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						Oldsmobile Starfire
Ultra-High-Compression Oldsmobile Starfire

Ultra-High Compression Oldsmobile Starfire

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, Craigslist

The traditional definition of a muscle car generally includes the notion of shoving the “largest” engine possible, in a small car, but I feel like we’re doing a disservice to an entire era of automobiles with that idea. See, American muscle was flourishing long before the GTO, Max-Wedge Dart or whatever other 1960s car people refer to as the first muscle car. Cars like those changed the game by being smaller, faster and (in many ways) less functional. But back in the late 1950s and very early ’60s, it wasn’t just about going fast — you had to have style and some semblance of luxury. That was the era when cars like this Ultra-High-Compression 1962 Oldsmobile Starfire ruled the streets.

The Oldsmobile Starfire traces its roots back to the early 1950s, an era when Olds and other manufacturers were leveraging space-race terminology and styling to sell cars. The earliest use of the namesake came in the form of a 1953 Olds concept car named after the Lockheed F-94 Starfire jet. The name was applied to production cars from 1954 to 1956 to designate convertible versions of the fourth-generation Olds 98 full-size.

The Starfire became its own separate model line in 1961 as a coupe and convertible based on the Super 88. These cars received upgraded interiors, automatic transmissions as standard and loads of other power accessories. But what’s most significant about the car we’re looking at today is under the hood in the form of the 394 ci Rocket V8 engine.

Used from 1959 to 1964, the 394 ci Rocket V8 was the largest first-gen Olds V8 engine, based on a 4.125-inch bore and 3.6875-inch stroke. The engine did pretty decent in base trim, producing 315 hp with a two-barrel carburetor, but it's the special high-compression four-barrel versions that get us going. Starting in 1961, Olds started upping the compression in select four-barrel versions of the engine starting with a quarter-point bump in ’61. From ’62 to ’64 the compression was upped again to 10.25:1. At this point, the engine was rated at 330 hp and 440 lb-ft, and the engine’s chrome air cleaner lid proudly displayed the words “ultra high compression.”

Combining this exciting big-block with all the luxury appointments a person could ask for in the early ’60s, I think the Oldsmobile Starfire coupe makes for a spectacular weekend cruiser and a fantastic conversation piece. This example from Washington Craigslist looks to be in excellent condition with 84,000 miles on the clock. There may be a few paint flaws on the car, possibly in the silver center portions, but it’s tough to tell from the seller’s photos. Either way, it looks like it presents very well and has all the model’s best features present.

The seller is asking $35,000 for the car, but includes those three spicy words “make an offer,” so I’m thinking it could be easy to strike a deal. Convertibles can easily bring $40,000, so I’m not sure how you could go wrong on this one with a competitive offer on this coupe.

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