Automotive Fun Fact: The Curved Dash Oldsmobile

March 20, 2012

Rad Air Remembers: First mass produced American car

Ransome Eli Olds was an American inventor and businessman. In 1887, Olds invented a steam powered automobile, but abandoned his invention as the automotive industry began to rely on the gasoline powered engine to produce vehicles. He moved from Lansing to Detroit, Michigan in 1901 to open the Olds Motor Company when he designed the Curved Dash Oldsmobile. That year he produced 425 oldsmobiles; making the vehicle the first mass produced car built in the United States. Production skyrocketed the following year to 3,299 cars in 1902, then 4,000 cars in 1903 and finally, 5,000 cars in 1904. The car sold for $650, held 5 gallons of gasoline and went as fast as 20 miles per hour. For an extra $25, customers could add an additional two-person seat or a fold down leather top for $50.

Part of the Curved Dash Oldsmobile’s popularity came from the government’s implied seal of approval. The United States Postal Service purchased several of these autos to be used as the very first mail trucks. This endorsement, combined with the vehicle’s affordability, made the Curved Dash Oldsmobile the most popular vehicle during the first part of the century. However, ass more competitors entered the market, R. E. Olds found himself in financial trouble and left the company to start another automotive company. One year after his departure, the Olds Motor Company was sold to General Motors.

Eventually, the Curved Dash lost market share and was beat out by other companies. Regardless, no other manufacturer had such a successful or quick start in the infant auto industry!