Oldsmobile Jetstar I

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The Oldsmobile Jetstar I is an American automobile produced by Oldsmobile for two model years: 1964 and 1965. It was designed as a sporty, high-performance full-sized car and only offered as a two-door hardtop for both years, based on the Olds 88's B-body.


1964 Oldsmobile Jetstar I

The Jetstar I was initially designed as both a lower-priced companion to the more luxurious Starfire, which had a starting price of over $4,100 - and as a direct competitor to the successful Pontiac Grand Prix, which sold in the same $3,500-$3,600 price range as the Jetstar I. The Jetstar I also shared the Starfire's squared-off roofline with concave rear window, which contrasted with the convertible-like rooflines featured on other Olds 88 two-door hardtop coupes. The Jetstar I was only offered as two-door hardtop coupe, while the Starfire also came as a convertible.

Standard equipment included the 345 hp (257 kW) 394 cubic-inch Starfire Rocket V8 engine, bucket seats and center console, along with carpeting, full wheel covers and padded instrument panel. Keeping the “sport” part of the Starfire, it was less luxurious and glitzy than its higher-priced sibling. A three-speed column-shift manual transmission was standard and optionally available was the three-speed Roto Hydra-matic automatic with a console-mounted T-handle shifter. Besides having less trim and vinyl interior instead of the Starfire's leather, the Jetstar I had its lower price because the automatic transmission, power steering and power brakes — all of which were standard on the Starfire — were optional on the Jetstar I. But most Jetstar I's (as with most of the other full-sized Oldsmobiles) were sold with those options — bringing the price tag closer to $4,000.

The 1964 Jetstar I weighed in at 4,028 pounds (1,827 kg), and 16,084 were produced for 1964, just slightly below the number of Starfires produced that same year, but well behind the 63,000 Grand Prixs built by Pontiac that same year.


1965 Oldsmobile Jetstar I in Saffron Yellow.

The Jetstar I, like all other full-size Oldsmobiles, was completely restyled for 1965 with bodylines receiving a more rounded rendition of the '64's squared-off roofline again shared with Starfire (other 88-series two-door coupes got semi-fastback rooflines). Also new for 1965 was the engine and automatic transmission. Replacing the 394 cubic-inch Rocket V8 was the new 425 cubic-inch engine, with the top of the line Starfire version having a four-barrel carburetor, dual exhaust, and a 10.5:1 compression ratio and was rated at 370 horsepower (280 kW) — the most powerful Olds engine in 1965. The 425, which shared many components with the smaller 330 cubic-inch V8 introduced for Olds' intermediate-sized Cutlass the previous year, was lighter in weight than the previous 394 despite the increase in displacement and included bigger valves and improved cooling capabilities. Also new was the three-speed Turbo Hydramatic transmission, which was considered a vast improvement over the previous three-speed Roto Hydra-matic, whose basic design dated back to the original Hydra-matic introduced in 1940. Another new transmission offering for the Jetstar I along with the other full-sized Oldsmobiles (except the Ninety-Eight) for 1965 was the Muncie four-speed manual, which turned out to be a seldom-ordered option. Oldsmobile boasted in a 1965 press release that “a Jetstar I proved to be the top accelerator of the entire event” at the 1965 Pure Oil Performance Trials in Daytona Beach. Those trials were sanctioned and supervised by NASCAR.

The Jetstar I was considered as a Starfire without the frills and was informally dubbed "the poor man’s Starfire." Proving to be an ill-fated model, 1965 concluded the two-year run for the Jetstar I. Only 6,552 were sold. The introduction of the mid-sized muscle cars including the 389 V8-powered Pontiac GTO and similar Oldsmobile 4-4-2 (which started with a 330 cubic-inch V8 in 1964 but switched to a larger 400 inch engine in 1965) ensured the future of the musclecars were the smaller intermediates, and the front-drive Toronado loomed big in Oldsmobile's future taking over the flagship status from the Starfire.

Further confused with its lesser brethren, the low-priced Jetstar 88 series, there was no way but out for the Jetstar I. Although the Jetstar I was priced similar to the Grand Prix, closer examination of prices revealed that unless one bought a sparsely optioned JS1, there was little financial incentive for an Olds buyer to purchase a JS1 over the Starfire. Take the JS1's $3602 base price and add the $107 power steering, the $43 power brakes, and the $242.10 automatic transmission (all standard on the Starfire), and you had a $4,000 Jetstar I. And less than $150 more would buy the $4,148 based priced Starfire, which not only included those standard features but also a luxurious genuine leather interior and more distinctive exterior tinsel. On the other hand, some would argue that the Jetstar I with its unadorned flanks and faux air extractors behind the front wheels presented a sportier countenance than the brightwork-heavy Starfire.

Lost in the mix was a jewel of a high performance car in the 1965 Jetstar I. Trimmed down to 3,963 pounds (1,798 kg) from more than 4,000 pounds (1,800 kg) the previous year, the ’65 model was an overlooked performance car. The new 370 hp (276 kW) 425ci Starfire engine delivered 470 lb·ft (637 N·m) of torque, was durable, and was quite an improvement over the ’64 394. How serious was that horsepower and torque in ’65? If you wanted this much power in a Grand Prix or other full-size Pontiac, it was only available in the top-of-the-line 421 HO Tri-Power engine (rated at 376 horsepower) that was not standard in any Pontiac model, but an expensive extra-cost option listed at $375.77 for the GP and other big Pontiacs.

The 370 horsepower (280 kW) Starfire V8 was the largest and most powerful V8 in Oldsmobile's market segment in 1965. Buick could only muster 360 horsepower (270 kW) from its largest V8 (similar in cubic inches to the Olds engine but of a much older design) even with dual four-barrel carburetors, Chrysler topped out at 413 cubic inches and 360 horsepower (270 kW) and Mercury made do with a 390 cubic-inch V8 of as much as 330 horsepower (250 kW), excepting the very few Merc buyers willing to shell out an astronomical cost of $700 for an exotic 427 cubic-inch V8 with dual four-barrel carbs and 425 horsepower (317 kW) - which was not really designed for everyday driving and not available with some of the most popular options in this price class such as automatic transmission and air conditioning.

Though the Jetstar I was dropped after the 1965 model year, its direct replacement for the 1966 model year was a lower-priced Starfire hardtop coupe (convertible dropped for this year) which now had a base price in the same range as the departed Jetstar I. This was done by replacing the leather interior found in previous Starfires with Morroceen vinyl trim and moving several hundred dollars worth of formerly-standard equipment to the extra-cost option list including Turbo Hydra-matic transmission, power steering and power brakes. This lower-priced '66 Starfire sold in bigger numbers than the '65 Jetstar I but that nameplate/series was dropped after the 1966 model year, though the Starfire nameplate would return for 1975 on a badge-engineered Chevrolet Monza as a subcompact.

Often confused with lower-priced Jetstar 88 series[edit]

Between 1964 and 1966, Oldsmobile named its least expensive full size model the Jetstar 88 (priced $500–$600 below the Jetstar 1), but that car was not related to the Jetstar I. The Jetstar 88 was basically a B-body on an A-body chassis, which gave the 88 line the most inexpensive model. The Jetstar 88 also offered a full range of bodystyles including the four-door Town (pillared) and Holiday (hardtop) sedans, Holiday hardtop coupe and even a convertible (1964-1965 only) - all featuring cloth/vinyl bench seat interiors shared with the step-up Dynamic 88 series. The Jetstar 88 was powered by the same 330 cubic-inch Rocket V8 with 11.5 to 1 compression (ultra-high) found in the intermediate F-85/Cutlass models instead of the 394 or 425 found in all other Olds 88-series models. Furthermore, the Jetstar 88 also shared the intermediate-sized car's two-speed Jetaway automatic transmission and smaller 9.5-inch (240 mm) diameter brake drums. Although the Jetstar 88 was a respectable seller during its three-year run, it was outsold by a wide margin by the Dynamic 88, which cost only a few dollars more than the Jetstar 88, but was also considered a better value by many Olds buyers due to a larger standard engine, three-speed automatic transmission, and larger brake drums.

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