Lansing Oldsmobile Early History

Factory Oldsmobile was first mass produced

In 1901 a fire breaks out at the newly built Detroit plant, the sole model survivor being what come to be the Curved-Dash Oldsmobile. (Wallington, 1986) The Lansing plant would continue to go on strong however, producing 400 Curved-Dash Oldsmobiles in 1901 and was the first American car to be produced using the progressive assembly-line system, as well as the first to become a commercial success. Production of the Curved-Dash would increase steadily to 4,000 by 1904, and by 1905 all Oldsmobile production would be moved to the Lansing, MI plant, though R.E. Olds would not be with the company at this time. Oldsmobile would struggle for a couple years after his departure, and in 1908 it was swallowed up by the new General Motors (GM) conglomerate founded by William “billy” Durant. (Wallington, 1986)

Factory workers in old motor factory

Oldsmobile history says that Durrant designed his first Oldsmobile model in 1909 by simply “drove a Buick to the Olds plant, ordered it cut apart legnth wise and crosswise, had the peices laid on the ground a few inches from each other and proudly anounced the Model 20” (Wallington, 1986). as easy as that sounds, of the 6,575 Oldsmobiles sold that year 5,325 were model 20s. Along with high production came high employment as the Olds plant doubled in size with more that 1000 workers. (Wallington, 1986)

In 1916 Oldsmobile and its Lansing plant would have another breaktrough in automotive, ceating the first V-8 engine, and by the 1920s, Oldsmobile’s six- and eight-cylinder models sat solidly in the middle of GM’s lineup–less expensive than Buick or Cadillac, but still comfortably ahead of Chevrolet. Oldsmobile also survived the Great Deppression years and earned a reputation as GM’s “experimental” division, introducing the so-called “safety automatic transmission” in 1938, a precursor to 1940’s “Hydra-Matic,” which was the first successful fully automatic transmission (Strohl, 2014). Click this link to see the first Automatic transmission comercial for Oldsmobile.