What is the only US car company to operate in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries? (Cue the Final Jeopardy music…)
The answer is Oldsmobile, which, of course, is no longer in operation. On this day in 1901, with five or six different “horseless carriage” prototypes complete, a fire erupted at the Olds factory in Lansing, Michigan. As the story goes, the only prototype to be saved was the little Curved Dash runabout. When a new factory was built, Random Eli Olds had no choice but to build the Curved Dash model, which became the first car “mass produced” in the world and led Oldsmobile to the top of the production charts in 1903, 1904 and 1905.
Some historians question whether the fire is the reason that the Curved Dash model was built. Obviously, I don’t know what happened, but I do know that some people are knee-jerk contrarians who always have to argue with the consensus.
From Wikipedia a picture of the Curved Dash runabout. Oldsmobile actually has quite a history of innovation that could probably be the subject of a book. Here’s a picture of another Olds landmark:
From hdw.eweb4.com a picture of a 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado. This was the first real front-wheel drive car produced in the US since the Cord 810/812 in 1936-37. Although I prefer its GM cousin, the Cadillac Eldorado that was introduced in 1967, I like the Toronado and appreciate its significance.
While acknowledging the inevitability of changes in the auto industry, I lament the loss of makes like Oldsmobile because I think that fewer makes mean fewer sources of innovation in styling and engineering. For some people, a car is not just transportation.