The 1961 Olds Starfire was a limited edition, high-performance sports convertible

By: Bruce Kunz

August 27th, 2017

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Old Car Column

Starfire! The name itself conjures up feelings of excitement. It has for me since I was a teen and my father purchased his first one, a 1962 coupe.

The first Oldsmobile to bear the Starfire moniker was a concept or “dream car” shown at the 1953 Motorama auto show. The name would be passed on to the 1954-1956 98 series convertibles and, for model year 1957, all body styles of the line were referred to as Starfire 98s.

The Starfire name laid dormant for the next two years when it was brought back as a standalone series for model year 1961. This new Starfire, considered the first generation of the name, was unlike the land yachts of the 1954-1957 models. It was a smaller chassis and body, that of the 88 and Super 88 models, but having the higher horsepower Rocket 88 engine used in the 98 series with a few tweaks added for Starfires only. My favorite was the use of factory-installed fiberglass-packed mufflers. The tone is best described as “mellow” … and a beautiful sound it was.

My favorite things about the 1961 model are, for one, it was only available in convertible format. It was the only year that featured a twin hood spear, perhaps a minor detail but it did make a difference. The use of brushed aluminum side trim was a bit more restrained and tasteful than that of the following year when a hardtop coupe was added. With a base price of $4,647 in 1961, the Starfire was the most expensive car in the Oldsmobile lineup, even more than the larger 98 models.

Sales of the Olds Starfire soared like its namesake, the Lockheed F-94 Starfire jet fighter, with the coupe’s introduction in 1962 at 34,839 copies and convertibles 7,149. With only 1,500 of

the 1961 models crossing the sales floor, it goes without saying the scarcity of the ‘61 models makes it that much more appealing to collectors. I’ve been to hundreds of car shows over the years and the only place I have ever seen a 1961 Starfire was at the July 2013 Oldsmobile Club of America’s national convention, in Springfield, Ill.

FIN MAN Factoid: The 1961 Starfire was the first American, full-sized production car, to feature an automatic transmission with a console-mounted floor shifter.

Visit my Facebook page (the fin man) to see a full-size, color magazine ad featuring the beautiful and exciting 1961 Starfire decked out in Garnet Mist.

Upcoming event

“Rollin’ With The Fin Man II — STL” is just 13 days away on Saturday, Sept. 9.

Someone is going to go home with a 49-inch, flat panel HDTV or one of a dozen or so other prizes up for grabs in our latest RWFM raffle. Will it be you? Not if you don’t make your reservation NOW for The FIN MAN’s second Rollin’ With The FIN MAN tour to destinations in and around St. Louis, of interest to old car fans.

Place your order NOW while seats are still available. You MUST have a FIN MAN-issued name badge to participate in this event. Badges will be issued to paid guests at the time of boarding the motor coaches on the morning of Sept. 9.

Advanced payment of $65 per person (nonrefundable) is due no later than Monday, Sept. 4. Mail your check, made out to “The FIN MAN,” to The FIN MAN, c/o St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 900 N. Tucker, St. Louis, MO 63101. You may also pay with your credit card by calling me at 314-327-FINS. Whether paying by check or credit card, I will need full names and addresses (including e-mail addresses) and phone numbers for all members in your party. I will also need to know at which location you wish to be picked up.

Pickup times and locations will be at 8 a.m. at the MoDOT commuter lot in North County (at I-270 and Lilac Ave.) and at 9 a.m. at the MoDOT commuter lot in South County (at I-270 and Gravois Rd.).

Your ticket will include stops at MotoeXotica, Precision Restorations, Miss Sheri’s cafeteria for lunch and Randall’s Liquors, including a viewing of George Randall’s collection and a wine and spirits tasting.

Our motor coaches are filling up fast, so make your reservations now!

Thanks for reading the Old Car Column and Keep on Cruisin’!


Bruce Kunz, a.k.a. “THE FIN MAN,” is a member of the Society of Automobile Historians. If you love old cars and care about kids, visit thefinman.com.