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Rods & Wheels E-Magazine
Issue 06:06:04 - June 26, 2006

Beauty of the Oldsmobile Starfire

The Oldsmobile has brought several important advances and achievements to the world of cars over its more than 100 year history, including the development of the first fully automatic "Hydra-Matic" transmission back in 1940, the modern short stroke overhead valve Rocket V-8 engine in 1949, and the first turbocharged automobile in 1962. Later, in 1966, the Oldsmobile Toronado would lay the groundwork for the development of front wheel drive automobiles.

Oldsmobile concept car

Oldsmobile has also long been recognized as a leader in the world of the concept car. Some concept cars never move from the design lab to the real world, but many others have made the leap to full-fledged production models. One of these is the Oldsmobile Starfire, which was first introduced as a concept car in the year 1953.

Named after the famous Lockheed F9413 Starfire fighter jet, the Oldsmobile Starfire was first seen at the General Motors Motorama show, where it made its debut along with the Buick Skylark and the Cadillac Eldorado, two other models that were destined to move from the design lab into the world of automotive history.

Three "top of the line" vehicles

All three models of General Motors vehicles eventually became special top of the line vehicles, designed with fiberglass bodies, bucket seats and other luxury features. The Oldsmobile Starfire was designed with a special wrap around windshield. It featured a combination bumper and grill on the front end. This original concept car could be thought of as a Corvette in an Oldsmobile wrapper. The Starfire included many of the touches that made the other model famous.

The Starfire was an instant hit on the show circuit. GM soon introduced the Starfire to its 1954 lineup of models. It was sold as the top of the line Olds 98 convertible, and it retained this use until it was discontinued in 1957.

The Oldsmobile Starfire was revived in the middle of the 1961 model year as the brand's entry into the new market for personal luxury vehicles. The Starfire was designed to compete head to head with Ford's own entry into the space, the Ford Thunderbird.

This newly released Oldsmobile Starfire was a model of its own now, instead of merely an option on the Olds 98 convertible. It did, however, share its wheelbase with the 98. The Starfire weighed in a full 4,330 pounds, and it featured a wheelbase of 212 inches.

Great features

For its time, the Oldsmobile Starfire was a lavishly equipped car, complete with power steering, power brakes, power windows and even power seats. The Starfire was available only with an automatic transmission, and it featured a powerful 6.5 liter, 395 cubic inch V-8 engine, capable of turning out an impressive 330 horsepower. The interior of the car had leather seats and the dashboard featured a high-tech tachometer.

The Oldsmobile Starfire for the 1961 model year came only as a convertible, but the 1962 model also included a two-door hardtop coupe. The 1962 was also part of the brand wide restyling effort.

The engine of the Oldsmobile Starfire was a V8 design with hydraulic valve lifters and a displacement of 324 cubic inches. It used two valves per cylinder, for a total of 16 valves. Although not quite as powerful as the fighter jet from which it derived its name, the Starfire was capable of producing 185 horsepower and some 300 pound feet of torque, making it a fun performer for the average driver. The Oldsmobile Starfire used a four-barrel carburetor for fuel delivery, a design common on many GM models.

The Starfire was quite a heavy vehicle, weighing in at over 4,000 pounds, but despite its large size and heavy weight, the Oldsmobile Starfire featured great performance. In fact when (Car Life) magazine tested the Starfire in May of 1963 it found that the hardtop coupe went from 0 to 60 mph in only 8.5 seconds and was capable of a top speed of 112 mph. The testers employed by the magazine were impressed with the Starfire, and so were many buyers.

The Oldsmobile Starfire is still one of the most well known design concept vehicles and many drivers have enjoyed the fun of this great front engine rear wheel drive vehicle. Best of all, the price of the Starfire, at just over $3,200, made it affordable for many car buyers, proving that a great design and a great price can go together.


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