Car: Oldsmobile Curved Dash, 1901

Two important things held back car sales in their earliest days. One, obviously, was price: these new toys were prohibitively expensive for most. The other was mistrust—people often felt happier traveling by horse, and many were only just getting to grips with the idea of the bicycle.

1901 Oldsmobile “Curved Dash”
An affordable price and mechanical simplicity endeared the Oldsmobile to America; you can see the “curved dash” that gave the car its nickname.

The Olds Motor Works of Detroit, Michigan, however, sought to tackle both these issues. Founded by Ransom E. Olds, the company came up with a small car in 1901 for just $650—still expensive, but within many people’s grasp. Lights, mudguards, and a hood were fitted at extra cost. They called it the Oldsmobile.

1901 model car oldsmobile Curved Dash

Such an attractive price was possible because of Olds’ novel adoption of a mass-production system. Making model of the car oldsmobile Curved Dash from standardized parts in an efficient factory layout meant costs could be lowered dramatically

1901 model car oldsmobile “Curved Dash”

A key spur to the Oldsmobile’s popularity was its resemblance to a two-seater horse-drawn buggy. Its characteristic curved-dash panel at the front provided its nickname. The rear-mounted, water-cooled, single-cylinder engine was gravity-fed from a brass carburetor, and there was a semi-automatic, two-speed-and-reverse transmission. Steering was by simple tiller, and two huge springs provided the suspension.

Oldsmobile Curved Dash

The Oldsmobile was the first car to gain the true affection of the American public. It rapidly gained an excellent reputation for reliability, and was widely exported, even as far as Moscow in Russia.

“To the church we’ll swiftly steal, Then our wedding bells will peal. You can go as far as you like with me, In my Merry Oldsmobile.”

Vincent P. Bryan’s lyric from in my merry oldsmobile, a popular song in 1905

Oldsmobile Curved Dash model

Video model of the car oldsmobile Curved Dash

Specification model of the car oldsmobile Curved Dash

  • PLACE OF ORIGIN: Lansing, Michigan
  • HISTORICAL STATUS: production car
  • ENGINE: single-cylinder, 96ci (1,565cc)
  • LAYOUT: rear-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
  • BODYWORK: two-seater open buggy
  • TOP SPEED: 19mph (31kph)
  • NUMBER BUILT: approximately 19,000