Ransom Eli Olds is generally considered to be the father of mass production with his Curved Dash Oldsmobile, significantly predating Henry Fords Model T. Olds had developed a steam car in his Lansing works as early as 1887 but it was not a success. In 1896 he followed the general trend, shifting from steam to gasoline power. In 1897 the Olds Motor Vehicle Co. was founded to manufacture the new 5hp model but production was on an exceptionally small scale. Substantial financial backing from lumber millionaire, Samuel L Smith, saw significant changes, the company being under the management of his sons, Frederick and Angus. Much experimentation took place in 1899 1900 but despite the capital injection no great success was achieved. In March 1901 a disastrous fire at the factory saw just one gasoline-engined runabout rescued from the blaze. It was a simple curved dash, lightweight, single-cylinder engined runabout that was rescued from the fire the rest is history. Frederick Smith referred to the fire in later years as the best move ever made by the management.
The rear-mounted, four-stroke engined runabout drove through a spur-geared two-speed transmission with centre chain drive. Two steel longitudinal springs ran fore and aft, forming side members and the lightweight vehicle checked in at just 700 lbs. The ride was comfortable on its cantilever springs, responding to the thump of the single-cylinder engine and the high ground clearance and wide track were designed specifically for the rutted roads on which it was originally designed to run. A buggy top was offered as an option along with Neverout oil lamps. The Smith family capital was rapidly utilised in developing mass production techniques, output rising from 425 units built in 1901 to no less than 4,000 in 1903 and 5,500 in 1904. Oldsmobiles one model policy pre-dated again Henry Fords Model T and proved financially satisfactory.
This 1903 car has recently come to the U.K. from Australia. In earlier years it was owned by that celebrated Australian collector, the late Paul Terry, and was exhibited in The Albany Motor Museum in Western Australia, sharing an exhibition hall there with the most famous veteran car of all time, the 1904 Darracq, Genevieve While in Australia the car has been the subject of a most detailed and meticulous restoration. A previous owner emphasises the originality of the car, recording that the body is original as are the wheels which are the rare steel type. The car is superbly presented in black livery with maroon panel and scroll detail and fine gold lining. It is equipped with Neverout kerosene safety lamps, manufactured in Philadelphia, and equipped with a canvas buggy top, with bevelled glass rear window and roll-up centre panel. The bench seat is upholstered in deep-buttoned black leather and fittings throughout are nickel. The steel wheels are shod with Michelin 765 x 105 beaded-edge tyres.
This is undoubtedly one of the most superbly presented examples of the Curved Dash Oldsmobile that we have offered. The model is exceptionally well catered for by an active club in America and the enthusiasm of Gary Hoonsbeen and others has ensured the ready supply of re-manufactured spare parts. The reliability of the Curved Dash Oldsmobile is legendary and as well as a most practical vehicle for the annual pilgrimage to Brighton, several examples participate with great success in the longer distance motor tours organised by such organisations as The Veteran Car Club of Great Britain. Following a period of inactivity, gentle mechanical recommissioning and a careful check of all levels etc will be required. At the time of cataloguing application has been made for allocation of a U.K. registration number and it is expected that details will be available by the time of the sale.
- The Car has been run in recent weeks and has an entry for Sunday's London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, although we must point out it is not currently road registered.