Oldsmobile Jetstar 88

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Oldsmobile Jetstar 88

330 CID "Rocket"
245/290 bhp
2 spd. Jetaway AT
Top Speed:
105 mph
Number Built:
3 Star
Oldsmobile Jetstar 88
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3


Oldsmobile widened their sales horizons in 1964 with a new Jetstar 88 series. Offering four models (a four-door sedan, Holiday four-door hardtop, a two-door hardtop, and a convertible), the Jetstar 88 weighed in with a price between the F-85 and the Dynamic 88 series. Yet it was a full-sized Oldsmobile, sharing the 123-inch wheel-base of the Dynamic 88. Model for model, its price was $75 to $100 less than the Dynamic 88's and from $350 to $400 below the Super 88's.

Although the new series used the full-sized body and wheelbase, its basic components - engine, brakes, and running gear - were shared with the smaller F-85. A new, lightweight, cast-iron engine (called the Jetfire Rocket) and a new two-speed torque converter automatic transmission (Jetaway) were Jetstar 88 items. At launch, the car sold for $3058. Options included air-conditioning (US$430.40), automatic transmission, power brakes and steering, radio, deluxe trim, and white sidewall tyres.

Thus equipped, the Jetstar 88 sold for US$4498, plus tax and license. In stock trim the Jetstar 88 was equipped with standard bench seats, trimmed in cloth and vinyl, making it a full six-seater. The seats were comfortable enough but lacked the back and lateral support of buckets. Standard positioning of the steering-wheel would allow for a comfortable driving position to be found. An optional seven-position adjustable steering wheel was also available.

On the Road

Out on the road, the Olds Jetstar 88 gave a nice, soft, boulevard ride, being softer than the 1963 Dynamic 88. The springs were stiffer and the anti-roll bar was thicker on the Dynamic and Super 88 series. The Jetstar weighed 4210 pounds and gave the same sure-footed handling ease of its stable-mates, yet it seemed just a bit softer. Body roll on fast turns wasn't extreme: neither was nose dive or rear-end squat during hard braking or fast acceleration.

The car's power steering, with 3.8 turns between locks, gave a light, positive road feel at all times and would allow the driver to negotiate fast, winding roads without undue wheel winding. Hard dips taken more quickly than normal would find the front suspension bobbing up and down two or three times before settling down again. Tight turns, taken fast, would cause the carburettor to flood slightly and made the engine miss a beat or two.

At all highway speeds, from a crawl in traffic to over-80-mph cruising, the car was whisper-quiet. That was very much an Oldsmobile trait – they sure knew how to build quiet, relaxing, comfortable cars to drive and ride in. Oldsmobile's integrated air conditioner and heating system was also a gem, and if the car had of been sold here in Australia it would have handled the extremes of our climate with ease. Inside the controls were few and simple. The only gauge on the Olds' dashboard was for fuel. An easily read speedometer was in the centre, while warning lights for oil pressure and temperature were to the side. The step-on parking brake was easy to set or release.

The Jetfire Rocket V8 and Jetwawy Auto Transmission

You could option a 290-hp engine with four-barrel carb – which required premium fuel. Fuel consumption was around the 14 mpg mark during highway driving, but around town this could drop to as low as 10 mpg. Oldsmobile's then new Jetfire Rocket was a 330-cubic-inch 90-degree ohv V8 that put out 290 hp at 4800 rpm when fitted with the optional Rochester four-barrel carb (245 hp at 4600 rpm with the two-barrel carb), and gave 355 pounds-feet of torque at 2800 rpm. It used a five-main-bearing, forged-steel crankshaft, with main and rod bearings of nickel-steel matrix, babbit coated for durability.

Joining Oldsmobile's power team for 1964 was the new Jetaway automatic transmission. It was a variable-vane, two-speed torque converter that used a die-cast aluminium case and weighed a light 152 pounds. Low and reverse gears had five plates each in their drive clutches, and both used a 1.76-to-1 ratio. Second (or drive) was a direct hook-up. The variable-vane control gave increased converter torque between 10 and 60 mph. A heavy-duty version of the Jetaway automatic was also available. The Jetaway cost about US$20 less than the Hydra-Matic unit.

Jetstar 88 Performance

These changes made the Jetfire 88 feel a little different from former Oldsmobiles with Hydra-Matic units. It was a lot smoother and didn't seem to lose so many rpm between shifts as the three-speed Hydra-Matic in the 1963 F-85. Under full throttle, it would upshift at 65 mph, but it had lots of pulling power above 70 mph. Descending steep grades, the Jetaway's low range would hold the car between 35 and 40 mph. If you wanted to go faster drive was necessary – and this is where the Hydra-Matic's intermediate range came into its own, giving more control for climbing as well as coming down steep grades. Driving through a 3.08 rear axle, the new engine/transmission combination gave 0-30, -45, and -60-mph times of 3.8, 6.0. and 9.2 seconds respectively; this without much wheel-spin. The Jetstar 88 would do the quarter-mile in 17.6 seconds reaching 83 mph – and then run on smoothly and solidly all the way to its top speed of 105-mph.

The brakes on the Jetstar 88 were not as effective as they should have been. Even though the 1964 Jetstar was a bigger, heavier car, it shared the 9.5 -inch, cast-iron drums with the F-85. Effective area was up in 1964 to 155.6 square inches (over 127 square inches for the F-85 of 1963). The Dynamic 88 used 11-inch drums and had 163.5 square inches of effective lining. During road tests motoring journalists found that the brakes would heat up quickly under hard use and take a long time to cool down. Braking distances were 35 feet from 30 mph and a long 210 feet from 60 mph. If you continued the abuse the shoes could disintegrate, and the linings would become badly glazed – further reducing braking performance. All other full-sized GM cars from the era used 11-inch or larger brake drums and had a greater effective lining area than the Jetstar 88. You could option metallic linings – which was well worth the money.

Sharing many interesting options with its sister Oldsmobiles, the Jetstar 88 could be tailored to the needs of any particular driver. It could be ordered with any of the well known Olds power accessories and some interesting performance options as well. These included the aforementioned four-barrel carb and an all-synchromesh, four-speed gearbox with a floor-mounted shift lever. A three-speed manual transmission, synchronized on second and third only, was standard. Manual transmissions used a 3.23 rear axle. In addition, many towing options were available. These included Superlift rear shock absorbers, heavy-duty frame, larger-capacity radiator, and a wiring harness for trailer lights.

Although the 1964 Jetstar 88 was the new Rocket on the Olds horizon, a wide range of full-sized Oldsmobiles was available in the Dynamic and Super 88 series, and in the larger 98 series on a 126-inch wheelbase. These cars shared the well proven 394-cubic-inch, ohv V8 that ranged from a low-compression, regular-fuel 260 hp to a fire-breathing, 345-hp option. Three sports models were offered with special trim, bucket seats, and power options for those who wanted more fire. These special sporty jobs were the Starfire, Jetstar I, and F-85 Cutlass. The Starfire and Jetstar I used the 10.5-to-1 compression, 345-hp, 394-inch V8, and the Cutlass used the top-horsepower Jetfire Rocket engine. The Jetstar I had a dual, chambered exhaust system that was, at the time, an industry exclusive, and it provided a very sporting, throaty rumble.

The Jetstar 88 retained the Oldsmobile traits of having good fit and finish. The new torque converter was smoother than the Hydra-Matic, and when teamed with the Jetfire Rocket V-8 it was perfect for the family looking for Oldsmobile room, comfort, and quality in a full-sized package for less than a full-sized price tag. Oldsmobile of the early 1960s was making an honest effort to please most of the people most of the time. Their fourth-place national sales standing proved they were doing a good job.
Oldsmobile Jetstar 88

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