Not all the fiberglass sports cars in the GM Motorama fleet were two-seaters. The Oldsmobile Starfire boasted room for four.
For the 1953 auto show season, Harley Earl’s design team at General Motors prepared a veritable fleet of fiberglass-bodied Motorama dream roadsters that included, among others, the Cadillac Le Mans, Pontiac Bonneville, and Chevrolet Corvette. Of the bunch, the Corvette was the only one that would eventually make it into volume production, but the Oldsmobile Starfire distinguished itself in another way: It boasted a rear seat. Named after the Lockheed F-94 Starfire, a 640-mph U.S. Air Force jet interceptor, the Olds featured seating for four passengers, but we’re not totally sure about its weather protection. As far as we know, the car was never displayed with a top in place.
Also known as the X-P Rocket in some of the Motorama handouts, the Starfire carried the GM internal designation SO 1621. Like its two-seater sibling, the Olds F-88 show car, the Starfire wore bullet-shaped plastic covers over its headlamps and a wraparound windshield, a pet Harley Earl development that first saw limited production on the Cadillac Eldorado and Oldsmobile Fiesta. Mounted on a shortened Olds production car chassis, the Starfire’s glass-fiber reinforced plastic body displayed a number of current and future Oldsmobile styling cues, including a pair of familiar rocket-inspired tail lamps. According to GM, the Starfire’s 303 CID Olds Rocket V8, usually rated at 165 hp, was souped up to 300 hp.
The Starfire made its debut in the first Motorama show of 1953 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York along with a number of now-famous GM show cars, including the Pontiac La Parisienne and the original Corvette prototype. Speaking of Corvettes, we note that the Starfire’s instrument panel (above) bears a passing resemblance to the ’53 Corvette dash. For its part, the Starfire also featured a padded insert between the front bucket seats—folding, we presume—and the aforementioned rear seat with room for two more passengers, all upholstered in two-tone leather.
We don’t know if there was ever any specific production intent for the one-of-one Starfire show car, but we do note that the Starfire name was quickly adopted for a whole series of Oldsmobile production models that spanned several decades. For 1954 through 1956, all 98 convertibles wore the Starfire name, and in 1957 all the 98 body styles shared the designation. The Starfire name was dropped for 1958, only to return in 1961-67 as an upmarket sports-luxury model on the GM B-Body platform. The name then returned one final time on the 1975-80 Olds Starfire, a rebadged and mildly facelifted version of the Chevy Monza three-door hatchback.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.