c.1904 Oldsmobile Model 6C 'Curved Dash' Runabout
Engine no. 50214
Single down draft carburetor
7bhp at 600rpm
Two-speed planetary transmission
Longitudinal full length leafs springs with front and rear beam axles
Clutch band on drive sprocket brake
*Formerly in the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
*Secured for the MSI by Ransom E. Olds
*Offered from a Private European Museum Collection
The Curved-Dash Oldsmobile
Known as the 'Curved Dash' for obvious reasons, Ransom Eli Olds's gasoline-powered runabout was first offered for sale in 1901, following a fire at the factory that had destroyed every other prototype. Over 11,000 of the three Curved Dash models ('R', '6C' and 'B') were constructed before production ceased in 1907, making it the first volume produced American automobile. The Model 'R' runabout was powered by a single-cylinder, 1.6-litre engine of 114x152mm bore/stroke, mounted horizontally at the rear and producing 4½ horsepower at 600rpm. Later '6C' and 'B' models benefited from a more-powerful (7hp) 1.9-litre engine, and all featured two-speed transmission and chain final drive.
Several improvements to the design were made during the course of production, but the engine's basic layout remained unchanged. Two mechanically operated overhead valves were set side-by-side at 90 degrees to the cylinder axis, and the rocker arms had roller ends. An ignition contact-breaker was mounted on the end of the camshaft, and sparks provided by a trembler coil. By 1902, the mixer-type carburetor had been replaced by a float-less design, while a manually adjustable valve in the exhaust system vented exhaust gases via the silencer box or more or less straight to the atmosphere, the two settings presumably being intended for town and country use respectively. Cooling water was contained in a reservoir above the engine and circulated by a crankshaft-driven pump, mounted on the side of the chassis. The radiator's copper piping wound its way back and forth beneath the floor.
Despite appearances to the contrary, the suspension's leaf-springs which linked the front and rear axles were not true half-elliptics like those fitted to the later model 'B' cars. On the 'R' and '6C' models, only the bottom leaf ran from front to rear, so it would be more accurate to describe these as four quarter-elliptics. Steering was by means of a tiller, a common enough method in the early 1900s, while there was a choice of brakes: one acting on the transmission, the other on the differential. The wheels were un-braked.
The Motorcar Offered
The curved-dash Oldsmobile offered here has an interesting connection to the pioneering automaker who gave Oldsmobile its name. In 1931, when the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry set out to obtain a curved-dash Oldsmobile, a curator wrote a letter to Oldsmobile founder Ransom E. Olds asking for information and leads. The venerable pioneer replied with helpful advice and also made an observation about the curved-dash models, some of which were already 30 years old at the time: "These cars are getting to be quite scarce, and the day is coming when they probably will be quite a curiosity," Olds wrote.
In 1932, the Museum acquired a curved-dash Oldsmobile through the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors. That car is the very vehicle offered here. The ancient Oldsmobile remains in fair overall condition and appears to be mostly complete. The body shows signs of age and, as is typical of very old unrestored cars, cracks are evident throughout its wood structure. The paint and upholstery were redone decades ago, and now have a patina consistent with the paintwork. The front fenders are in good condition while the rear fenders are somewhat rough. All four fenders appear original. The floor mat has been replaced.
Although it has not been started for many years, the single-cylinder, 7hp engine turns and retains its correct carburetor. The 2-speed transmission (plus reverse) appears complete and in good condition. The wood artillery wheels are also in good condition and are fitted with replacement clincher-style tires.
Wearing a Selden Plate with the number 12978, and carrying engine number 50214, this Model 6C dates from the perennially disputed era of late 1904 to early 1905 production. Its Selden Plate number being comfortably within the sequences of other known 1904 cars, its engine dates from the cusp of 1905 production. Bonhams has to the best of their ability tried to establish which precise year the car might have been built and will continue to do so with Curved Dash Oldsmobile Club expert Gary Hoonsbeen. More information on this aspect may be available at the time of sale.
Regardless of its age, cosmetically this is a highly original and charmingly aged example which would sit well in any collection of preserved automobiles and also among any preservation class.
- Bonhams is grateful to U.S. Curved Dash Oldsmobile Club President Gary Hoonsbeen who has carefully analyzed the specific details of this car and concludes that in every major aspect this car conforms to 1904 Type 6C spec, with the exception of the cylinder head. It is his opinion that this is a 1904 car which at some point in its early life prior to acquisition by the Chicago MSI in 1932 must have had its cylinder head changed with a later Type B unit. For further details please contact Bonhams. Title in Transit.