Oldsmobile Starfire – 1961

The Starfire was a futuristic 1953 Olds concept car that never made it into production, though the name was then used for the most expensive Oldsmobiles of the 1950s — Model 98 Starfire convertibles. It was not until 1961 that the name borrowed from a Lockheed jet fighter plane was used for a stand-alone line.

In the confusing world where cars were created to serve all sorts of real or imagined market segments, the new Starfire was Oldsmobile’s bold tilt at producing a personal luxury car. Unlike Ford’s competing Thunderbird, it was part of the Olds full-size lineup, sharing a body and wheelbase with the Oldsmobile 88s. A convertible was the first to appear, with a whopping price tag to cover a wealth of standard equipment. This included Hydra-matic transmission with floor-mounted shift, brushed aluminum side panels, power steering, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, electric windows, leather bucket seats and a center console with tachometer. The engine was the most powerful available — the 6.5 litre Skyrocket.

In 1962 a two-door hardtop with a convertible roofline doubled the Starfire range and comfortably outsold the original soft-top. There was a styling update in 1963 but the Starfire’s appeal was weakened by the debut of the Buick Riviera, which had the added appeal of unique styling that compared favorably with the Starfire’s one-of-many-similar-Oldsmobiles appearance.

The Starfire limped through 1964, further weakened commercially by sharing a bodyshell with the cheaper Jetstar I. A major revamp across the Oldsmobile range in 1965 offered hope, with Starfire buyers getting the option of a larger engine and four-speed manual transmission. But the convertible was discontinued and many former standard features became options, to give a lower headline ticket price. It was all in vain. After 1967 the Starfire’s flagship status went to the Toronado.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

USA

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1961 (until 1966)

ENGINE:

6.5 I (394 cid) or 7.0 I (425 cid) V8

PERFORMANCE:

With 6.5 I engine – top speed of 105 mph (km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 9.7 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

To ensure some element of exclusivity, Starfire buyers could mix ‘n’ match 15 exterior colours with four interior colours (blue, fawn, grey, and red) – with a further six colours to choose from when it came to convertible tops (black, blue, fawn, green, red and white). Welcome to Glitzville, USA!

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