The firm Olds Motor Vehicle Co. was founded by Ransom E Olds in 1897 and rapidly became the top car company in the United States.
In fact, it was the first mass-produced gasoline-powered automobile manufacturer, although Columbia Electric was producing larger numbers of electric and Locomobile steam-powered cars.
In 1901 Olds produced 425 cars. In that year the Oldsmobile Curved Dash became the first mass-produced car (the honour is often given to the Ford Company, but Ford was the first to make cars on a moving assembly line).
However, this was after the factory was destroyed by an accidental fire and the prototypes of all other models were lost. Olds left the company after a dispute in 1904 and formed a new firm, the REO Motor Car Company.
Olds Motor Vehicle made its last car, a Curved Dash Oldsmobile in 1908, when General Motors acquired the company. The cars, especially the Curved Dashes, were commonly known as ‘Oldsmobiles.’ Bill Murray sang a popular 1905 song, In my Merry Oldsmobile.
It was adopted by General Motors as an advertising jingle, modifying the lyrics which were considered risqué. In 1910, Oldsmobile, now under the direction of General Motors, presented the Limited Touring.
It was powered by a 60 hp (45 kW) 707 CID (11.6 L) straight-six engine and could carry four passengers. It featured a Bosch Magneto starter and goatskin upholstery.
One could choose a speedometer, clock, and a windshield. It cost $4,600 (more than $106,000 today), and a limousine version could be purchased for $5,800. Only 725 were sold in its three years of production, though it secured its place in history by winning a race against the famous 20th Century Limited train.
In 1926, the Oldsmobile Six was introduced. It ushered in a new General Motors body style known as the GMB platform.
The style is shared with Buick. In 1929 Oldsmobile marketed the Viking brand as a higher standard vehicle but discontinued it the next year, even when 353 cars were advertised as 1931 models. Six years later a four-speed semi-automatic transmission, built by Buick, was introduced to the Oldsmobile.
This had a conventional clutch. The driver presses the pedal and selects ‘low’ or ‘high’. ‘Low’ encompasses first and second gears. ‘High’ shifts between first, third and fourth.
Despite the successes of the Oldsmobile right up to the 1990s, profitability declined, and the organisation was shut down. The last car was finished on April 9, 2004.