This is an original Oldsmobile Jetfire Turbo Rocket V8 engine, it was pulled out of a 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire, and it has the unique distinction of being the world’s first turbocharged V8 production engine.
The title of world’s first production turbo V8 would be historically significant enough, but the Jetfire Turbo Rocket was also just the second production engine with a turbo fitted after the Chevrolet Corvair Spyder Turbo which had been released a mere two weeks earlier
Here you see the Garrett T5 turbocharger mounted above the V in the engine. The system sent the intake charge through a single carburetor directly into the engine, it was very hot and as such it needed a water-methyl-alcohol blend injected into the intake to cool it down and avoid engine knock.
The Jetfire Turbo Rocket V8 was developed by Oldsmobile working together with Garrett AiResearch, a company that up until that time had largely been making turbos for larger industrial applications. The smaller-diameter Garrett T5 turbocharger with an integral wastegate was developed and used for the Oldsmobile, producing a relatively mild 5 PSI of boost.
The Oldsmobile 215 cubic inch V8 was based closely on the Buick 215 V8, an engine that would famously go on to become the Rover V8. It also formed the foundation of the Repco 3.0 liter V8 used by Brabham to win the 1966 and 1967 Formula One World Championships – though of course that engine was highly modified.
The turbocharged version of this engine was given a 10.25:1 compression ratio, an unusually high figure for a forced-induction engine. To avoid knock it was given a complex water-methyl-alcohol injection system that was called Turbo-Rocket Fluid.
This 1910 Cadillac racer is a brass era roadster that was built with one thing in mind – competition.
In 1910 the automotive world was still in its infancy, the first gasoline-powered car had been built by Karl Benz just 25 years earlier, and they still largely resembled horse drawn carriages with missing ponies. This didn’t stop people from racing them with gusto of course, and I think it’s fair to say that some of the bravest racing drivers in history were born in the late 1800s.
A French Explorer, Henry Ford, and the Cadillac Automobile Company
The Cadillac Automobile Company was founded in 1902 from the remnants of Henry Ford’s second bankrupt automobile manufacturer, for the persistent Mr Ford it would be the third time lucky.
The founding of Cadillac was really down to the metal of one man – Henry M. Leland. Leland had been brought in by the remaining investors to appraise the factory and equipment in preparation for full liquidation. Somewhat impressively, he somehow managed to convince the investors who had just been bankrupted in the automobile industry, to invest more money and re-enter the same market as an entirely new and unknown brand.
After much discussion it was decided that the new company would be named “Cadillac” after the famed French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac who had founded the city of Detroit in 1701.
The first cars built by this new company were essentially little more than Ford Model A (1903 to 1904) with a single-cylinder engine developed by Oldsmobile. Though relatively simple, Cadillac cars quickly gained a reputation for excellent engineering thanks to fastidious attention to detail.
The first multi-cylinder Cadillac was introduced in 1905, it was essentially four single cylinders fitted to a common crankcase, and the design would be further refined four years later with the release of the 30 horsepower Model 30.
In 1908 the American marque would win the Thomas Dewar Trophy, a prize awarded each year by the Royal Automobile Club of London for the most significant advance in automotive technology. In order to win the prize, three Cadillacs were completely disassembled, then reassembled from each other’s parts.
All three cars drove away successfully.
Though this feat may sound relatively straight forward by today’s standards it was a significant achievement in 1908, and it clearly displayed that Cadillac was reliably producing precision machined parts down to exceptionally fine tolerances.
In 1909 General Motors would buy Cadillac, and three years later Cadillac would develop the world’s first electric automobile starter thanks to engineer Charles F. Kettering, winning them another Thomas Dewar Trophy in the process.
Over the course of the next 100 plus years Cadillac would become synonymous with American luxury, eventually becoming the de facto choice for the President of the United States who is driven around in a heavily armored custom-built Cadillac sometimes referred to as “Cadillac One”.
The 1910 Cadillac Racer Shown Here
The lightweight 1910 Cadillac Racer has a largely unknown history, what we do know is that it belonged to Lindley Bothwell, a well-known Southern California orange grower who is credited with inventing the “moving card stunt” – where a stadium full of people hold up patterned or colored cards to spell out words or show pictures during sporting events.
It’s not believed that this car was built and raced in period, its surviving history begins when Bothwell came into possession of the car in 1948/1949. It’s not known if it was already in its current race car configuration then or if it had been built earlier, but what we do know is that it was certified by the AAA as a veteran race car in 1952, and it retains its original registration badge today.
Dirt track racing is an American institution, the simple set up of the race track means that it’s a style of racing that could be enjoyed in both country towns and larger cities – and as a spectator you can get close to the action, often separated by just a flimsy wire fence.
The cars that were built for dirt track racing were typically very simple, and often assembled from parts available at the local junk yard. This example was built by Tommy Garland of Buellton, California in 1948 just as the USA emerged from the shadow of WWII.
A Ford Model A chassis was sourced and a 1922 Model T body was then fitted, with a 1914 Model T rear turtle deck and lid. The grill is a sectioned 1932 Chrysler unit, and the engine is a 270 cubic inch Chevrolet inline-6, paired with a 3-speed manual Chevrolet transmission that only has second and third gears fitted.
That tape-wrapped steering wheel started life as an industrial circular saw blade, it has the teeth milled off and the four cutouts added, after Tommy had finished with the tape it was an exceedingly tough steering wheel that was capable of handling abuse from even the most enthusiastic drivers.
That unpadded driver’s seat was pulled from a retired WWII bomber, and the original seat belt was kept in place as a hat tip to safety – along with the braced roll bar.
Garland was a talented welder and amateur engineer, he built the triple exhaust manifold himself as well as that twin “elbow warmer” exhaust. Sig Erson provided a custom-ground camshaft and the distributor was sourced from a 12 cylinder Cadillac, but adapted to handle the higher RPMs of the modified straight-6.
The Track T was raced at Porterville, Bakersfield, Lompoc, Old Ascot, and the Thunderbowl for 6 years – it’s said that future Indy car driver Chuck Hulsey took the wheel for a few races when its usual driver Lee Hammock was running his Kurtis Midget car.
After its glory days were over, the car was stored by Tommy Garland for 30 years until it was acquired by local Buellton racer “Slick” Gaines – who displayed it in original condition at a local museum.
Original racers like this almost never survive in their as-raced condition, most are scrapped and a lucky few are restored to better-than-new condition
This is a La Dawri Sebring, it’s a rare American sports car from the 1950s and it’s believed that just a handful have survived to the modern day. This one is being sold out of Ormond Beach, Florida and it’s previously been featured in ReinCARnation Magazine.
The La Dawri Sebring was offered as a fiberglass body that could fit a wide array of sports car bodies, including both front and rear-engined vehicles. The Sebring you see here was fitted to a VW Beetle platform, and it now possibly has the longest frunk in the world.
Fast Facts – The La Dawri Sebring
La Dawri was the manufacturer of Canada’s first fiberglass car, the La Dawri Cavalier which entered production in 1956. In 1957 the company moved to ground central for fiberglass cars – California – and it became the largest fiberglass car maker in the world when measured by the number of models it offered.
The company’s in-house developed cars included the Conquest, Quest, Sebring, Del Mar, and the Daytona. These bodies could be ordered in different wheelbases to suit different production car chassis, depending on the body you chose the wheelbases could vary from 76 to 120 inches.
The La Dawri Sebring could be ordered in a few configurations, and it could be fitted to either a front engined chassis such as an MG, or a rear engined chassis like a Beetle.
The donor vehicle that you chose for your La Dawri Sebring would typically provide not just the chassis but the suspension, brakes, wiring loom, and drivetrain. As a result the Sebring could have broadly differing levels of performance depending on what car it was based on.
A Brief History Of La Dawri Coachcraft
La Dawri Coachcraft was established in British Columbia, Canada by Leslie Albert Dawes. In 1956, the company introduced the La Dawri Cavalier, Canada’s inaugural fiberglass car. The name “La Dawri” came from the combination of Leslie Albert Dawes and his business partner Don Wright, resulting in “L. A. Da Wri.”
This is an original 1950s-era ad for the La Dawri Sebring, interestingly the fiberglass bodies could be fitted to either front or rear-engined cars.
Just a year after unveiling the La Dawri Cavalier, the company relocated to California, the global hub of fiberglass automobile manufacturing. The Cavalier underwent a name change to Conquest and graced the cover of Road & Track magazine in July 1957, thrusting both the car and the company into the spotlight.
Subsequently, La Dawri launched the Daytona, a new model, followed by the Quest, a smaller version of the Conquest designed for smaller chassis. In 1961, La Dawri acquired the molds and rights to a series of fiberglass car bodies developed by Victress.
Victress, occupied with producing fiberglass products for the US Government, including the Olympic rings for the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics, had little time to spare. La Dawri rebranded and renamed the Victress models, keeping them in production while continuing to develop their own designs.
By the early 1960s, La Dawri had emerged as the world’s largest manufacturer of fiberglass car bodies, boasting an extensive lineup of models
However, the 1960s brought changes for La Dawri. The popularity of cars like the Ford Mustang and the availability of affordable sports cars from the United States and Europe diminished the demand for fiberglass do-it-yourself kits, especially compared to the 1950s.
The styling of the Sebring is La Dawri through and through, it looks quite similar to a number of the company’s other models and it’s fitted with a first-generation Corvette windscreen.
Nevertheless, specialized companies like Meyers Manx thrived during this period with their unique VW Beetle-based Manx fiberglass dune buggy.
Rumors circulated that either a factory fire destroying all the molds or the IRS pursuing unpaid taxes contributed to La Dawri’s eventual closure in 1965.
Today, surviving La Dawri cars are highly coveted, and enthusiasts like the team at Forgotten Fiberglass travel across the country in search of old, neglected fiberglass cars in barns and fields, undertaking restoration projects to revive them to their former glory.
This is the “Magnolia Special” Roadster, it was built by well-known motorcycle designer J.T. Nesbitt of Curtiss Motorcycles based out of Birmingham, Alabama. Unusually, this car is powered not by gasoline, diesel, or electricity, but by compressed natural gas (CNG).
Nesbitt built the car between 2009 – 2011, once it was completed he drove it from New York to Los Angeles over a span of 89 hours in October of 2011. The car didn’t skip a beat. It was featured on Jay Leno’s Garage in 2012 after arriving in LA, and Jay was clearly impressed with it.
Fast Facts – The Magnolia Special
The Magnolia Special was built by motorcycle designer J.T. Nesbitt between the years of 2009 and 2011. Nesbitt designed motorcycles for Confederate Motorcycles, and is now the head designer at Curtiss Motorcycles.
Nesbitt developed a custom chassis for the car based on a 1928 Ford roadster frame, a steel Superleggera-style frame was then constructed to support the sleek, lightweight alloy body.
Power is provided by a 4.2 liter Jaguar XK inline-six that has been highly modified, it’s now fitted with 12.5:1 compression forged pistons, stainless-steel valves, and a pair of high-lift, short-duration camshafts.
Dual CNG tanks are fitted under the vehicle, they consist of extruded alloy cores wrapped in carbon composite. The tanks are said to serve as chassis stiffeners and they sit on either side of the driveshaft (see underside shots of the car below).
The Inspiration For The Magnolia Special
The spark of an idea that led to the development and construction of the Magnolia Special was a comment made during an episode of Jay Leno’s Garage. Jay had commented that he didn’t understand why compressed natural gas, or CNG, wasn’t a more popular fuel source for vehicles.
This is the Magnolia Special, a car that was built a little over 10 years ago from scratch in New Orleans by J.T. Nesbitt. It has a completely bespoke body, a 4.2 liter Jaguar XK inline-six, a Tremec T5 five-speed manual transmission, and it uses compressed natural gas as its fuel source.
Motorcycle designer J.T. Nesbitt was watching from home in New Orleans and he thought the idea was fascinating.
He began researching the fuel and its potential uses, and before he knew it he was designing a car powered by CNG to take him on a remarkable cross-continental adventure to meet Jay Leno in person and appear on the show (you can see the episode in full below).
Building The Magnolia Special
The design began with a 1928 Ford roadster frame with TIG-welded boxed-steel rails which incorporated two CNG tanks underneath in the center that both held the fuel and acted as stressed chassis members to increase rigidity.
Onto this chassis a Superleggera-style frame was constructed, a series of small steel tubes that act as a structure for the lightweight alloy body work that was all painstakingly formed by hand. Under the body the car has a steel bulkhead, a steel stringer nose framework, and tubular steel cabin reinforcement around the two occupants.
Suspension consists of double A-arms and pushrod-operated inboard coilover shock absorbers up front and a live axle in the rear with a four-link arrangement including a Panhard rod, and adjustable coilovers to match the front end.
The car has modern Wilwood disc brakes with aluminum calipers and ventilated rotors front and back, with twin master cylinders. The car rides on Custom Dayton 72 spoke wheels with black rims and polished spokes shod with 6.00/6.50-20 Excelsior Competition tires.
Under the hood you’ll find a 4.2 liter Jaguar XK inline-six that was rebuilt before it was installed. During the rebuild the engine was given a refurbished by Simplex Automotive Machine in New Orleans. A set of 12.5:1 compression ratio forged pistons were fitted as well as stainless-steel valves, ARP fasteners, and high-lift, short-duration camshafts.
A custom six-into-one exhaust header was fabricated and wrapped to keep engine bay temperatures down, and on the other side of the engine an intake plenum was made with a cast badge bearing original Louisiana State motto “Non sibi, sed suis,” Not for one’s self but for one’s own in English.
The Magnolia Special has seating for two and some trunk space in the rear. The car is completely road legal and it attracts crowds wherever it stops.
Power is sent back through a Tremec T5 five-speed manual transmission and from there back to the live axle and its 3.50:1 limited-slip differential to the rear wheels. Steering is rack and pinion, and it has an unusual tubular-rimmed metal steering wheel with cast adornments on its spokes.
This is the M81 McLaren Mustang prototype, it’s the first of a planned 250 cars that were built as a partnership between McLaren Engines and Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO). Just 10 vehicles were built in the end due to the high price, and today they’re among the rarest production Mustangs ever made.
McLaren Engines had been established in the United States in 1969 by New Zealand racing legend Bruce McLaren, also the founder of the famous Formula One team of the same name. McLaren Engines focussed on American racing series like Can-Am and Indy Car, and they consulted with many major American automakers.
Fast Facts – The M81 McLaren Mustang Prototype
The M81 McLaren Mustang was developed by Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) with significant input from McLaren Engines. The car would be one of the fastest and wildest production Mustangs of its era.
In order to build the M81 McLaren Mustang a standard 1980 Fox Body Mustang was taken, steel fender flares were added along with front and rear brake ducting in the bodywork, BBS wheels, adjustable Koni shock absorbers, heavy-duty sway bars, heavy-duty springs, uprated brakes front and back, and a bolt-in roll bar.
The standard 2.3 liter turbocharged inline-four cylinder engine was taken by McLaren Engines and fully disassembled. The head was ported and polished, it was de-burred and blueprinted, and fitted with a new variable turbo that could produce from 5 to 11 PSI – adjustable from inside the car.
All of this work created one of the most memorable Mustangs of the time however it didn’t come cheap, with a sticker price of $25,000 USD in 1980, the equivalent to $91,576 USD in 2023. As a result just 10 were made of the originally planned 250.
McLaren Engines was founded by Bruce McLaren in Detroit in 1969. It was established to be the primary facility for the McLaren racing efforts in the United States, while McLaren in England remained focussed on the company’s Formula One racing program
The M81 McLaren Mustang was clearly a Fox Body however it benefitted from a serious styling revamp both inside and out, and it had a much more powerful engine under the hood.
Although today the name McLaren is most famous for its long history in F1, the impact that McLaren Engines had on the North American racing scene was immense. The company built engines for McLaren’s Can-Am cars, for Indy cars, and for countless other racing teams and series.
McLaren would win five consecutive Cam-Am championships, they built engines for three Indianapolis 500 winners, and they developed the turbocharged variant of the mighty Cosworth DFV engine that powered Indy cars for both Team McLaren and Penske Racing.
McLaren Engines was acquired by Canada-based Linamar Corporation and it remains operational today as a subsidiary, working with North American automakers on engine development.
Developing The M81 McLaren Mustang
The McLaren name was well-known in the United States in the 1970s thanks to the successes of Team McLaren in Can-Am racing. The team’s bright “Papaya Orange” cars had dominated for years, all powered by highly-modified American V8s.
This is the 2.3 liter turbocharged inline-four. It originally produced 131 bhp however after McLaren were done with it it was making 175 bhp, and was capable of more still.
The M81 McLaren Mustang was conceived as a sort of 1980s version of the Shelby Mustangs of the 1960s, now among the most desirable muscle cars ever made. Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) unit was founded in the early 1980s and the M81 would be their first major project.
The M81 would be followed in 1984 by the Ford Mustang SVO which was sold in much higher numbers, with almost 10,000 made between ’84 and ’86. In the United States, and around the world, new emissions restrictions and fuel efficiency standards meant that the large-displacement V8s of years gone by wouldn’t cut it, and new engine technologies were needed.
For the new Fox Body Mustang Ford had developed the 2.3 liter inline-four with a turbocharger that made almost as much power as the 4.9 liter V8, with 131 bhp vs 139 bhp. In 1980 the world was turned on its head when the V8 was lowered in displacement to 4.2 liters, and the power output dropped – for the first time a four-cylinder Mustang was more powerful than the V8 version.
This is one of an estimated 14 Viper Defenders that were built for the 1990s TV Series “Viper” starring James McCaffrey, Dorian Harewood, and Joe Nipote. It’s now being offered for sale out of Henderson, Nevada and it’s built on a Dodge Viper platform.
Unlike many prop cars built for Hollywood, the Viper Defender was actually designed at Chrysler by stylist Steve Ferrerio in 1993. It’s styling was clearly influenced by the Dodge Viper which had debuted just two years earlier in 1991.
Fast Facts – The Viper Defender
The Viper Defender was designed at Chrysler as a futuristic version of the the Dodge Viper production car. It was described as an urban assault vehicle and it featured many built in functions, not dissimilar to KITT from Knight Rider.
The TV series “Viper” initially aired on NBC for a single season in 1994, it was then picked up for a further three seasons, and it’s now often shown in reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel and the USA Network.
The car was designed by Chrysler stylist Steve Ferrerio and then built by Unique Movie Cars in Las Vegas, Nevada for use in the show. It’s believed that 14 were built.
The example you see here is built on a stretched 1993 Dodge Viper RT/10 chassis, it has a fiberglass body, and it’s powered by a 360 cubic inch Chrysler small-block V8 sending power back through a 727 automatic transmission and from there to the rear wheels.
The “Viper” TV Series
“Viper” is an action-packed crime and science fiction television series from the 1990s that follows the story of the Viper Team, an elite crime-fighting unit. The show is set in the fictional Metro City, California where crime is rampant and law enforcement struggles to maintain any semblance of control.
The series centers around the high-tech, armored vehicle known as the “Viper Defender,” which is a Dodge Viper RT/10 Roadster modified with advanced weaponry and sophisticated defense mechanisms. The Viper is utilized by the Viper Team to combat crime and bring justice to the city.
Together, the Viper Team faces numerous criminals, corrupt corporations, and other threats to the city. Throughout its four-season run, the show blended car chases, explosive action, and engaging character development, making “Viper” a cult classic for fans of the genre.
The Viper Defender
It’s clear that the Viper Defender was influenced by the earlier KITT from the 1980s TV series Knight Rider. Both cars were based on period production sports cars, KITT on the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am and the Viper Defender on the Dodge Viper RT/10.
Interestingly the Defender was built on a production Viper chassis but the original V10 engine was removed and replaced with a 360 cubic inch Chrysler small-block V8 sending power back through a 727 automatic transmission to the rear wheels.
Of the 14 cars built for the series some were more complete than others, as some cars were used for interior shots and some for exterior driving shots. The example you see here appears to have been one of the few built to serve both purposes, with a fully detailed interior and exterior.
The interior of the car has seating for two, it’s all finished in blue/gray upholstery and black carpeting, and the center console/dashboard section includes the three color monitors that were used in the show to depict satellite navigation, onboard diagnostics, weapon systems, radar, etc.
The interior of the car is completely fitted out, with blue/gray upholstery throughout, black carpeting, and that triple color monitor set up in the center of the dashboard that was used to display things like satellite navigation, onboard diagnostics, and weapons systems during the show.
Although this car is fully equipped and drivable it’s not legal for road use, this is something that may be worth researching for any potential bidders as it may be possible to get the car registered in some regions as a kit car or low volume production vehicle – though this would require further research.
The 1954 Kaiser Darrin you see here is number 281 of the 435 that were made, it was an innovative car with a lightweight fiberglass body, doors that slid forward into the front fenders, and elegant styling that was designed to compete with the popular European sports cars of the time.
The Kaiser Darrin was based on the Kaiser Henry J platform and powered by the Willys F-head inline-six with a displacement of 161 cubic inches (2.6 liters) and approximately 90 bhp. This means that although the Kaiser Darrin is rare, sourcing spare parts is often fairly simple.
Fast Facts – The Kaiser Darrin
In 1952, the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation, established by Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph W. Frazer, tasked Darrin with creating a sports car to compete with the popular European sports cars on the market. The goal was to elevate the company’s profile in the sports car market segment.
Darrin was a renowned American automotive designer Howard “Dutch” Darrin, who had previously worked with luxury car manufacturers like Rolls-Royce, Hispano-Suiza, and Packard. Darrin was known for his innovative design sensibilities and luxury car expertise.
The Kaiser Darrin 161 featured a fiberglass body, just the second American production car to use the material. Additionally, it had innovative sliding doors that disappeared into the front fender, a three-position Landau convertible top, and a distinctive grille.
The Kaiser Darrin was officially unveiled in 1953, but production delays and financial difficulties at the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation meant that the first models were not produced until 1954. The car was sold for just one year, with 435 made in total and far fewer surviving today.
Howard “Dutch” Darrin
Howard “Dutch” Darrin was a prominent American automobile designer who had made a name for himself through his work with European luxury car manufacturers like Rolls-Royce, Hispano-Suiza, and Packard.
Above Video: This episode of “Deep Dive” by The Petersen Automotive Museum covers the history of the Kaiser Darrin, and it offers an excellent look back at the history of the model.
Born in 1897, Darrin began his career as an aircraft designer before transitioning to automotive design in the 1920s working in Paris with with fellow American designer Thomas L. Hibbard, together the two men formed coachbuilding firm Hibbard & Darrin in 1923. Darrin’s innovative design sensibilities and a reputation for producing luxury vehicles quickly garnered him recognition in the industry.
Before the outbreak of WWII Darrin returned to the United States, establishing his own coachbuilding firm on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. He was soon working under contract with Packard on some of the most influential of the company’s designs of the 1930s and 1940s, including both the Packard 120 and Packard Clipper.
The Ford 427 SOHC Cammer V8 is one of the rarest and most desirable big block V8 engines ever made. Unusually for an American V8 it has overhead cams rather than pushrods as it was built specifically for racing.
It’s been called the “90 Day Wonder” thanks to its compressed development schedule, some have gone so far as to call it “Ford’s Greatest Engine” however there’ll be plenty of people who argue that statement, and point to the highly influential Flathead V8 released in 1932 and engines like the more recent Coyote V8.
A Hemi Dilemma
In the mid-1960s Ford was faced with a dilemma, a dilemma in the shape of Chrysler’s 426 Hemi V8 which was an exceptionally capable engine no matter your brand loyalties. In order to effectively race against the 426 Hemi and win Ford needed a new engine, and it needed to be a doozy.
Rather than stick with the tried and tested pushrod V8 architecture so beloved of American automakers Ford decided to develop an engine with single overhead cams per bank allowing higher RPM operation, and hopefully more power
The Development Of The Ford Cammer 427 V8
Ford engineers had developed the Cammer on the 427 FE V8 platform. The FE is a pushrod engine of course so it needed new heads, a timing chain set up, and they designed an idler gear shaft in the traditional cam location in the block that operated the distributor and oil pump.
The FE block was modified with cross-bolted main bearing caps and a revised oiling system to better suit overhead cam and roller rocker operation. Originally the Cammer had an iron block and iron heads, though later engines were fitted with alloy heads to help reduce the engine’s prodigious weight.
Though the engine had its issues it likely would have proven competitive in NASCAR thanks to its high-RPM capability that was well-suited to the high speed banked circuits typically used in the racing series.
On its release the Ford 427 SOHC Cammer V8 was rated at 616 bhp at 7,000 rpm and 515 lb ft of torque at 3,800 rpm – excellent figures by the standards of the mid-1960s.
The Cammer’s Achilles’ Heel
They say every engine has an Achilles’ heel, some element of the design that wasn’t particularly well engineered. Some engines seem to be made up almost entirely of them as a matter of fact.
The Achilles’ heel of the Ford Cammer engine was its timing chain – at almost 7 feet long it’s one of the longest timing chains ever used in an automotive application, and as any mechanic will tell you, timing chains take on the characteristics of bungee cords given enough time and use.
The timing chain issues were a result of the compressed development timeline, they necessitated different valve timing for the left and right banks to account for chain stretching, and the camshafts themselves needed to a be a mirror image of one another in order to function.
Sadly the Cammer would never get to turn a wheel in NASCAR as the rules were changed to ban special racing engines, the series was supposed to be for stock cars not prototype specials.
The Cammer Goes Drag Racing
Rather than dump the Cammer project Ford continued to develop the engine in the hopes of changing the minds of those making decisions at NASCAR, in the meantime they sent the engine off into the world of drag racing – where it proved wildly successful.
Many of the big names in 1960s drag racing were putting the Cammer to good use, including Bill Lawton who won the AHRA and NHRA Winternationals in 1966. Other Cammer pilots included Mickey Thompson, Gerry Schwartz, Tommy Grove, Tom Hoover, Pete Robinson, Connie Kallita, and many others.
1967 would see Connie Kalitta’s Cammer-powered “Bounty Hunter” slingshot dragster win the Top Fuel events at the AHRA, NHRA, and NASCAR winter meets – becoming the only “triple crown” winner in the history of American drag racing.
When the Oldsmobile Toronado was introduced in 1966 it would become the first front wheel drive American production car since the Cord 810/812 from almost 30 years prior in 1937.
The front wheel drive layout would be almost prophetic, with a significant swathe of production automobiles switching to it over the years after the Toronado appeared in the mid-1960s.
Fast Facts – The Oldsmobile Toronado
The Oldsmobile Toronado wasn’t originally intended for production, it started out as a design sketch by David North in 1962. It was a personal coupe with futuristic styling – the executives like it so much it was given the green light to enter production on the E-body platform.
Oldsmobile intended the Toronado as a personal luxury car to compete with the likes of the Buick Riviera, the Pontiac Grand Prix, and the Ford Thunderbird.
The name Toronado has no pre-defined meaning, it’s believed to be a joining of the word “Toro” (Spanish for “Bull”), and the word “Tornado” and it was first used on a 1963 Chevrolet concept car.
When it was released for 1966 the Oldsmobile Toronado was named Motor Trend car of the year, in won the Car Life’s Award for Engineering Excellence, and it even finished third in the European Car of the Year competition – a rare accolade for an American vehicle.
The Accidental Production Car
The Oldsmobile Toronado had stared out as a compact personal luxury car penned by Oldsmobile stylist David North in 1962. It was a design exercise rather than a production proposal, but Oldsmobile needed a competitor for cars like the Riviera, the Grand Prix, and the Thunderbird – and they believed that the Toronado design was just the ticket.
The original design was for a relatively small car by American standards, so North was tasked with increasing the size to better suit the larger E-body platform which was more similarly sized to the competition.
Oldsmobile executives knew they needed a unique selling point for their car and they had had engineers experimenting with front wheel drive systems since the late 1950s. It was decided that the new Toronado would use such a system, and that no rear wheel drive version would be offered.
At the time of release the Toronado was fitted with the prodigious 425 cubic inch (7.0 liter) Rocket V8 producing 385 bhp and 475 lb ft of torque. Despite the hefty curb weight of 4,496 lbs (2,039 kgs) the car could do the 0-62 mph dash in just 9.5 seconds with a top speed of 135 mph (217 km/h).
The only transmission option was the Turbo-Hydramatic heavy-duty three-speed automatic which had been mated to a unique silent chain-drive system called Hy-Vo in order to send power to the front wheels.
Perhaps the only downside to the Toronado was the fact that in its first year of production it came with drum brakes on all four corners. Given the weight of the car these brakes tended to fade relatively quickly with heavy use – an issue that was rectified in 1967 when vented front disc brakes were offered as an option.