Tag Archives: cars

The Olds Starfire

A customized 1968 Olds Starfire
A customized 1968 Olds Starfire

The Oldsmobile Starfire was an automobile produced by the Oldsmobile division of General Motors in two generations from 1961 to 1966, and 1975 to 1980. The Starfire nameplate was also used for the 1954–1956 Ninety- Eight series convertibles, and all 1957 Ninety-Eight series models. 1961 was the first year for the Starfire as a separate model, available in a single convertible body style. The Starfire competed in the growing personal-luxury car market as was typified by the 4-passenger Ford Thunderbird first introduced for the 1958 model year. However, the Starfire shared most of its sheet metal with other models, and was considered part of the full-sized Oldsmobile line. The Starfire Hardtop Coupe joined the convertible for the 1962 model year. The convertible was dropped for the final 1966 model year, moving to the Eighty-Eight model line. The Starfire returned as Oldsmobile’s first subcompact car for the 1975 model year, featuring a V6 engine supplied by Buick. The 1977 Starfire featured the first-ever Oldsmobile four-cylinder engine as standard equipment, with the V6, and a V8 engine optional.

 

A '62 Starfire
A ’62 Starfire

The 1962 Starfire was distinguished from other Oldsmobile models by its unique aluminum trim, chrome engine dressing, and space age interior, featuring  bucket seats, a center console, and a then-cutting edge console mounted shifter.

The Starfire was equipped with a 345 horsepower 394 cubic-inch V-8 and automatic transmission.

The Starfire name was first used by Oldsmobile on a one-of-a-kind dream car that was shown at the 1953 Motorama auto show. Named after a Lockheed jet fighter plane, namely the F-94, the original Starfire was a 5-passenger convertible that had a fiberglass body, a 200 hp (150 kW) Rocket V8 engine, and a wraparound windshield like that used on the top-of-the-line and limited-production 1953 Fiesta 98 convertible.

The name was then used for the 1954–1956 model years to designate the convertible models of the 98 line in much the same way that the Holiday name was used to designate hardtop body-styles. The 1954–1956 Oldsmobile 98 Starfire convertibles were the most expensive Oldsmobiles offered during those years. During the 1957 model year, all 98 models were referred to as being Starfire 98s. The name was dropped from the 98 series beginning with the 1958 model year.

 

From a 1961 Starfire brochure
From a 1961 Starfire brochure

Introduced in January 1961 as a convertible, the first Starfire shared its body and wheelbase with the Super 88 and the lower-priced Dynamic 88. It was loaded with standard equipment including leather bucket seats, center console with tachometer and floor shifter for the Hydra-matic transmission, and was the first U.S. full-sized production car to feature an automatic transmission with a console-mounted floor shifter, brushed aluminum side panels and power steering, brakes, windows and driver’s seat. With a base price of $4,647 in 1961, it was the most expensive Oldsmobile, even more than the larger Ninety-Eight models. The standard 394 cubic inch V-8 Skyrocket V8 engine – Oldsmobile’s most powerful in 1961 – used a 4-barrel Rochester carburetor and generated 330 hp (246 kW) at 4600 rpm. Sales of the 1961 model were 7,800.

For the 1962 model year, the convertible was joined by a two-door hardtop, which featured a new convertible roofline shared with other Olds 88 coupes. Horsepower was up to 345 hp (257 kW). 1962 was the best sales year for the first generation Starfire with sales of the hardtop coupe being 34,839 and sales of the convertible being 7,149.

Styling changes for the 1963 model year included a move away from the sculpted sides of the previous years model, to a flatter, more conventional look with an exclusive squared off roofline that included a concave rear window. Sales of the coupe were down to 21,489 and the convertible was down to 4,401, a drop of 38%, probably due to intense competition from Buick’s all-new Riviera, which was in the same price range as the Starfire but had its own unique body shell.

 

 

A reunion of car model makers

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PHOENIX — By 1953, Anthony Joslin’s parents had saved $3,000, and earmarked it for sending their son to college. But Mr. Joslin was able to pay for his own tuition, room and board at North Carolina State University after winning a scholarship for the 1/12-scale car model he designed and built.

Like millions of other teenage boys from 1930 to 1968, Mr. Joslin entered the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild, an annual car-building and design competition sponsored by General Motors, which asserted that eight million teenagers participated in the guild.

Mr. Joslin and many other guild alumni gathered here last weekend for a reunion, sharing their stories and the model cars they have cherished all these years.

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The models are worthy of being cherished. They are futuristic visions of the highway from the 1950s and ’60s, much like a miniature version of General Motors own Motorama dream car shows. Typically, a young man spent 700 to 800 hours creating his scale-model car from wood or plaster or in a few cases, from metal.

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In the early years of the guild, boys were challenged to use a set of plans they were provided to build an elaborate scale model of the horse-drawn coach that was Fisher Body’s emblem. Fisher Body manufactured car bodies for all General Motors divisions.

In the early years of the guild, the goal was to identify young men with those skills that might be employed in making cars.

After World War II, it was future car designers the company sought, and thus the original 1/12th-scale models.

At North Carolina State, Mr. Joslin studied industrial, not automotive design, and afterward had a career designing instruments, computers and other products for Hewlett Packard.

For Paul Tatseos, winning a Craftsman’s Guild scholarship not only enabled him to go to college, but also to attend the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., a school known for its automotive design program. After college, Mr. Tatseos worked as a designer at G.M. for 35 years.

Mr. Tatseos grew up in Boston. “My father said, ‘You live within walking distance of M.I.T. and Harvard and you’ve decided you want to go to college in California?’” Mr. Tatseos recalled at the reunion.

The scholarship program had an even more striking impact on the Simone family from Providence, R.I. e brothers Jerry, Eugene and Anthony all entered and won scholarships. Jerry Simone spent five years as a designer at Ford before going to pharmacy school. After college, Eugene Simone worked for 45 years at Merrill Lynch. Anthony Simone became a teacher and international school administrator, working around the world and at the United Nations.

“Our father was a tool-and-die maker,” Anthony Simone said at the reunion.

“Mother and father always said we were going to college, but that there was no money in the till for it,” Eugene Simone added.

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But with the scholarships they won for their car design and building skills, the Simone sons were able to attend college.

The Fisher Body scholarships benefited the boys who won and their families as well. With Mr. Joslin attending college on his scholarship, his parents could use the money they’d saved to buy the only house they ever owned.