Based on a production 1963 F-85 convertible, the Oldsmobile J-TR show car is little known today, but it bears the unmistakable stamp of GM styling boss Bill Mitchell. Here’s a closer look.
When General Motors closed down its Motorama traveling auto extravaganza in 1961, the automaker’s focus in show cars had shifted from scratch-built concept vehicles to tastefully customized versions of the company’s production models. One prime example is the 1963 Oldsmobile J-TR, based on a standard F-85 convertible but with a number of distinctive custom features. Let’s zoom in for a closer examination.
Unmistakably the work of Bill Mitchell’s GM styling crew, the J-TR boasts a number of trendy ’60s touches, including a stylized racing stripe and futuristic Cibie rectangular headlamps from France. Note the slim two-piece front bumper, a striking departure from the production F-85, and the minimalist grille treatment.
Unveiled at the 55th annual Chicago Auto on February 16-24, the J-TR made the rounds of the national show car circuit in 1963, including the New York Auto Show where it shared the Oldsmobile stage at the Coliseum with the reigning Miss America, Jackie Mayer, and two companion show cars, the El Torero and the Custom Cutlass.
The split-bumper theme is continued at the rear, matched to subtly redesigned F-85 tail lamps. The wheels are elaborate aluminum castings with knockoff hubs, while the finned rocker panels with integral exhaust outlets—simulated, we presume—are yet another Mitchell studio trademark. The color is Fire Frost Silver, a custom high-metallic paint (developed by Englehard Corp.) then available only on Cadillac and Corvette via special order. The name J-TR suggests there’s a Jetfire turbocharged aluminum V8 under the hood, although Olds didn’t offer the production Jetfire as a convertible, only as a coupe.
The cockpit (below) is probably the wildest aspect of the J-TR exercise, with four molded bucket seat modules and a custom instrument panel that sports four round dials instead of the rectangular layout of the production F-85. Check out the beautiful door panels in brushed aluminum, which might be our favorite feature. We don’t know the ultimate fate of the J-TR once its car show career was over, but it would be nice to think the car is safety tucked away in an Olds collector’s garage somewhere.