Oldsmobile Model R Curved Dash Runabout

An inveterate tinkerer, Ransom E. Olds began building prototype automobiles in the late 1880s. However, it was not until 1897, with major financial backing, that Olds Motor Works was incorporated. Over the next few years, Olds developed more than 11 different prototypes to evaluate for production, but no decision was made until a fire destroyed the entire plant, sparing just one single-cylinder, gasoline-powered runabout.

Coded the Model R, the lucky runabout is better known today as the Curved Dash model. Although the fire devastated Olds’ facility, automotive historians today credit the event as the catalyst for the company’s ultimate success. The relatively low price and simplicity of the Curved Dash model allowed a large portion of the public to afford and operate one. In its first three years, annual production of the Model R went from 425 to 3,924 units, and as its popularity grew, so too did its influence on popular culture, as exemplified by Vincent Bryan’s hit song, “In My Merry Oldsmobile”.

The 1902 Curved Dash Runabout is a superb early Oldsmobile, manufactured by the sole American marque to be formed in the nineteenth century and survive into the twenty-first.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in March of 2009 at the The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida and in October of 2010 at the Hershey Lodge, Hershey, Pennsylvania.

4.5bhp, single cylinder engine with two speed transmission and center chain drive, leaf spring and solid axle front suspension and leaf spring rear suspension, mechanical brakes on transmission. Wheelbase: 66".

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel

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