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Jay Leno Drives the First Turbocharged Production Car, the 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire

When you think of turbochargers, performance quickly comes to mind. While that thought might be right, turbochargers are actually efficiency devices. According to automotive history, the Oldsmobile Jetfire and the Chevrolet Corvair Monza were the first production cars to experience the whirl of the turbo turbine.
Jay Leno 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire 9 photos
Jay Leno 1962 Oldsmobile JetfireJay Leno 1962 Oldsmobile JetfireJay Leno 1962 Oldsmobile JetfireJay Leno 1962 Oldsmobile JetfireJay Leno 1962 Oldsmobile JetfireJay Leno 1962 Oldsmobile JetfireJay Leno 1962 Oldsmobile JetfireJay Leno 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire
Jay Leno had an exclusive chance to check out a meticulously restored 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire owned by Eric Jensen of Olds Jetfire YouTube Channel.

It’s unclear which between the Oldsmobile Jetfire and the Chevrolet Corvair Monza got a turbocharger first. Leno believes the Jetfire got out a few weeks before the Corvair but agrees the Monza receives a lot more publicity, making people more inclined to think it could be the first turbocharged car.

Jensen is a true Oldsmobile guy. He started working on his first model at 13 years old. His family also has a long history with the classic from his great-grandfather down to his dad.

Turbochargers didn’t just stumble into the American automotive space by chance. Facing ever-increasing competition from European automakers with smaller, lighter, fuel-efficient cars, GM figured a way to keep running their huge V8s without compromising efficiency - turbochargers.

Everything new faces a few teething problems, and unfortunately, like all flagship designs, the Oldsmobile Jetfire took the fall.

For starters, the Oldsmobile’s suspension wasn’t at its best. Even with 35% more torque from the turbocharger, GM used the same suspension system on the F85 Cutlass that needed a ton of improvement.

Also, the Jetfire used a unique solution, “rocket fluid,” which was a mix of water and ethanol, to avoid detonation that could potentially lead to engine knock. New owners felt this was a chore they couldn’t keep up with.

The Corvair Turbo had no wastegate at all. It was a very simple unit. While this thing has all sorts of diaphragms and impellers turning at 90,000 RPMs. It’s a really neat piece of kit. I think it’s a fantastic car, and it’s still unassuming in this body style,” Leno said, cruising down the road.

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