Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Samsung Transportation Museum Part Fourteen: Early 1900s

1901 Oldsmobile Curved Dash Runabout
1901 Oldsmobile Curved Dash Runabout by Kate Tompkins

Wikipedia says the curved dash Oldsmobile, built from 1901 to 1907, was one of the first cars to be built on an assembly line. Nearly 200,000 were produced over that period, but only 425 of those were made in 1901, like this model. HowStuffWorks offers a more detailed history. While Ransom Olds had been building cars for a while, this Oldsmobile was the first one to actually go into production. The company got bought out by General Motors in 1908, who continued to make Oldsmobiles until 2004. The body’s not too far removed from a horse-drawn carriage, with the curving bit at the front being the dash. It was there to protect the driver from mud and other debris thrown up by the wheels, with nary an instrument cluster to be seen.

1911 Sears High Wheeler
1911 Sears High Wheeler by Kate Tompkins

Yes, that Sears. These used to be sold through the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogue and delivered by train. Some assembly required? According to the Bob & Sallie Connelly auction site, Sears offered these vehicles built by the Lincoln Motor Car Works (no, not that Lincoln) from 1909 through 1911. At that point, they decided they’d lost too much money and stopped selling them. Like the Olds, the Sears High Wheeler is steered by a tiller.

1925 Austin 7
1925 Austin 7 by Thomas Tompkins

A huge jump forward in appearance from the 1911 High Wheeler to this 1925 Austin. It no longer looks like a carriage, and has a recognizable front end covering the engine. It looks like it has less space, though. I’m not going to trace Austin’s convoluted history (see Wikipedia for details), but the company was founded in 1905, with the first cars being produced in 1906. The Austin 7 first showed up in 1922. It was meant to be cheap—somewhere around $450, and simple to maintain. That was a good call on Austin’s part. Unlike many other companies, they survived the Depression. Judging by the number of images that showed up in my Google search, the 7 is still popular today.

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