The story of the curved dash Olds, the first mass-produced automobile ever, is one we’ve never taken on here, as the interest in really early automotive history seems to be a bit weak among our readers. So I’m just going to give the 90 second version, but this shot of “Old Scout” fording a river in Wyoming is pretty impressive. It looks like a boat at first glance. Is that why the curved dash is there?
The single cylinder Olds Model R arrived in 1901, very much at the dawn of the production automobile era. The 95 CID (1560cc) single cylinder engine produced 5 hp. The semi-automatic epicyclic (planetary) transmission had two speeds forward and one reverse, like the Ford Model T that arrived some seven years later. It was priced at $580 (about $19k in 2020 dollars), and over 19,000 were built over several years. Seems modest by Model T standards, but it was a remarkable sales success at the time.
And in 1905, two of them (“Old Scout” and “Old Steady”) participated in the first transcontinental auto race, and won, thanks to its simple and rugged design and light weight, which meant it could easily be pulled out of ditches and rivers.
The route was from New York to Portland. After crossing the Missouri River at Council Bluffs, Iowa, “civilization” was left behind. The route followed the Oregon Trail, moving on to Nebraska, Wyoming, then Idaho and ultimately Oregon. Old Scout’s driver Dwight Huss wrote of one day driving in Wyoming, “we drove 18 hours, forded five streams and made a total of 11 miles.”
Conditions were much like those half a century before. The racers had no road maps except for guidebooks written for the pioneers crossing the Oregon and California trails during the mid-1800s.
The trip was expected to take only 30 days but instead took 44 long and grueling days and nights.
Somewhere west of Laramie.
Old Scout got to Portland just in time for the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland on June 21. Old Steady rode in eight days later.
Here’s a much more detailed account of this remarkable achievement.