Nobody could accuse Oldsmobile of resting on its laurels, for the company was constantly messing with model names, revamping, uprating, relaunching and introducing new models to keep a constant sense of excitement and innovation swirling around the brand name. Of course this was not a unique approach, applying to most other American manufacturers, but Olds was a master proponent of the black art.
The policy was not always an unqualified success and sometimes a downright disaster. It isn’t easy to decide which of these epithets applies to the Jetstar I, but it’s certainly one of them. The car appeared in 1964 as the marketing gurus chased a double benefit. The Jetstar was a full-size high-performance car that would compete directly with the Pontiac Grand Prix — and offer a cheaper alternative to the company’s own Starfire which was laden with luxurious standard features and therefore expensive. To leave the Starfire with some exclusivity, the Jetstar did not offer a convertible version, though they shared an engine.
Year One was hardly a triumph — Pontiac’s Grand Prix outsold the Jetstar by four to one, and a hole was gobbled in Starfire sales by canny buyers who chose options that pushed the cheaper Jetstar towards the superior Starfire spec. Undeterred by these minor setbacks, Oldsmobile substantially reworked the Jetstar I for 1965, along with the rest of its full-size range.
In came curvy ‘Coke bottle’ styling, a more rounded roofline and a new engine — the 6.5 litre Rocket being replaced by the powerful 7 litre Starfire V8. And out went elderly Roto Hydramatic transmission in favour of the vastly improved Turbo Hydramatic system. The 1965 Jetstar I was actually a gem of a high-performance car, but it was all in vain. The ‘Poor Man’s Starfire’ still failed to hit the sweet spot and was promptly discontinued.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1964 (until 1965)
6.5 I (394 cid) or 7.0 I (425 cid) V8
Top speed of 105 mph (km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 9.5 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Remember that Oldsmobile weakness for muddying the minds of consumers? Pay attention – the Jetstar I (1964-65) should not be confused with the Jetstar 88 (1964-66) which was the Olds entry-level line (complete with fins on the front) that had no relationship whatsoever to the more expensive Jetstar I.