The Car That Saved A Company

Organized in Lansing, Michigan on August 21st, 1897, Oldsmobile remains America's oldest car maker. Although Ransom E. Olds had been experimenting with auto making since 1887, by the middle of 1898, he had only made a hand-full of cars.

To remedy this, Old Motor Works was created on May 8, 1899 when Olds joined with millionaire Samuel L. Smith. Mr. Smith's sons, Frederick and Angus were recently graduated and needed employment; Olds needed money. Issuing $500,000 dollars in stock, Olds Motors managed to produce around 11 different models, some electric, from 1899 - 1900. Plans were made to place some of these models onto the market in 1901 when a disastrous fire destroyed the new Olds plant in Detroit. All of the companies prototypes burned except for one lone gasoline runabout. A curved dash Oldsmobile designated "R".

Curved dash Oldsmobiles are driven by a right-handed tiller. The Model “R” cars were first modified during 1902 by adding truss rods under the front and rear axles. The rods provided an emergency brake system in the rear differential housing. The carburetor was changed from a crude mixer requiring a fuel pump to a simple float-less design that was gravity fed from the fuel tank. The modification also included relocating the water tank to allow more water capacity.
The entire hopes of the fledgling company rested on this one, spared car. A "delectable little vehicle", that held two passengers, the R had a four-cycle, single-cylinder, water-cooled, spark ignition engine that, at 500 rpm, developed 7 Hp. The car was destined to become America's first quantity produced auto and enjoyed an all-out promotional program. The vehicle was featured at fairs, in races and endurance trials and was heavily advertised in print and produced a hit tune. Sales increased from 425 in 1901, to 2,500 in 1902, to 4,000 in 1903, and to 5,508 in 1904. The Curved Dash was light and dependable and with an initial price tag of $650, lots of people wanted one.

1902 Oldsmobile R Runabout