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Vortec V8 Transplant! 1975 Oldsmobile Starfire

The Oldsmobile Starfire is a lesser-known sub-compact from the 1970s. It shared its GM H-body platform with the Chevy Monza, Pontiac Firebird, and Buick Skyhawk. The Monza was the only one of the quartet that could be ordered with a V8 engine, except here where the seller swapped the original V6 for a Vortec V8.  It’s a two-owner car that has seen the interior redone in recent years, too. The Olds is in Windsor, California, and available here on eBay where the bidding sits at $3,000, waiting for the reserve to be reached.

GM got a lot of mileage out of the H-body. It was first developed for the ill-fated Chevy Vega and Pontiac Astre in 1970. Once those cars had run their course. it was used for their successors, the Chevy Monza and its corporate siblings, including the seller’s Starfire. Olds would use the Starfire nameplate on full-size cars in the 1950s/1960s before the H-body derivative came along. The 1970s Starfire was the smallest Oldsmobile car to use a 4-cylinder engine. With its newly approved quad rectangular headlamps, the H-bodies are noted for having more than a passing resemblance to the Ferrari 365 GTC/4. While the Monza and Sunbird would be the biggest sellers, more than 125,000 Starfires were built over their six-year lifespan.

This Starfire was purchased by the seller from its original owner about seven years ago. He’s been working on the car ever since when time and money presented themselves. The 350 Vortec motor with about 30,000 miles came out of a 1986 Chevy Silverado and was converted from fuel injection to carburetion. It’s flanked by a TH-350 automatic and a 10-bolt rear end with 2:73 gears and Posi-traction. Because the H-bodies shared the same chassis, the suspension easily supported the engine switch. Newer parts include the exhaust system, alternator, and power steering pump, and the radiator was redone. The heater was replaced but is not working properly. The car will also come will a box or two of extra parts.

The seller has continued to stay busy working on this car. The interior has been refurbished with soundproofing added under the carpeting. Am era sound system has been added, complete with boxed speakers and an 8-track tape player, but it gets a weak radio signal due to the factory windshield-installed antenna. There is one small crack in the dash pad off to the side. Aftermarket gauges have been put in and some work while and some don’t. The Oldsmobile used to have factory A/C, but not anymore.

Paint on the car is original, a color called Sebring Yellow. While we’re told there is no rust or rot, the Starfire could use a fresh coat and a few dings filled in. Bigger wheels and tires than stock now sit on all four corners and we’re told that the car will really haul the mail. The seller wishes he could finish what he started, but finances change and priorities along with them. These cars haven’t reached collector status, so resale value is in the low end of NADA territory. A modified machine like this will have to appeal to just the right buyer who has been hankering for a car like this.


  1. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

    Stock V8 made this car rather nose-heavy; how much more does the Vortec weigh?

    Like 1
    • Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

      I wouldn’t know as my Monza only had the I4 and wasn’t exactly exciting.

      Like 1
  2. Steve R

    That is not a Vortec 350, they didn’t come out until 1996. This is, as per the sellers description, a generic 1986 Chevy 350 from a pick up with center bolt heads. The car is still a good value, if it will pass California smog, but it’s not what the seller describes it as.

    Steve R

    Like 12
    • Chunk

      As a 1975 model, it is exempt from smog regulations in California.

      Like 8
      • angliagt angliagt Member

        Not according to California smog laws – When you
        install a newer engine,you’re supposed to have all of
        the smog equipment installed & operating,although it is
        true that you don’t need to have the car smogged.

        Like 1
      • belinda

        Ca. SMOG rules change from location to location.(I believe it depends on zip code) Most urban areas require bi-annual SMOG test on vehicles 1975 and newer, also on transfer of ownership. In rural areas SMOG test is only on transfer of ownership.

        Like 0
  3. KC John Member

    Looks like it might be a cheap way to go fast. Little car, V8 engine, good times. That rear angle pic is the money shot. Hope the reserve isn’t crazy

    Like 3
  4. Don Eladio

    Pontiac Sunbird, not Firebird.

    Like 18
  5. Derrick S

    Love the Japanese style Longchamps wheels. Hate the automatic transmission. Torque converters are like eating steak after having a shot of novacane. Why bother…

    Like 4
  6. Big Steve

    You could get an Olds Starfire with the 305 starting in 1977 I believe. I worked as an Olds tech for short time in 1980 and as a newbie I got the V8 Starfire tune-ups because they were such a bitch putting plugs in. I didn’t think they were that bad considering I was pretty good at putting plugs in a 390 Cougar.

    Like 10
    • Carbuzzard Member

      The Monza was originally designed to accommodate the stillborn GM rotary, which was intended for most of the GM product line, not to mention the AMC Pacer. The V8 was not a part of the original plan.,,

      Like 2
    • Kevin

      It’s all in the “technique “

      Like 0
  7. Ken

    Big Steve is correct. My 78 Olds Starfire Firenza came with a 305 and Turbo 350.

    Like 2
  8. Crappycar

    What a train wreck.

    Like 1
  9. Vance

    High school friend’s father had a Monza as a company car, and he ended up buying it and giving it to him. The guy was good with a wrench, and he did some mild mods to it, and I believe headers and a more free breathing exhaust. This car didn’t weigh very much (2800 lbs), 305, 4spd, boring beige, dog dish hubs, but it could move. New cars at the time were still smog controlled to death, and we beat everybody. Didn’t pay for much gas and beer that summer. Good memories.

    Like 6
  10. Bill Mitchell

    No such thing as center bolt heads,you meant center bolt valve covers right?

    Like 2
  11. Dave Peterson

    Didn’t the Pontiac come with an unusual V8? Like 262? For some reason that sticks in my blank spots. These were the leftovers when GM was rolling out the X cars. Hindsight, always 20/20.

    Like 1
    • schooner

      That was the Monza. My ’75 came with one. A two barrel carb with venturies the size of quarters meant it couldn’t turn fast enough to hurt itself, even though I tried. Yanked it for an LT1 and spent a lot of money on BR70 -13 tires but was fun until the whole body sprung.

      Like 0
  12. Drake J Nailon

    I had one very similar to this one with a 5 speed and a 327 from a 63 vette. It was a screamer. I had every Dobi suspension component I could get for it. The biggest downfall of these cars when they are built to go fast, there really isn’t a cheap way to slow down.

    Like 4
    • poseur Member

      OMG, i haven’t thought of DOBI for a few decades.
      Thanks for the blast from the past!
      Who was the other suspension and bodywork supplier that advertised in the back of PHR and CC, IECO?
      i had a 215 alum V8 in a couple 4-speed Vegas with some of their parts installed.

      Like 2
  13. MNGuy

    I had a bunch of these back in the day. Vegas, Monzas, Starfire. Swapped in yes, 262″ V8. Built. Stock suspension and rear end but ran right with Mustang 5 litres at the strip. Cheap fun!

    Like 3
  14. jerry z

    I’m a H-body junkie. Too bad its on the wrong coast. I like it!

    Like 2
  15. Paolo

    I drove an original factory v8 version of this also in yellow. It was about 9 years old at the time and completely stock. It wasn’t as fast as I had expected but it handled better than I expected. A little modification of the engine would have made it more fun to drive. It had pretty tall gears IIRC..

    Like 0
    • Paolo

      One thing I really remember is how cramped the interior was almost on the verge of being claustrophobic. The roof was low and the automatic transmission tunnel was huge. I’m 6 ft tall and my big feet were stuffed down in the foot-well and angled toward the gas and brake pedals.I’m not sure how I would have liked driving it a long distance or using it everyday to commute to work. My 69 VW Bug was spacious by comparison.

      Like 1
      • Carbuzzard Member

        The output shaft of a rotary engine is higher than that of a vee or inline piston engine, hence the higher tunnel.

        Like 0
  16. Celso Moitinho

    Blast from the past….had a 79’ black spider 305 4 speed, which I spun a bearing and replaced with a mild 350, true duals and turbo mufflers, interior was mint, embarrassed many c3 and 5.0 in the late 80’s. Would have traded 1st gear for an overdrive, was getting wheelspin up to third…btw, the bitch plug, drivers ‘ side rear, had better access from the bottom…unfortunately, the rear suspension pickups where giving up the ghost from the torque it was not designed to withstand , and traded it for my first bike…good times !!

    Like 0
  17. Tim J

    Had a 77 Monza Town Coupe with the 305 and automatic. God that car was a dog and a pain the arse to change the plugs.

    Like 0
  18. ccrvtt

    I bought a new Starfire GT in 1976 – bright orange with black stripes and interior, chrome wheels, an odd-fire 3.8 V6 and a 4-speed. I’m 6’3″ and never had a problem with room, thought the seats were comfortable, and the hatchback was useful. The doors rusted out, the engine was never happy, the chrome grille turned out to be a metallic sticker, came with the infamous Firestone 500 radials that morphed into what looked like Mobius strips, build quality was for doodoo, went through about 17 girlfriends with it until I found the right one.

    God, I loved that car…

    Like 0
  19. Glenn Reynolds Member

    2.73 gears?? Only good for land speed record attempts.

    Like 1
  20. pete

    lot of bull here–had a Skyhawk–they only came with the v-6. The Starfires could be had with 305. the engine might have been changed out cause it was worn–came with 305’s, not 350’s. I think Skyhawk only one couldn’t be had with V-8. mine had rear anti-sway bar and a Panhard rod. Handled pretty good.

    Like 0
  21. Kevin

    I also had a skyhawk,it was a 78 231v6,and turbo 350 was pretty peppy due to being so light,no traction at all especially growing up with Chicago winters.

    Like 0
  22. MitchRoss Member

    If anything screams for an LS it is this. Better balance and more power

    Like 0

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