The personal-luxury market arrived in the late 1950s when Ford's four-seat Thunderbird appeared in 1958. Billed as a personal car for buyers, with its aircraft-inspired centre console, high-performance engine and special power options, these features became a standard bill-of-fare for other manufacturers to follow.
For 1961, Oldsmobile introduced the Starfire to bolster its coverage in the personal luxury category. With a late January 1961 release date and the fact that it was offered as a convertible only, it still managed to produce a very reasonable 7,800 sales. The top-of-the-line Starfire was well received and while it probably cut into the posh Ninety-Eight models sales, Oldsmobile expanded the series in 1962, adding a sporty two-door Holiday hardtop.
This proved to be the market punch Oldsmobile was looking for. Convertible sales stayed at a respectable 7,149 production figure and the Holiday hardtop took off with sales of 34,839. Well equipped with sports console, tachometer, Hydra-Matic three-speed automatic transmission and console shifter, power steering, power brakes, leather upholstery, dual exhaust with fiberglass-packed mufflers and a model specific brushed aluminum side trim, this boulevard cruiser was a real looker.
Under the hood, was the Starfire Ultra High Compression, 394-cubic-inch V-8. Equipped with 10.5:1 compression, and a Rochester four-barrel carburetor, it produced 345 horsepower at 4,600 r.p.m. and 440 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 r.p.m. While it may not have been a stoplight terror, performance was very respectable, given its 4,400-pound curb weight. Priced at more than $4,000 before optional extras and riding on a 123-inch wheelbase, the Starfire was a large full-size car.
For Larry Brown of Stony Mountain, the 1962 Oldsmobile Starfire has always held fond memories.
"I had a convertible about 40 years ago, when I was living in Winnipeg," said Brown. "It was right after I sold the car, that I started kickin' myself in the butt."
As the years and other vehicles came and went, Brown kept a watchful eye out for another '62 Starfire.
In September 2014, Brown was on the Cranky Ape online auction site and spotted a '62 Starfire Holiday hardtop finished in "Cirrus Blue" with a two-tone blue interior. When the auction ended, he was the car's new owner and had to begin preparations for its transport.
"The process to bring a car into Canada and have the necessary paperwork in place is more complex now than in the past," said Brown, "so it took a bit longer."
The trip to the Cranky Ape compound in Lake Elmo, Minn., went smoothly and the car was imported into Manitoba on a trailer.
As with any purchase of a classic or pre-owned vehicle, you're always going to find some items that need attention and some things that you want to change or alter.
For Brown, it was a matter of getting it cleaned up over the past winter, with a new trunk liner, sideboard kit and some new 14-inch whitewall radial tires. Brown also added an AM/FM/MP3 player in the glove box to keep the music flowing.
To improve the ride, four new coil springs were installed with the rear coils allowing for a two-inch drop in ride height to give the cruiser a lowered stance. Next came a pair of new rear fender skirts, a new battery and a trip to Seven Oaks Transmission to correct an erratic shifting problem.
Brown's Starfire comes with all of the standard features plus optional power windows, power driver seat, power antenna, power trunk release, tinted glass, deluxe AM radio and factory air conditioning.
Purchasing the car late in the year didn't give Brown much of a chance last fall to get it out on the road, but this year he and his wife, Connie, have been taking in a few show and cruises, including a recent trip to the South Beach Casino & Resort Annual Car Show. The couple are also proud members of the Manitoba Oldsmobile Car Club and it's a sure bet their Starfire will see plenty of road ahead.
With the personal-luxury market becoming increasingly cramped and sales of the Ninety-Eight two-door hardtops and new Oldsmobile Toronado increasing, the Starfire convertible was dropped for 1966.
With only the hardtop remaining, sales fell to 13,019 models and the Starfire disappeared from the Oldsmobile lineup with the introduction of the 1967 models.
Today, the Starfire has a reasonable following and is looked upon as a desirable classic amongst collectors and enthusiasts. General Motors ceased all Oldsmobile production in 2004, closing the chapter on a brand that had been in production for 107 years.