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1903 Oldsmobile Model R Curved Dash news, pictures, specifications, and information

Runabout
Chassis Num: 15481
 
Oldsmobile was started in 1897 by Ransom E. Olds and when it was phased out by General Motors it was the oldest surviving American manufacturer.

During the 1901 fire at the Detroit Plant, this Runabout was the only prototype rescued.

This car was manufactured by the Olds Motor Works in Lansing, Michigan. It is considered to be the first mass produced vehicle in the USA and was the basis of the 1905 song 'In My Merry Oldsmobile.'

The car has a side crank for the driver to start the engine from the seat. It has a two-speed transmission, center chain drive, mechanical brake on the transmission. Available options include cloth buggy top, fenders and 'Neveroul' lights.

This vehicle is an unrestored car with serial number 15481. The compression release pedal number dates the car to 1903 production though title shows 1904. The engine is a one-horizontal cylinder with 4.5 horsepower. The wheelbase is 66 inches and the weight is 650 lbs. Total production was 3,924 units for 1903. A selling price of $650.
Runabout
Chassis Num: 15168
 
Sold for $45,100 at 2007 RM Auctions.
This vehicle was offered for sale at the Vintage Motor Cars sale at Hershey, PA presented by RM Auctions. It was estimated to sell for $10,000 - $20,000 and offered without reserve. Bidding quickly surpassed the estimates with the final bid settling at $45,100. It has a wheelbase that measures 66-inches and its 95.4 cubic-inch single-cylinder engine is capable of producing 7 horsepower. It had a cosmetic refresher many years ago; since then the finish on the red-and-black body has degraded and the front fenders show wrinkles. There are brackets for headlights but no lighting installed. The engine is mostly intact but is without a carburetor.
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2007
Runabout
 
'Nothing to watch but the road' - The 1903 Oldsmobile Model R Runabout is better known as a 'Curved Dash Olds' and represents a major defining point in the development of the early automobile. R E. Olds, the founder of the Olds Motor Works, believed that cars should be produced simply and inexpensively so the common man could afford them and to do so he had to create the first mass production assembly line. In 1903 the Curved Dash production was 4,000 cars and total models produced from 1901 to 1907 was nearly 19,000 cars. The engine was centrally located and the hand crank is by the driver's seat. The owner of this Model R Runabout is the great granddaughter of R.E. Olds.
Runabout
 
This is the first mass produced car. It sold for $650 new before options. The weight is 650 pounds. Early ads referred to the dollar per pound as a measure of affordability.

This car has the top and side curtains ($50 option) as well as the 'mother-in-law' seat (a $25 option) along with the original foot rest.

This car has tiller steering, a 1-cylinder engine that develops five horsepower, two forward speeds, and has a top speed of about 25 mph which was fast enough for the early roads. The car is started by turning a fixed crank; it was designed so the driver could crank from his seat.
Runabout
 
Oldsmobile produced 3,924 Model R Curved Dash Oldsmobiles in 1903, making the Olds Motor Works the largest automobile producer in the United States. Running changes were made to the little car through 1906 when it went out of production.
By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2010
Runabout
Chassis Num: 17083
 
Sold for $60,500 at 2011 RM Auctions.
This 1903 Olds Curved-Dash Runabout is fitted with a folding top, a horn, correct oil front lighting, four fenders and a two-passenger wicker basket seat which mounts on the rear deck. It has an older restoration and an ownership history that dates back to the 1960s, when it was owned by a Mr. Nelson Holmwood of Laguna Beach, CA. In the late 1970s it changed hands within the family and was moved to Washington, DC. It remained in the family until around 1999 when it was sold. It has been in a private museum on the east coast since that time.

In 2011, the car was offered for sale at the Hershey Auction presented by RM Auctions. The car was estimated to sell for $60,000 - $80,000. As bidding came to a close, the car was sold for the sum of $60,500 inclusive of buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2011
Runabout
Engine Num: 18003
 
Sold for $62,100 at 2013 Bonhams.
The Oldsmobile factory in Lansing developed the concepts of mass automobile production on continuous assembly lines. They fostered the development of specialist suppliers like Leland & Faulconer, Dodge Brothers and others that i turn, supported the burgeoning auto industry that would transform Detroit the center of automobile manufacturing in North America.

The Olds Curved Dash helped change the public image of the automobile as an economical and viable alternative to horse drawn transportation. They were a lightweight and simple machine that made graduating from horse to gasoline power a manageable step. Power came from a horizontally-mounted single-cylinder 4.5-horsepower 95 cubic-inch engine with mechanically operated valves mated to a 2-speed planetary gearbox with single chain drive to the rear axle. Initially offered only with a transmission brake, a mechanical brakes on the rear axle was later added in the event the drive chain broke. Many other changes were made to the Curved Dash during its production lifespan of 1901 through 1904.

This example was in the Pierce A. Miller Carriage Collection. It is a later 1903 model with roller chain drive, bolted differential housing and finned radiator tubes. There are a number of optional features including the dos-a-dos rear seat with fold-down footrest, and a pair of kerosene sidelights. The car is in original condition.

In 2013, the car was offered for sale at Bonhams Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $62,100 including buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2013
The Oldsmobile Model R Curved-Dash Runabout was a vehicle that was nearly snuffed from history before it was even introduced to the world. Ransom Eli Olds had experimented with steam and electric propulsion but ultimately decided on the internal combustion engine. His curved-dash model was completed in 1900 and ready for market in early 1901. However, a fire at the factory delayed the start of production with only one prototype rescued.

Production resumed shortly thereafter and the first runabout was available to the public in the late summer. The runabouts weighed a mere 650 pounds and sold for $650.

Power was from a horizontal single-cylinder engine placed under the seat and mated to a two-speed planetary transmission. Steering was by a center tiller and suspension was comprised of a long leaf spring on each side connecting the front and rear axles. The body was made of wood and attached to the top of the springs. Any rocking motion was eliminated by the small transverse full-elliptic springs in front. The following year, truss rods were added. Improvements were made throughout its lifespan, which lasted until 1907.

The cars were instantly popular, becoming the best selling motorcar in America in 1903.

By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2007
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