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Have a look at the above car, it was the first one to be made in mass production. Should you be of the opinion that it's a Ford Model-T, you would be slightly wrong. In the year 1913, Ford was instrumental in mass producing cars, but Ransom Eli Olds had mass produced much earlier.

The year 1903 doesn't tell it all, since this Oldsmobile was built from 1900 to 1904. Altogether, more than 11.000 cars were built. It outstripped the, until then, best-seller, the Benz Velo. The Torpedo was called the 'Curved Dash' after the splash-board which was slightly curved at the top and protected the passengers legs from getting dirty. The price was 650 Dollars, which would be about the price of a middle-class car in the USA today.

Who indeed, was this Ransom Eli Olds, from whom the company name of Oldsmobile was derived? He was born in 1864, in the small town of Geneva/Ohio across the Lake Erie from Detroit and was the son of a metal-processing specialist, smithy and model-builder. He moved his family to Cleveland, the next biggest town. The founding of the Olds company then occurred in 1897 in Lansing/Michigan.

The first prototypes had by no means, only petrol engines. The same as it was in Europe at that time, the question of whether the steam-engine, the electric motor or the combustion engine would assert itself, was undecided. His first invention, which was important for his father's company, was by the way, a steam-engine with a gas-burner, of which in fact, 2000 cars were sold.

At this time, America wasn't yet an automobile country. Also, most of the Americans were not prepared to move on from the era of coaches. In the magazine "Scientific American", Olds was fighting against that which was tried and tested, by advertising for his steam-driven vehicle. 'It doesn't bite or kick, it won't get tired over long distances and doesn't sweat when it's hot. It needs no care and only has to be 'fed' when it's actually working on the road'.

Only when one takes into consideration, just how immense this country is, with it's never ending horizons, can one understand the American motorists demand for durability, simple operation, comfort and sufficient loading capacity. Apart from that, from the beginning of the automobile era, right up to the 1950s, their system of roads was very unsatisfactory.

Thus, the first petrol-powered Oldsmobile was also not a paragon of modern technology. The same thing happened as it did to Daimler and later Benz and Horch: Olds took in a financier called Smith and promptly, had to fight out so many arguments, that he left the company in 1904.

And he couldn't give his newly founded company his own name either, so he chose the name 'REO', which were the initials of his Christian names and his surname. By the way, the follow-up to the Curved Dash then had a radiator and a bonnet, indeed, the actual engine was still mounted in the rear. In 1908, Oldsmobile was taken into the General Motors company. The independent company name lasted until 2004. 08/14

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Translator: Don Leslie - Email:

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