Then .............................................................& ..............................................................................Now

Gasoline-powered 1901 Oldsmobile resembles buggy


  • Oldsmobile, founded in 1897, was almost put out of business in March 1901. Until then, the company had not produced many vehicles, but had built quite a few prototypes to determine which offered the best chance of commercial success.

All of the prototypes were stored in a Detroit building when it caught fire and, according to company legend, Oldsmobile employee James Brady, braving the smoke and flames, pushed the curved-dash model to safety. All the other prototypes were destroyed by the fire.

Oldsmobile reportedly sold 435 of the curved-dash models in 1901. It was easily the most popular car of the era. The curved-dash Oldsmobile essentially was a wooden buggy body, with no provision for a horse, and a tiller to steer the 8-foot-long vehicle. Riding on a 67-inch wheelbase, the 700-pound Oldsmobile was powered by a single-cylinder, four-cycle engine. It sold for $650. The popular curved-dash Oldsmobile runabout was advertised as costing less to own annually than keeping a horse.

  • Oldsmobile is the oldest continuing car marque in the U.S.


  • In 1893 R. E. Olds exported a 4-wheeled steam engine vehicle to India to become the first American automobile exporter.  The purchaser never received the vehicle as the ship transporting it sunk!


  • The Olds Motor Co. was incorporated in 1897.  The initial capital investment was $50,000.00!


  • In 1897 the company produced 4 automobiles.


  • In 1897 Olds offered his first gas powered vehicle to the public.  The asking price was $1,000.


  • R. E. Olds was affiliated with Oldsmobile.  All of eight (8) years; from August of 1897 through January of 1904.


  • The full name "Oldsmobile"  appeared in 1900.  Prior to that, they were known simply as "Olds".


  • Ransom Eli Olds also put his name on a line of trucks: REO's


  • The name "Oldsmobile"  resulted from a contest R. E. Olds ran to name his vehicles. It was suggested by a timekeeper at the Olds Motor Vehicle Co. in 1900.


  • Oldsmobile was the leading American automobile producer from 1900 through 1903.


  • In 1901 Olds employee Roy Chapin drove a Curved Dash Olds from Detroit to the New York Auto Show.
    In later years he went on to found the Hudson Motor Car Co.


  • The Oldsmobile "Pirate" was a world speed record setting automobile.  In 1903 the Pirate traveled a distance of 5 miles in 5:49 minutes at Ormond Beach, FL.  This computes out to a whopping 52 M.P.H.!
  • A steering wheel first appeared on an Oldsmobile in 1904.


  • In 1904, R. E. Olds went into competition with Oldsmobile.  After leaving the company,  he formed REO Motor Vehicles.  In the years of '05 and '06 more REOs were sold than Oldsmobiles!


  • Oldsmobile did have some involvement with railroads.  It manufactured a railroad inspection car which basically was a Curved Dash without the dash and with railroad wheels.  In 1904 it formed and began operating the Lansing Manufacturer's Rail Road to provide a link from the factory to the rail transport center in Lansing, MI.  Additionally, Olds engines powered both boats and a Cessna aircraft.


  • Oldsmar is a community in the state of Florida.  It is north of Clearwater and west of Plant City.  It was founded by R. E. Olds.
  • G. M. welcomed Oldsmobile into the family in 1908.


  • The President of Olds from 1913-16 was Charles Nash.  He later founded -  you figure it out!


  • A V-8 engine first appeared in an Oldsmobile in 1916. Olds installed a L-head V-8 in its touring car.
    The engine had 2.88 x 4.75 bore and stroke, was 246 c.i. and produced 40 horse power.  It sold for $1,295.

  • Steel wheels  were introduced by Oldsmobile in 1924.  They were offered as a factory option

and replaced the wooden spoked wheel.


  • At the worst possible time, 1929, Olds manufactured and sold a vehicle named Viking.  It was a luxury motor car for the upscale buyer.  The Viking line lasted all of two (2) model years, 1929 and 1930!  A total of 8,003 were manufactured.  The selling prices were $1,695, $1,795 and $1,855.  All had 261 c.i./81 h.p. V-8 engines; compared to the Olds standard fare of a 6-cylinder, 198 c.i./62 h.p. engine selling for $875 to $1,190.


  • In 1934 Oldsmobile introduced Hydraulic brakes, independent front wheel suspension, and the vent (cozy) wing window for "draftless" driving.


  • In 1937 Olds debuted the Automatic Safety Transmission (AST).  Strange as it may sound, you had to depress the clutch pedal to shift between the low and high ranges!


  • Olds presented the Hydra-Matic transmission to the motoring public in 1940.


  • The 303 c.i. Rocket V-8 first appeared in 1949.      


  • The first time Oldsmobile led the pack as a pace car at the Indy 500 was in 1949.


  • A fire at the Olds Hydra-Matic plant in 1954 necessitated use of Dyna-Flow trannys in approximately 23,000 Oldsmobiles.


  • The first 4-Door Hardtop was introduced by Oldsmobile in 1955.


  • In 1959 the inaugural Daytona 500 was won by a 1959 Oldsmobile.   Lee Petty took the checkered flag.


  • Oldsmobile holds the distinction of pioneering front-wheel drive in 1966.  It was introduced on the Toronado.


  • In 1967 Olds set the world closed course speed record at 257 M.P.H.  A. J. Foyt was at the wheel.


  • Oldsmobile was the first auto manufacturer to make an airbag available.  It was a feature on the 1974 Toronado.