Cars A To Z: O

Even if the letter “O” had been chock-a-block full of car makes, Oldsmobile would have been the only possible choice. The sadly defunct American company was, as has been chronicled here before, an outstanding innovator in the automotive industry. It was even the inspiration for a popular song, In My Merry Oldsmobile, which was introduced in 1905.

Ransom Eli Olds was born in Ohio during the Civil War. His father, Pliny F., established a mechanical workshop in 1880 in which Ransom and older brother Wallace worked, the latter having been a partner in the company.

Ransom built his first car, a three-wheeler powered by a steam engine, in 1886, but the car was a one-off. At about the same time, his father’s company began building engines. The company was incorporated in 1890 as the Olds Gasoline Engine Works with Ransom and his father each owning a little less than 50 percent of the company with Wallace owning the remainder. Despite the name of the company, they built steam engines that used boilers heated by a gasoline-fed burner.

By the mid-1890s Olds had switched to building internal combustion engines designed by him and Madison Bates. Production of a four-wheeled “car” using these engines began in 1897, by which time Ransom had become majority owner of the enterprise. In that year the Olds Motor Vehicle Company was incorporated. Ransom had two partners, Edward Sparrow and Samuel Smith. In 1899, Olds Motor Vehicle Company and Olds Gasoline Engine Works were merged to form the Olds Motor Works.

By the end of 1901, Olds had put its soon to be famous Curved Dash Runabout into production. Legend is that a fire destroyed the Olds plant and the Runabout was the only prototype to be saved, but in reality Olds and his company had already decided the Runabout would be produced. The cars were offered at a base price of $650, the equivalent of about $21,000 today.

Oldsmobile led US and world production of automobiles from 1903 to 1905, inclusive, manufacturing a total of 16,000 cars. In the middle of this success, frequent quarrels over the direction of the company between Olds and Frederic Smith (son of Samuel) led to Olds departure in 1904 (he was only a minority owner by this time). By 1906, Olds’ new company–Reo–was outselling Oldsmobile and reached third overall in US sales in 1907.

William Durant’s company, the newly formed General Motors, purchased Olds Motor Works in 1908. The company name remained until 1943 when it was renamed the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors.

Oldsmobile invented (along with Cadillac) the first successful truly automatic transmission (the Hydra-Matic), which was offered beginning in 1939 for 1940 model year cars. It could have been installed in a car like this:

 

See the source image

 

In the US today, 99 percent of new vehicles sold are equipped with an automatic transmission.

Ten years later, Oldsmobile and Cadillac introduced the first modern overhead-valve and oversquare (bore > stroke) V-8. This type of engine dominated the American marketplace for decades and led to the horsepower race of the 1950s and the original muscle car era of the 1960s.

In 1966, Oldsmobile introduced the first US “mass-produced” front-wheel drive car, the Toronado, since the Cord 812 of 1937. In time, front-wheel drive cars came to dominate the market for decades. In fact, it is only in the last year or two that AWD/4WD vehicles have passed FWD as the leading drivetrain sold in the US. Of course, most modern AWD systems are really FWD that send more power to the rear wheels only if conditions warrant. A photo of a 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado:

 

See the source image

 

In 1985, Oldsmobile ranked second in US vehicle sales behind only Chevrolet. The next year, Oldsmobile saw sales exceed one million units. In the mid-1990s, however, the popularity of Oldsmobile began to decline with the make falling out of the top five in sales. In December of 2000, General Motors announced it would phase out Oldsmobile over the next few years. The last Oldsmobile, an Alero, was built on April 29, 2004 and sent to the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum. Oh, for the only car Carroll Shelby ever designed from scratch, the Shelby Series 1, the engine used was a 4-liter/244 cubic-inch V8 used in the Oldsmobile Aurora.

As I have written here on multiple occasions, Olds was the only US company to build cars in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries and so it shall remain for all time. In total, Oldsmobile built more than 35 million vehicles and developed some of the automobile industry’s most important innovations. Long live Oldsmobile!

 

See the source image

 

#CarsAToZ

#Oldsmobile

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Postscript: As of 2 PM local time today, this post and the blog in general have very few views. Is something going on?

 

 

Veterans Day 2021

I wish to extend a heartfelt thanks to the 19 million veterans in the US. I also want to thank the roughly 1.3 million currently on active duty in the US military. I think their service is grossly underappreciated by too much of the population.

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Today would/should have been Kevin Towers’ 60th birthday. I worked with Kevin for four years while with the San Diego Padres. As I have recounted, I was foisted on him at first as my first title was Assistant Director of Scouting for Professional Players. At the time, Kevin was the Director of Scouting.

Later, we were both promoted: Kevin to General Manager and me to Director of Baseball Operations. In the three full seasons we had those roles, the Padres won two NL West division titles and one National League championship. (I resigned during the season after the NL championship.) Here is a picture I have shown before:

 

 

Kevin is the one kneeling in front and I am one of the other three people. He always treated me as a friend and respected colleague and not as an interloper.

I believe Kevin’s widow lives in the Phoenix area. I wish I could find her just to say hello and to tell her how much I appreciated the way Kevin treated me. He died of anaplastic thyroid cancer in January of 2018.

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I wanted to add something about what happened on this day in automotive history. Unfortunately, I have learned that the 365 Days of Motoring website cannot be trusted (not to mention it’s not a secure site). I am seldom able to corroborate their “facts.”

A book I have called This Day In Automotive History has nothing for this day that interests me. Since it is likely that tomorrow will be the “F” car in Cars A To Z, I will report that on November 12, 1908 General Motors (which had been founded just two months earlier) acquired Oldsmobile.

Ransom Eli Olds founded Oldsmobile in 1897, sold the company to Samuel L. Smith in 1899 but stayed on as Vice-President and General Manager until the two men began to butt heads frequently. Olds left his namesake company in 1904 to start REO Motor Car Company.

In the first model year after GM’s acquisition (1909), Oldsmobile finished 7th in sales among American makes. Buick finished second and Cadillac, which GM acquired in 1909, finished 5th. Reo finished 6th. Unlike later when Ford completely dominated the US market with the Model T, it had less than a 10 percent share. I hope the photo below shows an actual 1909 Oldsmobile, but my knowledge of brass era cars is quite limited:

 

See the source image

 

In its long history Oldsmobile had quite a record as an innovator with its two most significant being the first make to offer a fully automatic transmission in the Hydra-Matic and, along with Cadillac, the first to offer a modern, overhead-valve and oversquare V-8 engine. I think the fact that these engines had a bore greater than stroke (that’s what oversquare means) is not mentioned enough in automotive histories. That design allows for higher RPM than the old-fashioned engines whose stroke always exceeded their bore.

For the nth time, I will offer lamentation over the demise of makes like Oldsmobile.

 

#VeteransDay

#KevinTowers

#Oldsmobile

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25 Should Be The New 18

From this article comes this conclusion that is consistent with most published research:

 

“Under most laws, young people are recognized as adults at age 18. But emerging science about brain development suggests that most people don’t reach full maturity until the age 25.”

 

I don’t know why the age of 18 has been considered the age of majority. One could guess that, at least in this country, since that’s the age people graduate from high school and since until the 1950s most people didn’t attend college, then people would be considered adults as they entered the working world. However, the only constant in the world is change. Now, two-thirds of high school graduates are in college the academic year after they graduate. More and more research reveals that the human brain does not reach its “adult” ability to assess risk and reward until about the age of 25. My opinion, based on the prevailing research, is that the minimum legal age of purchase and consumption for substances like alcohol and marijuana should be 25.

What does this research mean for driving privileges, for the minimum voting age, for the age of being to able to enlist in the armed forces? Would this mean that the military draft would have to be reinstated, for example? Consider that the age group with the highest rate of fatal crashes per 100,000 drivers is the group aged 20-24. The rate for those aged 25-29, while high, is almost 20% lower than the rate for those aged 20-24. Those who are blinded by ideology are unable and/or unwilling to understand the world is more complex and nuanced than their beliefs. “There are more things in heaven and earth…than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” That Shakespeare could write some truths.

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On this day in 1908 General Motors purchased Olds Motor Works, better known as Oldsmobile. It retained its original name until 1942 when it was officially renamed the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors. Oldsmobile was the best-selling make in the US every year from 1903 to 1905, inclusive, selling about 16,000 cars in those three years.

As I have written before, Oldsmobile has/had a long history as an innovator. It introduced “Knee-Action” independent front suspension in 1934, the legendary and revolutionary Hydra-Matic automatic transmission for model year 1940, along with Cadillac the first modern overhead-valve engine in 1949, the first production turbocharged V-8 in 1962 and the first US front-wheel drive vehicle in almost 30 years for model year 1966. Oldsmobile is the only American company that produced automobiles in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

For me, of course, much of my interest in Oldsmobile stems from the fact that it is, sadly, a defunct American make.

 

 

Note the Oldsmobile Service sign at the lower left. As for my most desirable Olds car with price not a factor, this might be it:

 

See the source image

 

From Barrett-Jackson a picture of a 1957 Oldsmobile 98 hardtop coupe with a wonderful two-tone paint job. I don’t know the hammer price for this car. On Hemmings the list prices of ’57 Olds 98 coupes are all over the place from $34,000 to $85,000. However, even at the lower price, barring an unforeseen financial windfall, this car is out of my price range as a Z06 companion. I have dreams, but I live in the real world.

 

On an unrelated topic, it is highly likely that before the end of this year I will delete my Twitter account. The only reason I created a Twitter presence was to drive traffic to my blog, but Twitter has been virtually useless for that purpose. After I delete the account, most of the hashtags at the bottom of each post will disappear.

 

#25ShouldBeTheNew18

#Shakespeare

#Oldsmobile

#1957Oldsmobile98

#ByeByeTwitter?

#somanycarsjustonelife

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Throwback Thursday

First, another kind of throwback:

This less than well-composed photo (sorry, photobyjohnbo) shows the bottom half of the nameplate that was on the wall outside of my office in my last full-time baseball job. July 31 will mark the 20th anniversary of my last day as a full-time baseball employee. Because I had 10+ years of service as a full-time, non-uniform baseball operations employee I could start receiving my baseball pension at age 55. (One is vested in that pension at five years of service.) Because I wanted MLB to pay me as many times as possible (I will always be bitter about my divorce from baseball even though I don’t follow it, anymore) I only waited four months after my 55th birthday to start collecting my pension. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s better than nothing and it’s an old-fashioned defined benefit plan, which means I contributed zero to it. The real reason I waited four months was not to increase the nominal amount paid to me, but to collect my first payment on August 1, as close to July 31 as possible.

My baseball career didn’t end when I resigned as Director of Baseball Operations, though. Subsequently, I had a successful baseball operations/player personnel consulting business for more than ten years until “baseball” decided I was obsolete. I vehemently disagree with that categorization, but perception is reality even if it isn’t. During my run as a consultant, 11 of my clients made the playoffs and two of them appeared in the World Series. How could I have 11 clients make the playoffs in ten years? I had as many as four clients at the same time. The only restriction was I could not work for more than one team in a division.

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OK, this is what you’re expecting on Throwback Thursday:

https://www.groovecar.com/media/images/articles/2014/10/classic-classics/1950-oldsmobile-88-coupe-convertible-v-8/1950-oldsmobile-88-coupe-convertible-v-8-1.jpg

From groovecar.com (what a great name for a website) a picture of a 1950 Oldsmobile 88 convertible, of which about 9,000 were sold. In 1949, Olds and Cadillac introduced the first modern, overhead-valve V-8 engine. In calendar year 1939 but as a 1940 model year car, Olds introduced the revolutionary Hydra-Matic automatic transmission that it developed in conjunction with Cadillac. Of course, Oldsmobile is now long gone. It was the only US company that manufactured automobiles in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

As I have written (many times) before I have developed an affinity for cars other than muscle cars and European exotics. Many American cars from 1950-ish through the early 1960s appeal to me a great deal. Although it is a virtual certainty that I will buy a 2016 Z06 Corvette later this year, I would also love to own a car of this vintage.

What say you? Speak up!

 

#tbt

#somanycarsjustonelife

#disaffectedmusings

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