The world's first mass-produced mass-produced petrol-engined automobile
By Mike Hanlon
April 25, 2005
April 26 2005 When we saw this 1904 Oldsmobile pop up in the catalogue for the next Shannons Motor auction, we copuldn't help but check to see how far we have come in a century. The Oldsmobile to be auctioned on May 2 has enjoyed more than a century of motoring on a single cylinder. Oldsmobile until its demise last year was the oldest American car company, with its vehicles built on the industry’s first assembly line in 1901 and its Curved Dash model – so called after the unique shape of the footboard – became the first mass-produced petrol-engined automobile. Produced from 1901-1907 in Runabout, Light Delivery Van or Light Tonneau models it rapidly became America’s most popular automobile. The US Postal Office employed the Curved Dash vans as mail trucks and some 16,000 of this model were made.
Power came from a horizontal single-cylinder engine displacing almost 1.6-litres and developing 4.5 horsepower at 500rpm, driving the rear wheels via a two-speed transmission. With the emphasis on simplicity, the suspension consisted of leaf springs front and rear.
The 1904 Curved Dash Van being auctioned by Shannons is thought to have been delivered to New Zealand, where it underwent a complete mechanical and cosmetic restoration during the 1960s and 1970s by its then-owner, who was an expert in these vehicles.
On his death, the car was purchased by a Victorian enthusiast and spent almost 10 years on display in the Melbourne Motor Museum. However, it was always kept in excellent running order and competed in a number of rallies, including South Australia’s Bay to Birdwood.
In 1998 the present owners acquired the vehicle and gave it a full mechanical restoration. It is entirely original apart from its reproduction petrol and water tanks and reportedly starts on the button, runs without complaint and is a pleasure to drive on Veteran rallies.
The elderly Oldsmobile has been Veteran Car Club of Australia dated as a 1904 model and therefore is eligible to take part in the RAC’s annual London to Brighton run.
Because of this and its exceptional original condition, Shannons expect this superb veteran to sell in the AUD$40,000-$44,000 range.
For further information check the Shannons web site.