1954-1966 Oldsmobile Starfire

1961 Oldsmobile Starfire
The 1961 Starfire bowed as a separate series, and sported aluminum trim outside and bucket seats and console-mounted tachometer inside.
The 1961 Starfire bowed as a separate series, and sported aluminum trim outside and bucket seats and console-mounted tachometer inside.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The first full-fledged Starfire series arrived with Oldsmobile's 1961 models, which were advertised as "Distinguished . . . Distinctive . . . Decidedly New." Introduced as a personal-luxury convertible, the Starfire was designed to compete with the four-passenger Thunderbird and used much the same design formula.

Thus, it was offered only with two doors -- coupe (beginning 1962) or convertible -- and featured a fancy interior, a high-powered version of the legendary Rocket V-8, striking exterior chrome/aluminum trim, and a beefed-up 88 chassis. The Starfire series lasted until the revolutionary Toronado picked up the Oldsmobile personal-luxury banner.

Although Oldsmobile officials had already decided to produce the new 1961 Starfire, they deliberately held it back for a mid-year introduction. The delay was used so as not to upstage the debut of Oldsmobile's long-awaited compact, the F-85.

Taking a page from its 1953 Fiesta program, Oldsmobile chose the General Motors 1961 Motorama, which opened on Nov. 3, 1960, at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, to show off the new one-model series. Jack F. Wolfram, Oldsmobile general manager, told a New York auto show press conference that the Starfire was scheduled for a limited-production run "at a later date."

The first Starfires began arriving at selected Oldsmobile dealerships in January 1961. Unlike the Starfires of the Fifties, the new Olds convertible shared its 123-in.-wheelbase chassis with the 88 models. The front grille and rear design treatment, however, were more akin to the Ninety-Eight.

The 1961 Starfire rode a 123-in. wheelbase like the 88, but grille and rear trim were more like the Ninety-Eight.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Exterior styling touches exclusive to the Starfire included two slim parallel hood moldings and a 4-in.-wide band of brushed aluminum on the sides. But it was the Starfire's interior that stood out as its most striking feature; leather-covered bucket seats separated a multi-faceted console that had a chrome-plated automatic transmission shifter, tachometer, and much more.

The Starfire's sparkling performance came from the Rocket V-8, a 395-cubic-in. V-8 that cranked out 330 HP and 440 lbs/ft of torque at 2800 rpm. It looked as well as it ran, sporting a chrome-plated air cleaner perched atop the four-barrel carburetor and shiny valve covers and oil filler cap. Of course, the 10.25:1 compression ratio meant that it burned only premium fuel.

The special Waldorf-Astoria Starfire was painted in a deep luster Autumn Mist and complemented by a red leather interior and white convertible top. Production Starfires came in 15 exterior colors and interiors of gray, fawn, blue, and red. Convertible tops could be had in white, black, green, blue, fawn, and red.

A price tag of $4,647 made the Starfire the most expensive Olds since the special Fiesta convertible that listed at $5,717 in 1953, and $8 more expensive than the 1961 T-Bird ragtop. The production run was far more ambitious than the limited-production Fiesta and 7,600 of the 1961 Starfires were built -- making it the second most popular 1961 Olds convertible.

The introduction of the Starfire came too late to include the first-year model in most 1961 Oldsmobile literature, but a special tri-fold, six-panel brochure outlined Starfire virtues. Even rarer was a direct-to-dealer piece urging dealerships to stage special open houses to showcase the new model, giving interested dealerships with up to 500 invitations and envelopes.

Oldsmobile product planners expanded the Starfire lineup in 1962 with the addition of a coupe. Despite direct competition from the new Pontiac Grand Prix, this model year would mark the all-time high production record for the Starfire as a separate series. A complete sheetmetal revamp gave the Starfire a clean, new look. As expected, the coupe outsold the convertible by about five to one; total Starfire production reached 41,988.Want to grow your knowledge about the expanded Starfire lineup? Read more in the following page. For more information on cars, see: