My name is Jim Noel and I live in Bloomington, MN. I was born in 1941 in St. Paul, MN and my parents moved to South Minneapolis, MN that year. I have one brother two years older than me. I lived in that house until I moved out when I married Kathy Hanson from South Minneapolis and Fargo, ND in 1961. Kathy and I started dating when I was 15 (first year for my driver’s license) and she was 13.
After high school, I completed two years towards my BS in chemistry at the University of Minnesota. I was hired by 3M in 1961 and worked in the chemical division for my entire 37 year career with 3M. My first 13 years were in our laboratories and then I moved on to various positions in marketing and Division management, retiring in 1998.
I have always had many hobbies. I gain my most enjoyment in working with my hands. Mechanical things from the past have always fascinated me. I have rebuilt player pianos, slot machines, old mechanical cash registers, and several cars. I have done all the mechanical heating and air conditioning, electrical and plumbing work in our house and the major additions we have added over the 44 years we have lived here. I am also an avid target shooter, and have competed in clay target shooting events all over the world. I have been selected to represent America on Team USA in three world championship competitions.
I learned how to drive when I was 13 and my brother was 15 (he had his driver’s license)! We would take the family car out for a spin and when we would be out of sight from the house, he would let me drive. Great fun!
My father owned a grocery store that I worked in. There was a Standard gas station across the street from my dad’s store. Often my dad would look for me to do something in the grocery store and he would have to find me across the street in the gas station watching and learning from the mechanics. I had a great interest in CARS and all mechanical things!
The first car that I had a chance to work on and “hot rod” was a 1954 Ford convertible. The car was our family’s second car and “officially” mom’s! It was white on white with a red and white interior, V-8 (ohv) and Fordomatic. When I was done with that car it was black on black with the red and white interior and a 3-speed manual (floor shift) transmission, dual exhausts with Porter glass pack mufflers. Nosed and decked, dual antennas, pin striped, ’53 Chevy grill with extra teeth and ’56 Olds tail lights and spinner hubcaps……..really cool! No “go” but great show! By now my brother had bought his own car and mom and I shared the “hot rod”! She did not like the “kids look” so I could have it most anytime……good deal!
Next was a ’57 Olds Super 88 two door “post”, not hard top. Cool car! It was two-tone green with 4 bbl carb, PS and PB, no air conditioning. The first move was to convert to “J-2”, 3-2 bbl carbs. I swapped intakes and carbs with a customer at a local Clark gas station that I frequented, who was very unhappy with his J-2 set up. Being 17, he was VERY skeptical that I could do the swap successfully. He gave me four hours to remove the J-2 set up from his car, install my 4 bbl set up, and get him back on the road and a guarantee that a local Olds dealer would correct any problems, at my expense! I prepared with all necessary parts/gaskets and had his car running in three hours! I saw him for several months after and he was very pleased with the swap. It took me several days to get the J-2 set up rebuilt (all three carbs) and vacuum linkage working as expected on my car. That car and I frequented the local drag strip. We were always winners except when a local ’57 Pontiac Tri-power showed up! I won the “heavy stock” class often with my best time in the high 13’s! That car ended up with a ’58 olds Jetaway transmission (stronger output spline), J-2 cam and several exterior enhancements to “look cool”!
Plans for marriage were set for fall of ’61 and I still had the ’57 Olds hot rod. Not cool for a family car; it had to go. I liked Oldsmobiles and went to a local dealer looking for an economical new car. I fell in love with a ’62 F-85 two door, “plain Jane” (027) with no power options, a 3-speed on the tree and posi-traction. It was Garnet Mist with a fawn Morocceen, bench seat interior. The car was sticker priced at $2700 and they allowed $600 for the ’57. This was my first ’62 F-85; nine more ’62s and one ’63 F-85 have followed over the years.
I have owned some 22 Oldsmobiles (eight were Toronados), one ’32 Ford pick-up, one Pontiac Trans AM, two Chevy Blazers and three Cadillac’s with Northstar 300 hp engines. For this write up I will just stay with the ’62 F-85’s.
Kathy did not have a MN driver’s license until 1970. For Mother’s Day in 1971 I gave her a ’62 F-85 Cutlass, our first “second car” in the family. I bought two “well used” ’62 Cutlass’s and made one good car from the pair. I had the car repainted the original Provincial White with the two tone red interior. It was Hydra-Matic transmission with power steering. Great car!
When my first daughter turned 15, I bought a ’62 Cutlass that I had observed sitting behind a service garage for over a year. When I inquired about the car, they said one of the boys that worked there owned the car and couldn’t get it to run. When I contacted the owner he said he would sell it but he couldn’t find a 4 bbl carb to get it running and would sell for $300 “as is”. I bought the car, went home and pulled a 4 bbl carb from my stash of ’62 parts, grabbed a good battery and returned to the car. I had the carb on and the battery installed in about an hour, started the car and drove it home. The engine was tired, leaked and burned oil. I pulled it out and replaced with one of the four “extra” engines, stashed in my garage, over the next week. The Hydra-Matic needed some adjusting then I cleaned up and detailed the car. Kim was delighted with her sporty Chariot Red body and Provincial White top Cutlass!
I was driving home from a hunting trip and spotted a ’62 F-85 de luxe, 4 door sedan in a small town in western MN, with a for sale sign on the window. My second daughter was 14 at the time and I knew she would want/need a car the next spring. I stopped and inquired about the car. It was Sahara Mist exterior, fawn cloth interior, Hydra-Matic transmission with power steering, good tires and full hubcaps but the muffler and tail pipe were gone. I bought the car for $250 and said I would come and get it during the next week. Kathy and I retrieved the car and I drove it home, some 200 miles, with no muffler or exhaust pipe. Loud ride! Repaired the exhaust system and cleaned up. Great little car for Kris!
As for my Jetfire experience, that started in the fall of 1962 just after I brought my first F-85 in for some routine service at my Oldsmobile dealer. They said the work would take overnight and they would give me a “loaner” to use while it was in for repairs. The service Manager came back and said the only vehicle available at the time was a ’62 Garnet Mist, Jetfire demo car with a 4-speed! I was told that this 4-speed Jetfire was one of only 50 produced in ’62. He wanted to know if that would be all right with me to use as a loaner and if I know how to shift a 4-speed? I tried to be calm, not show my excitement and said yes, that would be fine! I got out of the dealership, in the little “Turbo Rocket”, as fast as I could for fear that they might find a different loaner for me to use. I was really impressed with the Jetfire! It had a lot more performance than my 155 hp F-85. I thought, someday I will own one of these.
Our family always had a third vehicle throughout the ‘70’s- motorcycles! They were fun at the time but in 1980 the realization of my own mortality set in and I decided to change to four tired “toys”. I saw a ’62 Cutlass convertible for sale in southern Minnesota and my memories of ’62 F-85’s were rekindled. I purchased the little conv’t, drove it home and got it running better. Then I recalled the Jetfire and how unique and fun it was.
I traveled for business and often was in Michigan. I made some calls to Oldsmobile in Lansing and set up meetings with their historian, Helen Early, and several people in the research area including Gibson Butler. I wanted to talk Jetfire. I learned a lot about the cars and that they were built on a convertible chassis with a Buick Skylark top welded on the chassis and were the only true hard top F-85 in the ’61 to ’63 Oldsmobile line-up. Oldsmobile did not keep complete records of the options and variations offered in their cars. When I inquired if any Jetfires were left as convertibles Helen Early said she could remember several (maybe 4 or 5) that were Jetfires without tops and were show only, not for sale cars. She found a press release and photo of the XP-215, turbo powered, topless, concept car that they showed in the Detroit Car Show in 1962. In those days it was very unusual for a show or concept car to escape the crusher in less than a year! I received a lot of information regarding production and testing of the Jetfire by talking with two researchers on the Jetfire team. They actually were the drivers who drove them out to Arizona and put them through their paces. Before I got home from Michigan I knew what was going to happen to my ’62 convertible, I would turn it into a Jetfire convertible!
The search was on to find every part that made a Jetfire unique. I studied every detail that was different on Jetfire and slowly gathered all the parts for conversion. The convertible already was a 3-speed manual transmission car but I wanted to make it a 4-speed as well. I found several Jetfire cars in junk yards (today called car recyclers) and even found the Garnet Mist, 4-speed Jetfire that I had driven in ’62 in one of those junk yards. Of course, the turbo engine and 4-speed transmission were gone. The quest for original parts took me to Arizona and California and I received mailed parts from New York and North Carolina. The Jetfire convertible was ready to show in the summer of 1983 and was shown in many Oldsmobile state, quad state and national shows up to the mid to late ‘90’s.
By then a new toy was in the making to take its place on the show field, a ’62 Jetfire station wagon!
I had been looking for a ’62 F-85 3 seat station wagon for a couple of years. While at the Oldsmobile Nationals in San Francisco in ’86, I found one for sale in the swap meet. It was a rust free California car that actually ran for a short period of time then had cooling system problems. I bought the car for $250 and had it transported to MN. I wanted to build a Jetfire wagon, all correct, as if the factory made one “special order”. All the special Jetfire body side trim had to be hand made as there were no 4 door trim parts ever made. Almost everything was replaced on this car from a complete drive line to a Jetfire bucket seat interior. It had to be a 4-speed car too. Added a power rear window, tinted all the glass and roof rack to top it off. Very cool wagon. Drew looks and questions wherever I drove it.
In 1991 a true Jetfire came up for sale in California. The car was a two owner car that had been restored some 5 years earlier by a “professional” shop. On a business trip I took the week-end and drove to Santa Rosa to see the car. It was a Hydra-Matic, air conditioned car with a ’63 rebuilt turbo. It ran, but not as good as a Jetfire should. Transmission was shifting incorrectly and only produced 1/3 to ½ of the boost it should produce. I bought the car and made arrangements to return a month later and drive it back to MN. On the 2100 mile trip home, the engine blew the rear main oil seal before I even got to Reno. The weather turned bad and I drove in a snow storm most of the way back. I found out the heater/defroster did not work and it took 32 quarts of oil to get home! Long ride! Once home I pulled the engine, found out that it had been rebuilt with Buick, low compression, 30/1000 oversize pistons and was not worth rebuilding again. The transmission had internal problems and I do not do automatic transmissions. Located and bought an original ’62 Jetfire engine (without the intake or turbo) and a Hydra-Matic. I rebuilt the engine while a local shop went through the transmission. Rebuilt an original ’62 red turbo unit and got the car to run good, like a Jetfire should. Went completely through the car and replaced whatever was bad or incorrect: carpeting, radio, windshield, re-chromed hood spears, etc, etc…. This was a great example of a Jetfire when I finished. However it was not a “fun” car. When I chose a car to take for a ride, this one was always last. No flop top, no 4-speed, no “cool” wagon look, just stock.
My wagon and original Jetfires have been sold. I have kept the car that I have the most fun with and was my first “toy” or extra car, the Jetfire conv’t. The 1981 lacquer paint job and restoration was fading fast. It was 2005 and I wanted a project to work on. I made the decision to “re” restore the conv’t. It took a year and a half to strip it down, restore everything, use every NOS part that I had collected over the 25 years and put it back in show condition. It is all done now and it is a real show stopper! It is NOT a “belly button” car like the Chevys, Fords and even Olds muscle cars that you see at every show. Don’t take my comment wrong, they are all very nice cars, but the Jetfire is really unique!
In my quest to get more Jetfires “on the road”, I have had all the impossible to find parts reproduced for the unique turbocharger and now offer a service to rebuild your turbo. The rebuild will be done correctly and with new parts, not deteriorating 30 to 45 year old NOS parts. Need some help with your Jetfire? Give me a call at: (952) 881-2150