Olds Motor Works

Curved Dash Oldsmobile

Carroll Gantz
Durant, William C.
Curved Dash Oldsmobile

The first US gasoline-powered auto to be produced in quantity, the 425 Runabout, was introduced by Olds Motor Works, founded in 1897 by Ransom E. Olds. Features included the first "speed meter," invented last year by a Mr. Jones, and a new gracefully-curved dashboard. The 7 hp., 650 lb. car was priced at $650, and 425 were built the first year. It was produced until 1907, and some were used by the US Postal Service as the first mail trucks. As a promotional stunt, test driver Roy D. Chapin drove one from Detroit to New York, although there were only 200 miles of hard-surfaced roads in the US. In 1903, R.E. Olds built a race car, the Pirate, and driver H.T. Thomas set the first land speed record in its class at Daytona Beach, FL at 54.38 mph. Ordinary cars could go no faster than 30 mph. The bullet-nosed, low design of the Pirate set the style for Indianapolis race cars, starting in 1911, for many years. In 1903, Buick was founded by William C. Durant, a race car driver, and the first Buick appeared. Durant founded General Motors in 1908 as a holding company to buy out various car manufacturers, including Cadillac (in 1909), Oldsmobile and Oakland (later called Pontiac). Ford demanded $8 million, and Durant declined to buy. In 1910, Durant left active management of General Motors, and founded Chevrolet. He engaged Louis Chevrolet, a Swiss-born racing driver, to design his new car, which was introduced in 1913. The new president of General Motors in 1910 became Charles W. Nash. He retired in 1916, and purchased the Jeffery Motor Company from Thomas B. Jeffery, who had founded the company in 1879 to make Rambler bicycles, and had introduced the first Rambler car in 1902. Now, it's new 1917 model was called a Nash. After the War in 1918, General Motors suffered a severe financial decline. A major stockholder was the wealthy E.I. DuPont de Nemours Company, which sent Pierre DuPont to manage GM. He bought Chevrolet Motor Co., whose major investor, William C.

100 Years of Design consists of excerpts from a book by Carroll M. Gantz, FIDSA, entitled, Design Chronicles: Significant Mass-produced Designs of the 20th Century, published August 2005 by Schiffer Publications, Ltd.
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