1963 Jetfire Barn Find
This is about a 1963 Jetfire which technically belongs to my son Matt. He originally found it in a pole barn that belonged to his friends dad around 2002 in Southern Indiana. It had been off the road since 1974 with a bad cam shaft . There was still a Kentucky plate on it with an expiration date of 1974, so I know it wasn’t driven after that. The friends dad had pulled the engine out of it and was in the process of rebuilding it. However, for some reason he managed to lose one of the connecting rods, apparently couldnt find another one and had abandoned the project for a number of years. When my son first told me about the car model and the aluminum 215 CID turbo engine, I told him he was out of his mind, that GM never made a V8 that small. I was totally oblivious to the history of the Jetfires, but after a bit of research on the internet, I got pretty revved up about it.
Before looking at the car, I did a bit of research and immediately found a connecting rod from Dan LaGrou at D&D Fabrications. We then went to look at the car and I was absolutely amazed at what I saw. This car had NO rust on the body other than a few bits of surface rust here and there on the underside. The floorboards were perfect and everything was complete on the car. I did find that at one time there was some damage on the rear left quarter panel and someone had used body filler and repainted it. The rest of the black paint was original but as expected, had lots of crowfoot issues. It was missing the side trim on the rear left as well. The interior, black in color was completely original, and except for popped stitching in the upholstery here and there was in amazingly good shape. The odometer showed about 74K miles on it which I am certain is original. The guy had the engine cleaned, bored and partially reassembled on an engine stand in his basement. It had a brand new set of HC pistons and a brand new cam with it along with most everything else including the turbo assembly. After reaching a fair price, we towed the car home along with the engine.
At that time, I lived in a home with a second detached two car garage. We set off to work on the car. I reassembled the engine with little trouble. We went through rebuilding the brakes, a few suspension parts, alternator and starter and a few other components.
I did the best I could with the turbo set and eventually, we got the car running, although I had a lot of headaches with the turbo setup. We tinkered with it for the better part of 6 months or so but found it very cantankerous. My son decided he wanted to start driving the car to high school, so I made the decision to go ahead and convert it to a 4 barrel carb setup. Once again, I found a used intake and exhaust manifold along with a 4 BB carb from Dan Lagrou and made the conversion. We also took the car to a muffler shop and had a dual freeflow exhaust setup installed that sounds absolutely marvelous. So after that, the car was pretty much driveable, although not ready to be confidently used as a daily driver or take on a long trip. We didnt have much money to do anything further with it at that point.
About that time, my son had graduated from high school and was heading off to college. A year or so later, we decided to move to a smaller house and garage setup near Lousiville, KY. So the Jetfire wound up in storage at a friend’s pole barn in 2006. I was on the road as a consultant and didnt have any time to mess with it. So it sat. In 2009, my friend was moving, so I went out to his house, charged up the battery, fired it up after very little effort and drove it about 20 miles to a storage unit I rented near Louisville where it sits to this day.
We have since moved to the Akron, OH area. My son will be returning home soon, so we have decided to trailer the car up here and recommence with a full restoration, and are commited to make it happen.
So, here is the current specs of the 63 Jetfire. The turbo and related parts are removed and stored, and we are using a Rochester 4CG? stock F85 carb instead. The choke on it is a bit problematic and I am planning on making a change. It is black with a black interior, auto transmission, manual steering and no A/C.
Here are my plans for the restoration:
- Install an Edelbrock 2198 intake and a 1403 500CFM carb that I have already purchased. For now, I have no immediate plans for re-installing the turbo setup.
- New coil springs, all tie rods and ball joints
- New radiator as the old one had a large section cut off when repaired.
- Upgraded master brake cylinder
- Upgraded gear reduction starter
- New oem look uphostery, carpet and headliner
- Power steering conversion
- Possible front disc brake conversion
- Professional repair to rear quarter panel and new paint.
- New wheels, style TBD
I plan to do all the mechanicals myself, but hire out the upholstery and body work. We’d like to stay as stock in appearance as we can, while incorporating modern updates.
That’s about it. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the car, but will get them posted when we get it out of storage in the spring.