While many people who are into classic cars know the Oldsmobile Starfire, odds are they are remembering the full-figured yet sporty early ’60s hardtop coupe and convertible. Honestly, the name had to have come from the early ’60s. Could there have been a more Jet Age name for a car than Starfire?
Introduced January 1, 1961, the new Starfire was a flossier version of the Super 88. Following the introduction of the 1958 Thunderbird, Detroit quickly caught ‘buckets and console’ fever, and as a result many special models were added by all the manufacturers.
In addition to Super 88 equipment, the Starfire received, naturally, buckets seats and a center console, but also a tachometer, brushed aluminum side moldings on the ‘cove’ stamped into the bodyside, power seats and dual exhaust. It was available solely as a convertible, with a base price of $4,647. Only 7,800 were built.
For 1962, a hardtop coupe joined the convertible. As a result, sales spiked, with 34,839 coupes and 7,149 convertibles built.
It might have helped that the two-door hardtop was over $600 cheaper than the soft top version, $4,131 compared to $4,744.
Interestingly enough, the Starfire convertible was more expensive than the upper-crust Ninety-Eight convertible ($4,459), though the Ninety-Eight two-door coupe was slightly more, at $4,180.
Although the Starfire was definitely more youthful, with that cool aluminum side trim, and of course the buckets and console.
Interiors were suitably bright, bechromed and very, very colorful.
1963 Starfires were a little more ‘grown-up’ looking, though still with its primary identifiers of huge aluminum moldings on the sides, bucket seats and console with floor shift.
Pricing was now $4,129 for the coupe and $4,742 for the soft top.
Production was 21,489 coupes and 4,401 convertibles.
The Starfire’s last year (until today’s featured Olds, that is) was 1966. It was slightly de-trimmed and moved down a tad in the Olds hierarchy to make room for their new halo model, the front-wheel drive Toronado. After a final run of 13,019 coupes (the convertible had been dropped after ’65), the nameplate disappeared. Until 1975. I think it is safe to say that folks who had owned 1961-66 Starfires would not have recognized the new car.
Yes, it was different. Also in 1975, Chevrolet introduced the Monza, which was essentially a Vega with a very sporty, very Italian-looking body, in Monza 2+2 form. All the other GM versions received a copy, and copy is pretty much what they were. Only very minor trim differences separated the Chevy, Olds, Buick and Pontiac-though the Pontiac version would not appear until 1976, as the Sunbird. In 1975, the trio consisted of the Chevrolet Monza, the Buick Skyhawk, and the Oldsmobile Starfire.
Like all of its corporate cousins, it rode a 97 inch wheelbase and an overall length of 179.3 inches. All were powered by the 231 CID V6, with 125 horsepower at 3500 rpm, breathing through a two-barrel Rochester carburetor.
Standard equipment included the aforementioned V6, power front disc brakes, sport steering wheel, cigarette lighter (yes, this was important in 1975) and four-speed manual transmission.
The S coupe had an MSRP of $3,873, while the sport coupe was slightly higher at $4,157. I suspect, but wasn’t able to confirm, that the S was a stripped down model; at any rate only 2,950 Ss were made. The sport coupe took the lion’s share of sales, to the tune of 28,131. But that paled compared to the 66,615 Chevrolet Monzas built – though the Monza did offer a notchback Town Coupe model that wasn’t available as a Starfire.
It was downhill from there for Oldsmobile’s smallest, sportiest model. 20,854 SXs and 8,305 sport coupes were sold in 1976 and 14,181 SXs and 4,910 sport coupes came off the line for ’77.
In its final year, for those who still wanted one, it was still available, though getting a little long in the tooth, and save a facelifted nose, not much different from the inaugural 1975 model. 5,689 sport coupes and 2,548 SXs were made, then that was all she wrote. The 1982 front-drive Firenza was its replacement, though it was available in body styles beyond the two-door hatchback.
One interesting thing about this car is the grille doesn’t appear to be the 1975 grille. In the brochure and contemporary ads, the grille is split, but on this car, it is a single slot.
In fact, it looks like the Buick Skyhawk grille, which begs the question. Was this a classic case of the wrong header panel being put on the wrong car (stuff like that ran rampant in the 1970s, with Dodge Aspens having Plymouth Volare dash emblems, and Thunderbirds with a Mark IV emblem on the fenders), or was it in an accident when still fairly new, and the Buick panel was easier to locate? Who knows?
At any rate, the Starfire does have the correct Oldsmobile script and hood emblem.
I particularly liked the color combination, in burgundy with white interior, black dash and black carpeting. I have seen very few of these, whether Chevy, Pontiac, Olds or Buick, over the past twenty years, and haven’t seen one as nice as this since probably the 1980s. It’s currently for sale on Muncie Craigslist. For more pictures, check out the Craigslist ad here.
Sure, these were ’70s cars, with ’70s paint, quality and driveability issues. To deny that would be the height of folly. But I’ve always had a soft spot for them. They looked good! But then I remember a friend of mine had one (the Buick Skyhawk version, a ’77) that started on fire. On Virginia Beach Boulevard in Norfolk. During rush hour. So I’ll just admire them from a prudent distance. But I wouldn’t say no to a ’62. Make mine mauve.