RWD H-Body: 1978 Oldsmobile Starfire GT

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Do you think in 25 years we’ll be posting about a clean Cavalier Z24? Or how about a turbocharged Chevy Spark? These questions bubble up to the surface when I consider how excited I was after spotting this super clean 1978 Oldsmobile Starfire GT here on eBay with only 49,000 original miles and no rust. Sure, it’s an economy car – but how many are left in this kind of condition? 

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Built on a Vega platform and near identical visually to the Chevy Monza, the Starfire GT was sold by Oldsmobile as a car that “means business.” It had numerous upgrades from the standard model, including a revised suspension, wider tires, sport wheels and the large 231 V6 engine. Other features that were standard across the model range included what Oldsmobile referred to as “full foam” seats and computer-selected coil springs.

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The V8 was optional, but this example here makes do with the 3.8L six. Unfortunately, the large engine size didn’t translate to big power: only about 110 b.h.p. Still, the Starefire and its corporate twins could achieve near 30 m.p.g.’s, a number that even today would be considered respectable. It’s amazing to me how often we think our modern vehicles are so efficient, yet cars like this Starfire were pulling down solid fuel economy numbers in the 1970s.

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These rear-wheel drive H-bodies also featured a hatchback design, another key selling point for the General’s fuel conscious commuter. One of the salvage yards I visit has several Monzas, Starfires and even a rare Buick Skyhawk. In some ways, it’s a bit depressing to think how much platform-sharing has gone on at GM over the years, but at least examples like this Starfire have become classics you can use without feeling too badly about putting miles on them. While this one would benefit from a 305 and a 5-speed, it’s perfectly usable as a fair-weather commuter as-is. Will you be the first to cast a bid?

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Comments

  1. Blyndgesser

    30 mpg from this v6/auto version is a pipe dream. Maybe 25 on the highway and high teens in town.

    • edh

      Agreed.

  2. GeeBee

    Nothing benefits from a 305.

    • Bobsmyuncle

      lol

  3. Mike

    Nope, these car were and will always be a pain to work on!!!!!!!

    • Andacar

      No kidding! I remember trying to fix these things, and unanaesthetized root canal work seemed more pleasant.

      • Howard A Member

        Whoa, that’s harsh, but you’re right, they weren’t the best. The ex’s ’77 V-8, I believe they changed from the earlier motors (262?) and I don’t remember lifting the motor to change plugs, but it sure took every swivel, u-joint and extension I had to get them out.

        Like 1
  4. Charles

    My dad and my sister both owned the Monza versions of these cars. Both had the V6. Both were stick shift cars. Neither car ever got better than 23-24 MPG. Both cars were underwhelming cheap pieces of junk. Paint faded and flaked off when the cars were two years old. The backs of the seats broke off of the bases. The hatchback design was one positive for the cars.

    The V8 models required one to partially remove the engine to change the right rear spark plug.

    The one thing that these cars seem to be well suited for is building drag cars.

  5. gotboost6

    Buick Grand National motor swap would be fun and make a nice little sleeper.

  6. William H

    I’m sure we will. I remember thinking the same thing about my ’86 Turbo Regal that I bought in the late ’90’s for a few grand. It was just a daily driver and nothing special back then.

  7. Howard A Member

    My ex-wife had a ’77 V-8 Monza like this. While it did have power to pass, it was a pretty miserable car, mostly BECAUSE of the V-8. The other makes ( don’t forget the Pontiac Sunbird) with a V-6 seemed to make much more sense. ( although, I never actually drove one, but the V-8 was just too much for this car) I didn’t know you could get the V-8 in anything but the Monza, but sure enough, ’79 was the only year a V-8 was available across the board. ( then dropped) Serious rusters as my ex’s car rusted to bits, so to see this is pretty rare. Cool find.

  8. Andacar

    Proof positive that today’s crapmobile is tomorrow’s collector classic.

  9. Leon Mongue

    I bought a 79 Starfire new and drove it for 10 years and 85 k. One clutch change, replaced one lifter, and one starter. Got rear ended by a new Subaru. End of Starfire. After 10 years in Mass. too much rust under, and it just folded up. The Subaru drove away.

    • Dave Suton

      Even after it was wrecked, is still take the Buick over any Subaru

      Like 1
  10. Blueprint

    There are no turbo Sparks – that would be the Sonic.

  11. OldCarGuy

    How does a car lose a window crank, step plate, and hatch lock cover in 49K miles? From the looks of that car, I’d say it’s more like 149K.

    • Mark

      I am the owner, This car was garaged its whole life. Bought it from the son of the original owner, his grandmother. Step plate was removed to trace a wiring issue. The car had not been started in about 5 years needed a new electric in tank pump. Window cranks do break LOL. Hatch lock cover was removed when I was tracing the issue with the fuel pump, and like the sill plate I never put it back on.Had the engine pulled to replace the sagged mounts from sitting, the guy who did that also replaced the rear main, leaking due to sitting as well as VC gaskets. He has been working on cars 40 years and says he is sure from what he saw and how well the car runs that the miles are indeed original. BTW I did not sell, going to keep

  12. rmward194 Member

    It’s advertised locally on Craigslist for $3,750. Seems like the top end for a car that still needs some work and had average build quality to begin with.

    http://phoenix.craigslist.org/wvl/cto/5497696369.html

  13. crazydave

    Since the 305 is a straight bolt-in – so is the 350! My wife had a ’77 Monza Spyder that got the 350 transplant (with 4 bbl on a custom intake – plus headers and dual exhaust) when it was 2 weeks old. What a great hotrod! No idea what the MPG was – with that much power under your right foot, I wouldn’t have cared if it got less than 5!

  14. Tom

    I thought this car was offered with the 350 4barrel V8 for a few years? If so, it must have been some little car.

  15. AMC STEVE

    ZZ 350 crate motor swap needed.

  16. ROTAG999

    My 231 V-6 Vega got 28mpg on the hiway with a 4 speed so think this car might surprise a few people there damn good good on gas.

  17. Ron (Florida)

    I’m actually thinking about buying an h- body car as a weekend car in the near future, this one needs a little work, but I like it. By the way, if I find any first gen 86-94 Z24 Cavalier in good condition at a low price, I’m buying that instead and reliving the memories the 86 that was my first car, I just don’t want the rust or the leaking sunroof this time around.

    Like 1
  18. Keith

    I like these cars….a bit….but why on Earth would you take the engine out of a Grand National and put it in this car? And it’s definitely a 49k car not 149k, if it had 149k on it, it wouldn’t even be around….they couldn’t survive for that many miles.

    Like 1
  19. EHide Behind

    Son’s rig by a 350 315 go crate motor and turbo 35o swap. Cut holes with hole cutters, added swivel screwed on hole covers to make easy plug changes.
    TOOK him almost month to destr rear end at launch.
    I have never seen any versions of these without almost total rear window rust out.
    And of ya, connectors and box the frame, or you can tweak damn body as if a hot banana.

  20. Bill Schomer

    I had a 77, 305cid 5 speed with 256/1 rear end, ran about 1900 rpm at 75 mph never found top end, the front end floated. I would love to have another, and relive my youth but to find one without rust is all but impossible

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