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Under the Starfire’s hood a new generation of Oldsmobile Rocket-Power was unleashed when the 394-cid V8 was re-stroked to create a 425 cubic-inch engine with a healthy 375-horses. Compare this with the mid-size 4-4-2’s 400 cid power-plant which was causing a major stir in performance circles with its 345-horses.  Despite the new styling and bigger engine, sales continued to slide, with just 13,024 hardtops and 2,236 convertibles produced for this model year.

 1966 would mark the end of the line for Starfire with just one model, a 2-door hardtop, offered.  Sharing the same body shell as the new Delta 88 series, the price of this last year’s edition was reduced again, this time due to the deletion of standard items such as power windows and seats and full instrumentation.  These were now extra cost-items.  While the wheelbase had remained unchanged from 1961, this year’s edition was officially 217" from stem to stern, a full five-inch growth since its inception in 1961. Even with very limited promotion, a total of 13,019, or just five cars less that 1965, were produced.  The biggest factor in the termination of this model, of course, was the new personal-luxury entry in the Olds line, the revolutionary front-wheel-drive Toronado.

Over its run of six model years a total of 118,848 Starfires were produced. They were an important and rather successful chapter in the 108 year history of the marque.

This factory shot shows the low, sleek profile of the '61. The '65 reflected GM's new soft lines approach.  Any pretense of sporting pretensions was gone by now.

THE MARKET

For model years 1961 to 1963, no other Oldsmobile commands as much attention or interest than the Starfire.  With their unique trim, full compliment of accessories, and powerful V8 engines they were the hottest medium-priced cars of the day. However, there are two big factors which has severely limited the number of these cars still on the road today.

First, Oldsmobile relied on the Twin-Turbo Hydramatic transmission for all of its shifting duties in the early Starfires.  While these were tough and reliable when new, a decade of service often meant that a rebuild or maintenance was required.  By 1973, the cost of rebuilding one of these units often exceeded the current market value of the car, which often meant that the scrap-yard was the next stop. 

The other factor has to do with popularity.  Although a sought after car when new, Starfires seemed to drift into obscurity more so than other "personal luxury" cars such as the Thunderbird, Riviera, and Grand Prix.  As a result, the supply of Starfires today is often less than many other similar models.  This has led to an interesting market shift.

Extremely sharp, well restored or preserved examples of the early Starfires can dazzle a customer with its chrome and style, and command a price well above most comparable models of Thunderbird, similar size Buicks, and most Chrysler products of the era.  Prices of these top-line first year models can exceed the $40,000 mark in today’s very active market. The 1962 editions also command strong prices with convertibles just a bit below 1961 levels, while the hardtops can bring about 60% of the drop-top’s values.

Prices do take a a hit with the 1963-64 editions due to the styling changes, but those in the know are often able to secure a great car for a bargain price.  The best bargain in the Starfire family is probably the 1965 editions, with the more potent V8, all the little touches of luxury, and pure performance.  Very good examples of these cars should be found in decent condition for well under the $10,000 mark.

There are several areas that require close inspection. Starfires boasted the most powerful engine Oldsmobile had for each year of the Starfire’s run, so make sure the right block is sitting under the hood.  Particularly on the early models, make sure the soft-trim is the proper color and materials, both inside and out. Chrome plated trim is plentiful on many of these cars and it doesn’t hurt to give it an up-close inspection.  Particularly since unique Starfire trim in good condition is both expensive and fairly rare.

The recent demise of the Oldsmobile nameplate will probably have little or no effect on the value of Starfires as they were produced 35-40 years ago.  These were up-scale cars, something that many admired but simply could not afford when they were new. As a nostalgia driven model, these cars have limited appeal. However, those who like flash, classic styling and some very interesting and non-traditional color combinations of lilacs, coppers, and burgundies, Starfires are just the ticket.

 During the 1960's, Oldsmobile had a strong market presence and created several “icon” cars such as the 4-4-2 and front-drive Toronado.  However, before either of those cars ever hit the road, there was Starfire, the car that lead Olds into the space-age.

  P. Skinner and the editors at Collector Car Market Review

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This profile first appeared in the September 2004 issue of Collector Car & Truck Market Guide.  (C) Copyright 2004 VMR International, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Images (C) copyright GM Media Archives, used with permission.

Current Values:  Main Oldsmobile Prices Menu    Starfire page 1

 
 

 

Year One

 

Jim Carlsons Auto Center