Project Description

1904 Oldsmobile Runabout

Ransom Eli Olds experimented with steam, electric, and gasoline automobiles early in his career. He built a new factory in 1900, with as many as six different models in the prototype stage. A fire at the plant in March 1901 destroyed all but one which was saved by fleeing workers. With his hand forced by fate, Olds began production of the only one left, the Runabout.

The auto, nicknamed the “Curved-dash Olds,” was an immediate success. It had a one-cylinder gas engine, tiller steering, brass lamps, a graceful body, and a snappy black and red paint job. The curved-dash was simple, inexpensive, and cute, but still provided a nice ride and good performance.

From 1903 through 1905, the curved-dash Olds was the best-selling car in America. At that time, Oldsmobile produced more cars than any other U.S. manufacturer – 5,508 in 1904 alone, more than triple Ford’s production that year.

  • MANUFACTURER: Olds Motor Works, Lansing, Michigan (1896-1908)
  • PRICE NEW: $650
  • PRICE TO BUY 2019: $18,407
  • ENGINE: 1-cylinder, horizontal configuration, 118 l.

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In our current exhibit, From Carriage to Classic: How Automobiles Transformed America, we present the origin story of the American automobile through 23 cars from Heritage’s permanent collection of antique and classic automobiles. Come along for a ride from the late 1800s to the 1960s and watch the car evolve from a horseless carriage to a streamlined symbol of freedom and independence.

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