Bill Mitchell Showpiece: 1963 Oldsmobile J-TR

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.


12 thoughts on “Bill Mitchell Showpiece: 1963 Oldsmobile J-TR

  1. Nice design, although not a big fan of the seats or the headlights. I much prefer a cleaned up design such as this one as to seeing some of the wild one off deals that had no chance for production. This car looks as though you might find it in a dealers showroom teh next day.

    • I, too, thought of Rambler. Taillights similar to late ’60s Ambassador.
      (…which are similar to ’66/’67 Fairlane)
      Simulated exhaust port in rocker panel brought to mind ’68 (?) Rebel
      which had chrome scoop ahead of rear wheel opening.

      Also agree with Don: I much prefer the stock version shown in the link he provided. (great photo -thanks!).

      • PEST script – I mean “postscript”: The wheels on this show car are similar to the elaborate wheel covers which were available on production ’65 Olds Jetstar and Starfire models.

  2. 12 Of the 14 1963 Pontiac Catalina 421 Super Duty Swiss Cheese cars were painted in paint code 92 FireFrost silver. click on the link below:

    The nice thing about the production F-85 was that it looked better than the J-TR . The bumper on the production car was way better because it was a full bumper and did not have a lower painted valance to pick up dings from rocks a pebbles.
    Production car click on the link below;


      • Thank you for that link; One of the replies stated that Chevrolet used a similar frame which is untrue. All 63 Pontiac’s use a perimeter frame and Chevrolet continued to use the dangerous X frame. Too bad you closed the comments or I would have stated that there.

        • Thanks for your reply. The comments are closed after a time as a spam-blocking measure. Sorry we have to do that.

    • The Jetfire Turbo could be a predecessor to the 442, but in reality the 442 was a response to the Pontiac GTO as well as the Z11, Skylark G/S, Fairlane GT390, Mercury Cyclone GT, Plymouth GTX & Road Runner etc.

  3. Look closely at the door panel emblems and horn emblem. They are the Jetfire pieces from the production version. Also the Starfire used exhaust that exited thru the rear quarter panel just in front of the rear bumper. So I’d guess that the exhaust on the J-TR was functional.

Comments are closed.