The Don Davis Collection

27 April 2013

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Lot 152

1957 Oldsmobile Starfire Ninety-Eight Holiday Hardtop Coupe

  • Chassis no. 579C06051

Sold for $44,000

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

  • Stock car-specification J-2 engine, as used by Lee Petty
  • Loaded with options, including factory air conditioning
  • The hottest engine in the most luxurious model

Lee Petty’s son would become a racing driver, as would his grandson and great-grandson. In 1957, however, there was only one Petty on the track, and he was a force to be reckoned with. When the skilled driver arrived at Daytona Beach from Level Cross, North Carolina, for that year’s Speed Week, he came with an Oldsmobile with a little something special under the hood. The factory four-barrel carburetor had been replaced with a trio of Rochester two-barrels, the center unit running 280 CFM and the two outer units 290 CFM. Under normal operation, say, driving to and from the transporter, only the center carburetor functioned, producing a friendly, docile car that probably raised no eyebrows.

Once on the beach, Petty floored it. Now all three carburetors engaged, the outer pair running off the windshield wiper motor, in a nice hat trick, and with 300 horsepower and 471 foot-pounds of torque carrying him across the sand, “Mr. Consistency” hit nearly 145 mph. His factory-supplied hot rod engine was almost immediately banned, despite Oldsmobile’s attempt to qualify it as a “production” unit by offering it as an option to the unknowing Mr. and Mrs. America. It would remain on the option books into 1958.

The Starfire Ninety-Eight Holiday Hardtop Coupe offered from Don Davis’ collection is a rare top-of-the-line Oldsmobile with the “J-2” engine, as well as the Jetaway Hydra-Matic transmission, power brakes, power windows, power steering, power seats, radio with power antenna, rear fender skirts, and even the highly desirable factory air conditioning, which was rare in such a deluxe model with the hottest available powerplant. The car remains a virtually all-original example, save for a single respray some time ago in its original color of Coronado Yellow. Accordingly, it still retains its fine original interior and remains in outstanding, well-detailed, and largely original, as-preserved condition throughout. It joined the Don Davis Collection out of a well-established West Texas collection that also focused on highly desirable and well-optioned Oldsmobiles.

A hot car with a hot engine, loaded with options—what could be more desirable?

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

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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

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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

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Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 9... read more

David Swig

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

Don Rose

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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

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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

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Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a Connecticut restoration shop as a teenager. He graduated with a... read more

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

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

Michael Squire

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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

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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

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

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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

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

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Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

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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

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