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Oldsmobile Company History

Published: 20th Jul 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Oldsmobile is one of America’s oldest marques. Inventor Ransom Eli Olds who was born in Geneva, Ohio, in 1864 established the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in 1897 aged 34. Oldsmobile was the first company to mass produce automobiles with its highly successful Curved Dash Model that became America’s most popular car between 1903 – 1905. With minimal bodywork and the distinctive ‘curved dashboard’ styling, it sold for $650.  Ransom Eli Olds left the company at the zenith of production in 1904, due to a difference of opinion with his backers as to what sort cars they should be building, and he went on to form REO at Lansing. The name being derived from his initials, that continued to produce cars up until 1936 after which they produced trucks, ironically more successfully and for longer than it did with cars.

Meanwhile the Oldsmobile company was purchased by William Durrant in 1908 and became part of General Motors. It continued to produce medium priced good quality cars with Models 42 and 43 powered by six-cylinder engines and selling for $1285. The Model 44 introduced in 1916 was V8 powered. Over the years Oldsmobile was to gain something of a reputation for being General Motors experimental division. Indeed many pioneering moves saw the introduction of a syncro-mesh transmission in 1931, Dubonnet type IFS for 1934, semi-automatic transmission in 1937/38 and the Hyrda-Matic fully automatic transmission in 1940. For their 1949 model the Rocket engine was introduced using an OHV V8 design that replaced the old type Flathead straight-eight, and the company were one of the first to use wrap around front windscreens.

The post WW2 period saw production of models from the Futuramic range, while the 1950s saw all V8 powered cars with 88, Super 88 and 98 models. The company used a two digit model designation from 1941, the first being to identify the body size, with the second being the number of cylinders. 1966 saw the launch of the Toronado, America’s first FWD car since the Cord 810 of 1936. The Cutlass was an incredibly popular model during the 1970s. Sadly April 29th 2004 saw the demise of Oldsmobile after being in business for 107 years and producing 35.2 million cars.

A milestone event was the production of the Ford V8 engine in 1932 which was low cost by casting the block and crankcase in one piece. The acquisition of Mercury and Lincoln which continued to be run as separate divisions meant that Ford could now develop and sell medium priced cars and also enter the luxury model market. On the 11th April 1947 Henry Ford died aged 83, but would be well remembered as one of the world’s most famous industrial giant. The fastest selling car of all time that has yet to be surpassed was the Mustang introduced in 1964, while the GT40 remains a legend with motorsport, having won the Le Mans 24 hour race four years running between 1966 – 1969. Other extremely popular models during the 1950s and ‘60s included the Thunderbird, Galaxie, Falcon and Fairlane, while the Edsel was a huge fl op, with only 111,000 produced over a three year period.

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