There is good reason for historians to designate the 1957 Oldsmobile Starfire 98 Convertible as Oldsmobiles greatest car of all time. Their top-o-the-line 98 convertible had a storied year and made Oldsmobile fans proud. Today, these cars are hard to find and carry a high value for Oldsmobile collectors.
Riding a little lower and a little longer, the 1957 styling on the Starfire 98 convertible had something to hide. Under that beautiful exterior pounded a big block motor with some tricks up its sleeve. Oldsmobile engineers came up with what they called the J-2 option, a hot rodders trick adding extra induction with three two-barrel carburetors. That J-2 option was one of the reasons why Lee Petty ran NASCAR in an Oldsmobile that year. The J-2 features three Rochester two-barrel carburetors, high compression heads and a low restriction air cleaner. Under light loads only the middle carburetor was used. Under heavier loads a vacuum operated system opened up the other two.
Yet the overall concept for the buying public was that this was a luxury car with excellent performance. The ease of driving was enhanced by factory power steering and power brakes. The Starfire 98 came loaded with standard features.
This week, Rock Solid Motorsports in Elkhart, Indiana has a sweet 1957 Oldsmobile Starfire 98 Convertible for sale in their listings. This one is something special. (Find dozens of detailed photos on the ad page.) They tell us it has less than 100 miles since a very correct frame off restoration that was completed in 2010. Rock Solid Motorsports says this beautiful example has been pampered and very well cared for since its restoration. They surmise that the power top has never been down since the restoration.
Note how perfect it looks in a video walk-around tour.
No timid designs here, the Oldsmobiles of 1957 were flamboyant and luxurious. They note that the red leather interior is in excellent condition. Loaded with many options from the factory, including power windows, air conditioning, power antenna, power front seat, and a Wonderbar radio faceplate with a later model AM/FM stereo behind it.
Starfire 98 History
Oldsmobile went against the grain as an automobile manufacturer in the mid-1950’s. For other companies it was all about the fins. But for Oldsmobile, the grille and chrome set the theme for the exterior design, and inside you would find a singular chromed steering wheel hub, chromed speedometer and an in-dash clock with chrome bezels.
GM records show that 8,278 Starfire convertibles were built for 1957. It was priced at $3,840. With only one engine offered on the Starfire 98, the 371 ci V8 produced 277 horsepower. The J-2 tripower option gave you three Rochester 2-barrel carburetors and brought the horsepower up to 300. The standard transmission was the Jetaway Hydra-Matic automatic transmission. Although it possessed significant speed and performance for its day, the truly incredible thing about the Oldsmobile 371 ci V8 was the amount of torque it could generate. It was rated from the factory at 400-foot-pounds of torque. No other factory car could top that in 1957.
Eager to showcase its power, Oldsmobile made a deal with Lee Petty (Richards dad) to go racing. Lee raced the strictly stock J-2 powered Olds down Daytona Beach at a blistering 144.9 miles an hour. Unfortunately for Oldsmobile, Bill Francis saw that performance and banned the J-2 tripower setup from NASCAR. That year, Lee ran in all 51 races sponsored by NASCAR. He ended up winning his second Grand National Championship in a 1957 Oldsmobile.
Although Oldsmobile used the name “Starfire” and “98” previously from 1954 through 1956, 1957 was the only year they called it the “Starfire 98.” The J-2 tri-carb setup was also the first time a tripower was used in a factory produced automobile.
You can find more great 1950’s classics in the Oldsmobile Section on the Cars-On-Line website.