Previous Next

Lot 206

1957 Oldsmobile Starfire Ninety-Eight 'J-2' Convertible

  • Chassis no. 579M22578
  • Body no. 6225

Sold for $187,000

300 bhp, 371 cu. in. J-2 OHV V-8 engine with three 2-barrel carburetors, four-speed Jetaway Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, independent front suspension with coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 126 in.

  • An engine so fast that it was banned by NASCAR, yet it is found in a luxury convertible
  • Beautifully restored with numerous options, including air conditioning

Many car enthusiasts think of the 1950s as the decade of bulk. Bigger really was better, and too big was just right, especially in an era when it was frequently joked that most American cars required their own zip codes. However, this was also a decade of performance, when engine technology began to produce more and more horsepower and that magic number became a bone of contention between automakers. Americans finally began to appreciate the joy that came from flooring the gas, and the Big Three answered accordingly, by helping out participants in the newly popular sport of stock car racing.

The 1957 Oldsmobile, for instance, could be had with something known as the J-2 option. It began with the stock Olds Rocket V-8, which had been enlarged that year to 371 cubic inches and came with a higher 10:1 compression ratio. Oldsmobile’s mad-scientist engineers then removed the standard four-barrel carburetor and installed a new intake with three Rochester two-barrel carbs. Under standard operation, only the center 280 CFM carb was functioning. When it came time to hit the track, or leave the stoplight, the driver would put “pedal to the metal,” and the outside carburetors, working off the windshield wiper motor, would open up, each flowing 290 CFM. Breathing through dual exhaust, the result was 300 brake horsepower and 415 foot-pounds of torque.

Lee Petty’s J-2-outfitted ’57 Olds sailed down Daytona Beach at 144.9 mph. Bill France Sr., recognizing an unfair advantage when he saw it, complained that Oldsmobile wasn’t offering the J-2 to the public, and he was right. Oldsmobile responded by putting the J-2 on the options list for Mom and Dad’s new car, but the Automobile Manufacturers Association’s ban on factory support for racing came down not long after and settled the matter. The J-2 would last on the books until 1958, but they remained rarely ordered, as few people knew about it. Those “in-the-know,” however, likely never forgot it.

The buyer who knew about and desired the J-2 would likely have installed it on a stripped, lower-line model, which makes top-of-the-line examples equipped with it, such as this Starfire Ninety-Eight Convertible, all the rarer. According to information included on file, this car was restored by Mark Barker, of Mary-Wayne Motors, who performed a complete, frame-off, nut-and-bolt, rotisserie restoration. Later, it was acquired by well-known collector Dr. Edward Dauer and then added to the Andrews Collection.

In addition to the J-2 engine, the car is equipped with a dual exhaust, a power antenna and brakes, power steering, power windows, a power top, tinted glass, and an under-dashboard air-conditioning unit. The body is finished in the two-tone color scheme of Sapphire Mist and Victoria White, with a beautiful complementary interior, and overall, it has a wonderfully authentic appearance. It has been restored to an extraordinarily nice but not a total concours standard; instead, it appears just as one would have when it left the factory. It is still “fresh” in all regards, including its beautiful paint and interior, and it has been well-maintained, both cosmetically and mechanically, during its Andrews tenure.

This is a tempting highway and road car, with the power that NASCAR legends knew and NASCAR management feared.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more