcohol injection system and as a result they didn’t refill the Turbo-Rocket Fluid reservoir.
When the reservoir was empty the engine used a butterfly valve to reduce turbo pressure which in turn reduced engine power, many dealers were inundated with frustrated owners arriving with cars that had empty Turbo-Rocket Fluid reservoirs and “no power.”
When the system was all topped off and working properly the engine offered impressive performance for its size, with 215 bhp at 4,600 rpm and 300 lb ft at 3,200 rpm. Not bad for a 215 cubic inch engine at the time, with a weight of just 320 lbs (150 kgs).
Here we see two different sized bottles of Turbo-Rocket Fluid, a water-methyl-alcohol blend that was injected into the intake manifold air-stream to cool the intake charge.
Many original Oldsmobile Jetfire Turbo Rockets had their turbo systems removed and replaced with a more common four-barrel carburetor, this reduced power but helped greatly with simplicity. Due to these issues the Jetfire Turbo Rocket would only remain in production for 1962 and 1963, and all-original cars are now rare.
As mentioned further up this engine assembly was removed from a 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire and it comes with the original Garrett turbocharger, air cleaner housing, side-draft carburetor, distributor, valve covers, generator, a flywheel, and starter – as well as original Turbo-Rocket fluid bottles and a set of gaskets.
The engine is now being offered for sale out of Maryville, Tennessee on Bring a Trailer and you can visit the listing here if you’d like to read more about it or register to bid.
Images courtesy of Bring a Trailer
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.This is an original Oldsmobile Jetfire Turbo Rocket V8 engine, it was pulled out of a 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire, and it has the unique distinction of being the world’s first turbocharged V8 production engine.