The Oldsmobile Starfire
In the early 1950's, Oldsmobile, like many auto manufacturers, utilised the power of Motor Shows to test public reaction to sleek aerodynamic body styling. Olds unveiled "Futuramic" styling in 1948 on the "98" model range before adopting it across the complete model range in 1949. Olds went on to display a number of prototypes at motor shows in 1952 and 1953. The second of these prototypes, released at the 1953 Motorama, was codenamed "Starfire" after the Lockheed F-94B all weather jet fighter. The Olds Starfire was an aerodynamic convertible boasting a fibreglass body. It was amongst the first of its type and later proved its worth in production volumes in the Chevrolet Corvette and Studebaker Avanti. The Starfire was powered by an improved Rocket V8 engine that topped the 200HP plateau for the first time.
The í53 Starfire "X-P Rocket" beside its namesake, the Lockheed F-94B Starfire fighter
When released in 1954 in production volumes, the Starfire was essentially a convertible based on the 98 series chassis. By comparison to its earlier brother the Fiesta, the Starfire did not receive a reduced height windshield, different interior trim or souped-up Rocket engine like the Fiesta. In this format, all 98 convertibles continued to be designated as 98 Starfires up to and including 1957. In 1957 the Starfire name became somewhat disjointed and Olds named all of its 98 range as "Starfires" before they dropped it completely for 1958, 1959 and 1960.
By 1961 Olds needed ammunition to combat the increasing popularity of luxury performance cars like the Ford Thunderbird and retaliated with the relaunch of the Starfire convertible. The Starfire of 1961 received significant changes to interior and exterior trim. Large brushed stainless steel exterior trims unique to the Starfire became a distinctive feature through to 1966. The Starfire also received a modified (higher compression) Rocket V8 engine along with console mounted tachometer. It shared its 123-inch wheelbase chassis with the 88 series.
In 1962 Oldsmobile expanded the Starfire range to include a Coupe body. Standard Starfire equipment now included its exclusive Rocket V8 engine with 10.5: 1 compression ratio, along with automatic transmission, dual exhaust and leather upholstery. Of all Starfire model years, 1961 and 1962 cars are certainly the most sort after by collectors today and is probably a result of their stylish design and expansive stainless steel exterior trim.
The 1962 Starfire coupe
By 1964 the increased interest in the performance car market saw Oldsmobile offer their 442 performance package in the lighter weight Cutlass range whilst offering a companion to the Starfire named the Jetstar 1. The Jetstar 1 was largely a Starfire and received the high compression V8 Rocket engine, twin exhaust etc but did not receive the stylish exterior trim that was reserved solely for the Starfire.
Starfire models continued through to 1965 in convertible and coupe configuration, then only as a coupe in 1966. However, by 1967 the popularity of lighter weight compact models such as the Cutlass 442 had made a severe impact on the personal luxury performance car market. The trend toward high power / low weight models resulted in the Starfire being discontinued at the end of 1966.
The Starfire name yet again resurfaced in 1975 when Olds offered a compact 2 door hatchback coupe that was essentially a rebadged Chevrolet Monza. This time the Starfire lasted another 6 years (to 1980) and was powered by a 231 cubic inch V6 engine. Various sports packs were available during this period that included the GT, Firenza and SX.
A 1980 Starfire with the popular "Firenza" option.
Since itís launch in 1954, "98 Starfire" and "Starfire" models have reached Australia in very limited numbers. Luckily, a number of these cars have been procured by members of our club and continue to be restored today.
Starfire Production figures