On April 29, 2004, a
dark maroon Alero sedan marked the end of the oldest operating
automotive marque in America, Oldsmobile. It came from a long
line of interesting, dynamic, and often revolutionary models that had
been produced over the years. From the mighty Limited of the
early 1910's, through the first “Rocket V8" in 1949, to the muscle of
the 4-4-2, Oldsmobile was always considered a fast and powerful car.
As the 1960's dawned
the automotive market was being pulled in several different directions
at the same time, and Oldsmobile was gearing up its offerings to meet
all of them. Those looking for big, roomy, luxury cars had the
Ninety-Eight series to turn to. Compacts were arriving and Olds
presented the neat little F-85 series to meet this demand.
Eighty-Eights were there for those looking for comfortable family
transportation with comfort and a little flash. However, the most
exciting area of the market was performance, and here again,
Oldsmobile was ready to meet the challenge.
On January 1st,
1961, Oldsmobile added a rather spectacular new model to their roster,
the Starfire. In its premiere season, only one body-style was
available, a sporty and dressed-up convertible that had its origins in
the Super 88 series. This sleek new model was gussied up with
full-body length brushed aluminum trim framed in bright stainless
steel. Inside, leather-covered bucket seats and a center-shift
console with tachometer were standard fare. Also included was a full
compliment of power equipment including windows, driver’s seat,
“Roto-Matic” steering and brakes. However, Starfire’s real claim to
fame was the package under the hood, 394 cubic inches belting out 330
horses, backed by the 4-S Hydramatic automatic transmission. Based on
the same 123" wheelbase as the Super 88s and measuring out at 212"
from bumper to bumper, this was big American performance.
Starfire was the
most expensive model in the Olds family for 1961. At $4,647, it
was about $300 more than the Ninety-Eight series convertible.
Its target market was the potential buyer of Ford’s Thunderbird, which
up to this point had enjoyed the sporty, personal car market all by
itself. This would also mark GM’s first entry into this
highly-profitable segment. Production was limited to exactly
7,800 copies for 1961.
|Low and sleek, the
original Starfire is a looker.
interiors were quite flashy, such as this '62.
|The '64 brought minor
For 1962, Starfire
returned with a new hardtop to join the convertible. Still based on
the Super 88 versions of these body styles, many of the same
amenities that had been found in the first edition returned, and
more. Special wheel trim rings were employed for the hardtops, while
the selection of leather interior colors was expanded to four. Under
the hood, the 394 cid Rocket-V8 engine was tweaked and peaked,
pumping out an even hotter 345 horsepower. Price for the
convertible was upped slightly to $4,794, while the new hardtop
could be secured at a $4,131 starting point. With popular equipment, such as
radio, heater, white wall tires, etc., one could expect to pay about
$5,300 and $4,650, respectively for the two different models.
The 1962 hardtop surprised everyone, with sales coming in at 34,839
units, while the convertible’s appeal dipped only slightly to 7,149.
During the year, the car designated as the 7,500,000th Oldsmobile
produced was one of those Starfire hardtops, produced on January
11th of that year.
1963 saw new
sheet-metal for the Eighty-Eight series, and Starfire reflected most
of those same traits. While the hallmark brushed aluminum trim
panels were not as obvious with the new model, they were retained,
running the full length of the car in a two-inch wide strip just
below the belt-line. In an effort to keep rising costs in
check, leather now became an extra cost item in the soft-trim
department with all vinyl becoming the standard trim. Remaining on
the 123" wheelbase, the new restyle grew to 214.4" from
bumper-to-bumper, with hardtop prices increasing about 6.5% to
$4,401, while the convertible actually dropped a few dollars to
$4,742. Under the hood the powertrain remained unchanged.
Starfire production dropped this year to 21,489 hardtops and 4,129
convertibles. One factor that may have contributed to this notable
drop was the introduction of a new personal luxury car entry from
GM’s Buick Division, called Riviera.
1964 brought an
update to the trim inside and out. Inside, nylon cloth insert
material with vinyl bolsters now adorned the bucket seats. All vinyl
was a no-cost option this year, but there was a rather hefty increase
in price for the installation of full leather. Most of the other
Starfire amenities were left such as the bucket seat interior,
center-shift console, all the power goodies, plus the instrumentation
package. Most importantly, the 345-horse, 394 cid V8 was still found
under the hood. Another minor re-style was instituted this year which
expanded the bumper-to-bumper spread to 215.3".
Prices for the 1964
Oldsmobile line generally stayed within a dollar or two of their 1963
levels. Starfire saw a decrease in the hardtop’s base price to
$4,153, while the convertible remained at the previous season’s level.
Convertibles saw production drop to just 2,410 units while the hardtop
fell to 13,753 examples. Undoubtedly, some of the fall of this
superstar in the Olds line-up could be attributed to yet another new
model, the 4-4-2 option now available on several mid-size Cutlass
Despite the lower
production figures, Starfire was back for 1965, again wearing all-new
sheet metal with even more bulk and length while still trying to
promote itself as a sporty, luxurious and powerful personal vehicle
for four passengers. Exterior appointments were considerably
more subdued than the early versions, and base interiors used more
economical fabrics and materials to help keep costs down. While
still riding on a 123" wheelbase, the overall dimensions had now grown
to 216.9" from bumper to bumper. All vinyl trim for the
convertible, or cloth and vinyl trim for the hardtop were part of the
base prices, which rose slightly for the open-model and dropped a few
bucks for the hardtop. Full power items were still standard with
the Starfire including windows, seats, steering and brakes.
go to Starfire, page 2
P. Skinner and the editors at Collector Car
Starfire page 2