In 1897, Olds Motor Vehicle Company, Inc. the oldest unit of General Motors Corporation, was organized by Ransom E. Olds. The company was started with capital of $50,000. This $50,000 translated to 5,000 shares of stock at $10 per share. During that year, their first automobile was produce.
In 1899, Olds Motor Vehicle and Olds Gasoline Engine Works of Lansing merge to form Olds Motor Works. This new company was incorporated on May 8, 1899 with $500,000 capital. The first factory specifically for automobile manufacture in the United States was built by Olds in Detroit on Jefferson Avenue East.
Even though the Oldsmobile Company was created by Ransom Olds, it was investors such as Samuel Latta Smith who were just as responsible for its creation. Smith was an initial investor in the Olds Motor Vehicle Company. He advanced another $200,000 towards the formation of Olds Motor Works and the construction of the new factory in 1899. Since he was a majority stockholder, he was named president. His sons, Frederic and Angus, also acquired high-level positions and sales. Frederic was named secretary-treasurer, and later worked his way into management. He oversaw the construction of a new plant built in Lansing following the 1901 fire at the Detroit factory, and establishment of an experimental engineering shop.
This experimental shop bothered Ransom Olds as he felt it invaded his expertise. This was the final reason that convinced Olds to leave the company, which he did in 1904 and formed REO. The Olds Curved Dash model remained in production and continued to be an industry leader until it was surpassed by Ford in 1906. As the years progressed, the cars that the Smiths favored began entering the marketplace. They were large and stately with massive engines and price tags.
This trend towards large and luxurious did not bode well, and sales degraded considerably by 1906. Once as high as 6,000, by 1908 they were around 1,000 and moved Olds out of the Top Ten manufacturers. The new company formed by Ransom, REO, enjoyed sales of four times that volume.
William C. Durant approached the Smiths in 1908 with a proposition to merge with the new General Motor Company. A stock swap transferred control to Durant on November 12th and the Smiths left the following year. Even though the Smith's had left, the Olds Company continued on the same path of creating large, expensive, and elegant vehicles. One of their crowning achievements, the Limited, was soon to appear.
The name 'Limited' was chosen because the production of these vehicles took a considerable amount of time. As such, they were produced in limited quantities. Production would last from 1910 through 1912.
The Limited was built atop a wheelbase that measured 130-inches and rode on massive 42-inch wheels. It was based on the Model Z and was initially powered by the Z's 505 cubic-inch six-cylinder engine which was rated at 60 horsepower. It would soon grow to 707 cubic-inches in the years to come and the wheelbase would be enlarged to a massive 138-inches.
Three bodystyles were available, including a roadster, touring car, and a limousine. Prices ranged from $4,600 to $5,800 which had them among the most expensive in the industry. By 1911 the prices ranged from $5,000 for the open models to $7,000 for the limousine. A four-passenger 'Tourabout' was added to the open car lineup.
For 1911, Oldsmobile produced only 159 seven-passenger touring cars in the Limited series during 1911. Three are known to exist in modern times. Two are restored while the third is in original and unrestored condition.
When sales of less than 140 Oldsmobile Limited were produced in 1912, management decided to focus their efforts on the better selling, lower-end models. The Limited would not be produced for 1913 and was replaced by a new Model 53 which was three inches shorter and powered by an engine barely half the size of the Limited's. Its price tag was also about half, ranging from $3,200 to $3,350. This proved to be a positive move for the Oldsmobile Company, to appeal to the mid-priced segment of the market, and sales rose over 10,000 within the next few years.By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2011