Ransom Eli Olds conceived the world's first mass-production car. It was light, simple, affordable, and reliable: 2,100 were sold in 1902 and 5,000 more in 1904..
Two important things held back car sales in their earliest days. One, obviously, was price: these new toys were prohibitively expensive for most. The other was mistrust-people often felt happier traveling by horse, and many were only just getting to grips with the idea of the bicycle. The Olds Motor Works of Detroit, Michigan, however, sought to tackle both these issues.
Founded by Ransom E. Olds, the company came up with a small car in 1901 for just $650-still expensive, but within many people's grasp. Lights, mudguards, and a hood were fitted at extra cost. They called it the Oldsmobile. Such an attractive price was possible because of Olds' novel adoption of a mass-production system.
Making the car from standardized parts in an efficient factory layout meant costs could be lowered dramatically. A key spur to the Oldsmobile's popularity was its resemblance to a two-seater horse-drawn buggy. Its characteristic curved-dash panel at the front provided its nickname.
The rear-mounted, water-cooled, single-cylinder engine was gravity-fed from a brass carburetor, and there was a semi-automatic, two-speed-and-reverse transmission. Steering was by simple tiller, and two huge springs provided the suspension. The Oldsmobile was the first car to gain the true affection of the American public. It rapidly gained an excellent reputation for reliability, and was widely exported, even as far as Moscow in Russia.