While car manufacturers have been releasing new models with turbochargers as power adders, they have actually been around for quite awhile. Recently turbos were added to the Ford Focus and Fiesta engines, and even the trucking F-150. Turbos gain their power by using the exhaust gases to spin a turbine to help compress the incoming air to the engine. The denser the air, the more power the engine can make.
With the right engine, today’s shade tree mechanic could add their own turbocharger to easily increase the power. Completely spec’d kits are available, or you could piece out the individual parts.
Grand National Turbos
Buicks made a case for the turbos with their 1984 Regal Grand National and gained quite a following, until they stopped production in 1987. Another early innovator was the Corvair, that offered a turbo in 1962 to help polish their “sporty” image. The turbo charged Spyder engine made 150 horses as an option for the Corvair Monza coupes and convertibles.
But Oldsmobile rushed out their Jetfire to be the first turbocharged engine offering to the American motoring public in 1962. The Jetfire was a spin off on the F-85 Oldsmobile hardtop. It came with a 215 CI V-8 engine with a Garrett turbocharger making 215 horses (one horsepower per cubic inch of displacement). To avoid deadly detonation, the owners had to blend in a water and methanol mixture of “Rocket Fluid”. The other performance engine from Olds, without the turbo, was the same 215 CI engine but with just a four barrel carburetor. it could only offer up 185 horsepower.
A 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire was recently offered on eBay and the red exterior mimicked the sales brochures from the day. The owner indicated it is a ground up restoration but with a few items still needing a look at. The owner installed a new turbocharger and added in air conditioning for comfort.
So when your neighbor pops the hood on his Ford Fiesta ST and brags about his beastly turbo on his three cylinder engine, you can tell him that turbos are old school too.