Oldsmobile Starfire

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Oldsmobile Starfire
1961 Oldsmobile Starfire convertible front right.jpg
1961 Oldsmobile Starfire convertible
Manufacturer Oldsmobile (General Motors)
Production 1960–1966
Body and chassis
Class Full-size (1961–1966)
Subcompact (1975–1980)

The Oldsmobile Starfire is an automobile nameplate used by Oldsmobile, produced in three non-contiguous generations beginning in 1954. The Starfire nameplate made its debut with the 1954–1956 Ninety- Eight series convertibles. By 1957 all Ninety-Eight series models were Starfires.[citation needed].

After a two-year hiatus a single convertible body style Starfire became available in 1961. Intended to compete in the growing personal luxury car market, it shared most of its sheet metal with other models and was considered part of the full-sized Oldsmobile line. The Starfire Hardtop Coupe joined the convertible for the 1962 model year. The convertible was dropped for the final 1966 model year, moving to the Eighty-Eight model line.

After a nine-year break, the Starfire nameplate returned for the 1975 model year as Oldsmobile's first subcompact, powered by a Buick V6 engine. The 1977 Starfire featured the first-ever Oldsmobile four-cylinder engine as standard equipment, with a V6 and V8 optional. Production ceased in 1980.

Early history[edit]

Concept car (1953)[edit]

1953 Oldsmobile Starfire show car at the GM Motorama, Waldorf Astoria

The Starfire name was first used by Oldsmobile on a one-of-a-kind dream car that was shown at the 1953 Motorama auto show. Named after the Lockheed F-94 Starfire jet fighter, the original Starfire was a 5-passenger convertible that had a fiberglass body, a 200 hp (150 kW) Rocket V8 engine, and a wraparound windshield like that used on the top-of-the-line and limited-production 1953 Fiesta 98 convertible.

98 Starfire (1954–1956)[edit]

1955 Oldsmobile 98 Starfire

The name was then used for the 1954–1956 model years to designate the convertible models of the 98 line in much the same way that the Holiday name was used to designate hardtop body-styles. The 1954–1956 Oldsmobile 98 Starfire convertibles were the most expensive Oldsmobiles offered during those years. During the 1957 model year, all 98 models were referred to as being Starfire 98s. The name was dropped from the 98 series beginning with the 1958 model year.

First generation (1961–1966)[edit]

First generation
1962 Oldsmobile Starfire (10753850395).jpg
1962 Oldsmobile Starfire Coupe
Production 1960–1966
Model years 1961–1966
Assembly Lansing, Michigan, United States
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door convertible
2-door hardtop
Layout Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Platform B-body
Related Oldsmobile 98, Oldsmobile Jetstar I, Oldsmobile Delta 88, Oldsmobile Super 88, Oldsmobile Dynamic 88, Oldsmobile Jetstar 88
Engine 394 cu in (6.5 L) V8
425 cu in (7.0 L) V8
Transmission 3-speed automatic
4-speed manual
Wheelbase 123.0 in (3,124 mm)[1]
Length 212 in (5,385 mm) (1961-63)
215.3 in (5,469 mm) (1964)
217 in (5,512 mm) (1965-66)
Width 78 in (1,981 mm) [1]
Height 54.7"[2]
Curb weight 4,305 lb (1,953 kg) – 4,492 lb (2,038 kg)
Predecessor Oldsmobile Super 88
Successor Oldsmobile Toronado, Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale, Oldsmobile Delta 88 Custom
1961 Starfire convertible
1962 Starfire convertible
1963 Starfire Holiday coupe
1964 Starfire Holiday coupe

Introduced in January 1961 as a convertible, the Starfire was separated into its own model line and shared its body and wheelbase with the Super 88 and the lower-priced Dynamic 88. It was loaded with standard equipment including leather bucket seats, center console with tachometer[3] and floor shifter for the Hydra-matic transmission, and was the first U.S. full-sized production car to feature an automatic transmission with a console-mounted floor shifter, brushed aluminum side panels and power steering, brakes, windows and driver's seat.[4] With a base price of $4,647 in 1961, it was the most expensive Oldsmobile, even more than the larger Ninety-Eight models. The standard 394 cubic inch V-8 Skyrocket V8 engine - Oldsmobile's most powerful in 1961 - used a 4-barrel Rochester carburetor and generated 330 hp (246 kW) at 4600 rpm. Sales of the 1961 model were 1,500.

For the 1962 model year, the convertible was joined by a two-door hardtop, which featured a new convertible roofline shared with other Oldsmobile 88 coupes. Horsepower was increased to 345 hp (257 kW). 1962 was the best sales year for the second generation Starfire with sales of the hardtop coupe being 34,839 and sales of the convertible being 7,149.[5]

Styling changes for the 1963 model year included a move away from the sculpted sides of the previous years model, to a flatter, more conventional look with an exclusive squared off roofline that included a concave rear window. Sales of the coupe were down to 21,489 and the convertible was down to 4,401,[6] a drop of 38%,.[6] probably due to intense competition from Buick's all-new Riviera, which was in the same price range as the Starfire but had its own unique bodyshell. The Pontiac Grand Prix was also restyled for 1963 with a similar squared-off roof, which no doubt stole some sales from Oldsmobile showrooms.

The 1964 model appeared very similar to the 1963. Curb weight was down, but overall length was up to 215.3 inches (5,468.6 mm). Sales dropped further, to 13,753 coupes (down 36%) and 2,410 convertibles (down 45%).[7] The Starfire now shared its basic bodyshell with the new and lower-priced Jetstar I hardtop coupe which competed directly against the Pontiac Grand Prix. The Jetstar also used the Starfire's 345 hp (257 kW) 394 cu in (6.5 l) "Ultra High Compression" Rocket V8, but had a pricetag that was over $500[8] lower than the Starfire due to the use of a vinyl bucket seat interior and the fact that many Starfire standard features were optional on the Jetstar including Hydra-Matic transmission, power steering and brakes. Front seat belts were now standard.[9]

For the 1965 model year, all Oldsmobiles would receive new styling, and the Starfire Hardtop Sports Coupe would receive a modified version of the 1963-64 unique roofline with an inversely curved rear window. The Hardtop Sports Coupe body-style was again shared with the Jetstar I. Other 88 models adopted a Holiday Hardtop Coupe body-style that featured more of a fastback roof design, while the Ninety-Eight featured a more squared-off formal roof-line. A new version of the Rocket V8 engine was offered for the 1965 model year, this one measuring 425 cu in (7.0 l) displacement, still using a Rochester 4-barrel carburetor, and generating 375 hp (280 kW) at 4800 rpm. This was still the most powerful engine in the Oldsmobile lineup and used only in the Starfire and the Jetstar I. Also new for 1965 was the three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic transmission which replaced the previous fluid-coupling Hydra-Matic used by Oldsmobile since 1940. Added to the option list for the first time on Starfires and other B-body cars was a four-speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter that was rarely ordered.

1965 sales were 13,024 for the coupe and 2,236 for the convertible.[10]

Only the Starfire coupe was offered for 1966 as the convertible was discontinued for this final year for that nameplate as a full-sized sporty/luxury coupe. The Starfire price and equipment level both dropped considerably from previous years and was now at the same level as the former Jetstar I series with a less plush interior thanks to the leather seats being replaced by Morroceen vinyl for both the Strato bucket seats or no-cost optional notchback bench seat, and the movement of power windows and seats from standard equipment to the option list. Also downgraded from standard to optional equipment were the Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission, power steering and power brakes. Horsepower was up to 375, but the Starfire no longer had the most powerful engine offered for sale in an Oldsmobile. The new Toronado had a similar engine offering 385 hp (287 kW). Sales of the 1966 Starfire coupe were 13,019.[11]

For 1967, the Starfire was replaced by a new Delta 88 Custom Holiday coupe which had interior trimmings similar to the '66 Starfire and was complemented by a four-door Holiday sedan with the notchback bench seat. Later full-sized Oldsmobile coupes to carry on the Starfire tradition included the 1969-70 Delta 88 Royale and 1978-81 Delta Holiday 88 coupe.

Second generation (1975–1980)[edit]

Second generation
75 Olds Starfire.jpg
1975 Oldsmobile Starfire SX hatchback coupe
Production 1974–1979
Model years 1975–1980
Assembly Sainte-Thérèse Assembly-
Quebec, Canada
Lordstown Assembly-
Lordstown, Ohio, United States
Body and chassis
Class Subcompact
Body style 2-door Hatchback
Layout Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Related Buick Skyhawk, Pontiac Sunbird, Chevrolet Monza, Pontiac Astre,
Chevrolet Vega
Engine 140 cu in (2.3 L) L11 I4
151 cu in (2.5 L) Iron Duke I4
231 cu in (3.8 L) Buick V6
305 cu in (5.0 L) Chevrolet V8
Transmission 4-speed manual
5-speed T-50 manual
3-speed THM-200 automatic
3-speed THM-250 automatic
Wheelbase 97.0 in (2,464 mm)[3]
Length 179.3 in (4,554 mm)
Width 65.4 in (1,661 mm)
Height 50.2 in (1,275 mm)
Curb weight 2,800 lb (1,300 kg)
Successor Oldsmobile Firenza

The second generation Oldsmobile Starfire is a subcompact four-passenger automobile which was introduced in September 1974, and produced for the 1975 through 1980 model years. The Starfire is based on the Chevrolet Vega and shares its wheelbase and width.[12] It would be the smallest car bearing the Oldsmobile name since before World War II. An upgraded SX model was available, and the GT was introduced in mid-1975.[13]

The Starfire was Oldsmobile's badge engineered entry-level product of the Chevrolet Monza, which was a revised, second generation Chevrolet Vega. The Starfire was virtually identical to the Monza other than Oldsmobile specific badges.

1975 Starfire hatchback coupe
1975 Starfire rear view
1977 Starfire SX hatchback coupe
1978 Starfire Firenza hatchback coupe

The Starfire has a 97.0-inch (2,460 mm) wheelbase and a 65.4-inch (1,660 mm) width. The Starfire, Chevrolet Monza, Buick Skyhawk and Pontiac Sunbird were among the first vehicles to adopt the newly approved quad rectangular headlamps. The body style is noted for having a resemblance to the Ferrari 365 GTC/4. Starfire's standard engine for 1975-76 model years was the Buick 231 cid V6 engine using a 2-barrel carburetor that generates 110 hp (82 kW) at 4000.

The front suspension is short and long control arms with coil springs, and anti-roll bar; the rear suspension is a torque-arm design with coil springs and an anti-roll bar. The second generation Starfire is a rear-wheel-drive vehicle with a live rear axle design. Variable-ratio power steering was standard of a recirculating ball type. The brake system features standard power assist including front disc brakes with solid rotors, and rear drum brakes. This was the first GM product to incorporate a torque arm rear suspension (rear coil springs with 2 links) - its design was later incorporated into GM's second and fourth generation F-bodies (Camaro and Firebird).

1976 models could be had with the new optional Borg-Warner 5-speed manual with overdrive transmission. Starting with the 1976 models the front disc rotors were of the vented type.[14]

For the 1977 model year, the 140 CID (2.3-liter) aluminum-block inline 4-cylinder engine with 2-barrel carburetor became standard, while the Buick 231 cid (3.8-liter) V6 became optional on the base model. The GT package included the V6 engine. The Chevrolet 305 (5.0-liter) V8 engine option was added later in the year. The Vega 140 CID aluminum-block L4 was discontinued at the end of the 1977 model year[15]

The 1978 standard engine was Pontiac's 151 CID (2.5-liter) Iron Duke inline 4-cylinder engine with a 2-barrel carburetor, generating 85 hp (63 kW) at 4400 rpm. Late in the year, Oldsmobile added the Starfire Firenza package which included special rallye suspension, a front air dam, rear spoiler, flared wheel openings, sport wheels and special paint and trim.[16]

The 1979 model year saw a face lift, with twin rectangular headlamps replacing the previous quad rectangular headlamp design. The V8 engine option was dropped at the end of the 1979 model year, as was the 5-speed manual transmission.[17]

The 1980 model year was the last one for the Starfire and its derivatives. Production ceased December 21, 1979, as Oldsmobile traded H-body production to Chevrolet and Pontiac in exchange for a higher allotment of new FWD X-bodies.[18]

The rear-wheel-drive H-body cars including the Starfire were replaced in the spring of 1981 with the new front-wheel drive J-cars designated as early 1982 models, including the Oldsmobile Firenza.

A total 125,188 H-body Starfires were produced in six model years.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Directory Index: Oldsmobile/1964 Oldsmobile/album_001". Oldcarbrochures.com. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  2. ^ http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Oldsmobile/1962%20Oldsmobile/1962_Oldsmobile_Full_Line_Brochure/1962%20Oldsmobile%20Full%20Line-30.html
  3. ^ a b Gunnell, John A. (ed.). Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975. krause publications. ISBN 0-87341-027-0. 
  4. ^ http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Oldsmobile/1961%20Oldsmobile/album_003/1961%20Oldsmobile%20Starfire-06.html
  5. ^ Flory, J. "Kelly", Jr. American Cars 1960-1972 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Coy, 2004), p.183.
  6. ^ a b Flory, p.249.
  7. ^ Flory, p.318.
  8. ^ Flory, pp.316 & 318.
  9. ^ http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Oldsmobile/1964%20Oldsmobile/1964_Oldsmobile_Prestige_Brochure/1964%20Oldsmobile%20Prestige-34-35.html
  10. ^ Flory, p.389.
  11. ^ Flory, p.467.
  12. ^ h-body.org
  13. ^ 1975 Starfire brochure
  14. ^ 1976 Starfire brochure
  15. ^ 1977 Starfire brochure
  16. ^ 1978 Starfire brochure
  17. ^ 1979 Starfire brochure
  18. ^ Ward's Automotive Yearbook 1980. Ward's Communications, Inc. 1980. 
  19. ^ H-Body.org


  • Flammang, James M. & Kowlake, Ron, Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1976-199, 3rd Edition (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 1999)
  • Gunnell, John, Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1946-1975, Revised 4th Edition (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2002)

External links[edit]