1906 Oldsmobile Straight Dash Runabout

If we were to go purely on what our school history books and popular culture suggest, we’d know the father of the mass-produced automobile to be, without a doubt, Henry Ford. However, sometimes, history gets muddled in the details, and certain figures don’t get their due credit. In the case of America’s burgeoning automobile industry, Ransom Eli Olds is an oft-neglected name despite the significance of his contributions to the motorcar and the American Industrial Revolution. He officially founded Olds Motor Works in 1897, although he had been tinkering with motorized transport for several years before that. By 1898, Olds produced only a half-dozen or so experimental cars and struggled to finance further development. Thankfully, help came in the form of a nearly $200,000 investment from lumber magnate Samuel L. Smith. Now flush with cash and with a new factory in Detroit, Ransom returned to experimenting and development of a production-ready automobile. He built eleven different cars between 1899 and 1900, seemingly unable to settle on the ideal formula for production. A fire at the new factory in March of 1901 proved to be somewhat serendipitous as only one car survived – the single-cylinder “Curved Dash” runabout.

Olds pinned all hopes on the little Oldsmobile, and the car did not disappoint. With input from Henry Leland of Leland & Faulconer Engineering, Ransom Olds carefully designed the Curved Dash Oldsmobile to be built using standardized, interchangeable parts on a stationary assembly-line. From a technical standpoint, the Oldsmobile was quite conventional. A basic cart-sprung chassis supported the centrally mounted horizontal single-cylinder engine while the two-speed planetary transmission drove a central chain to the rear axle. The body was pure buggy, with a two-place bench seat, tiller steering, and rudimentary top. While simplistic, it was elegantly designed and well-constructed. It was also reasonably affordable at $650 in 1901, which no doubt encouraged strong sales. Production started with just 425 cars in 1901, rising to 2,500 the following year, then 4,000, then 5,508. Such was its popularity that even as Olds expanded the line, the single-cylinder runabout remained in production through 1907.

In 1904, the Curved Dash Model 6C debuted, looking virtually identical to its predecessors, despite being an entirely new car. It was built stronger than before, with external drum brakes added to the rear axle to supplement the differential brake. The body retained the same distinct shape as before but was slightly larger overall. Other improvements included wood artillery wheels, a new carburetor, and a stronger gearbox. Much like the later Model T, all Oldsmobile’s left the factory in the same color scheme of black with dark red trim and gold striping. By 1906, the Model B came in either a Curved Dash, or now a new Straight Dash, also known as a “piano box” front. Total production of the Curved Dash Olds may pale in comparison to Ford’s fifteen million Model Ts, but it still deserves the proper acknowledgment as America’s first “mass-produced” automobile.

This delightful 1906 Oldsmobile Model B Straight Dash presents with a crisp and beautifully preserved older restoration. The paintwork on the body, chassis, and steel mudguards is period correct and in superb order. Red accents on the body and lovely gold coach stripes that repeat themselves on the frame and wheels and optional Neverout kerosene carriage lamps give the car a handsome, upmarket appearance.

As with many horseless carriages of the era, simplicity is the name of the game. The runabout coachwork accommodates two passengers on a button-tufted leather bench. Steering is by tiller, a hand lever for gear selection and two brake pedals, one used to bring the car to a halt using the rear hub brakes and the second operates a transmission brake. A speedometer that optimistically reads all the way up to fifty will tell you just how fast you are running about. The quality of the upholstery work is superb all around, and the materials appear taut and bely the time elapsed since its restoration. Controls, fittings, and hardware also present in excellent condition.

The 7-horsepower, horizontal single-cylinder engine sits below the driver, powering a 2-speed planetary transmission and chain-drive rear axle. The engine and ancillaries are beautifully restored to a high standard, and even the rear axle is finished in gloss black and striped to match the body. The presentation is excellent, with jewel-like detailing and minimal signs of use on the mechanical components. Beautifully restored to a high standard, this Straight Dash remains in outstanding condition is sure to delight its next caretaker.


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Stock number 7661

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