1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile
This 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile has belonged to the Cavender Automotive Group since 1946. It was acquired to promote Cavender Oldsmobile, one of the oldest divisions of the Cavender Group before the brand's demise in 2004. After that it was placed in the very fine Central Texas Museum of Automotive History in Rosanky, Texas, before it, too closed down. It is now, as of October 2015, on temporary display at the Texas Transportation Museum.
1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobie at TTM
1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile upon arrival at TTM, October 2015
1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile upon arrival at TTM, October 2015
1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile upon arrival at TTM, October 2015
1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile upon arrival at TTM, October 2015
1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile upon arrival at TTM, October 2015
Dave Nittler at the tiller of the 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile upon arrival to TTM, October 2015
Detail of a 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile at the Texas Transportation Museum in San Antonio
Oldsmobile badge close up on a 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, October 2015
1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile upon arrival to TTM, October 2015
1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile headlights
The Curved Dash Oldsmobile - see specifications on the right hand side column - was introduced in 1901. It was the only prototype to survive an almost disastrous fire at Olds Motor Works in Lansing, Michigan. Ransom Olds had numerous local manufacturers make the parts which his company then assembled. This became an industry standard, especially for start-ups. The Model T was built this way for four years after its introduction in 1908. Due to the Oldsmobile's simple and rugged design, the "horseless carriage" was a big success. It became the first mass produced automobile in history. 425 were built in its first year, and 2,500 in 1902, making it the best selling vehicle to that point by a wide margin. 4,000 were built in 1903 Altogether some 19,000 vehicles would be built in the USA before it was replaced with more modern vehicles after 1907. It was also built under license in other countries, including both Russia and Germany.
1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobie restoration process
Exposing the fla radiator under the floorboards of the 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, December 2015
Exposing the flat radiator under the floorboards of the 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, December 2015
Radiator from the 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, December 2015
Water pump from the 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, December 2015
Radiator water tank from the 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, December 2015
Gas tank from the 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, December 2015
Ford Model T carburetor fitted to the 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, December 2015
6 volt battery from the 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, December 2015
"Buzz box" or spark spark voltage device, from the 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, December 2015
Steve Campa and Daniel Bratcher working to re-install restored and/or rebuilt items on this 1903 Olsmobile, May 2016
Brake pedal arrangement on this 1903 Olsmobile, December 2015
Pedal arrangements on a different 1903 Oldsmobile
Pedal arrangements on a different 1903 Oldsmobile
Pedal arrangements on a different 1903 Oldsmobile
Pedal arrangements on a different 1903 Oldsmobile
In late December 2015 museum members began preliminary work to find out how easy it might be to get this wonderful and historic vehicle to run again. Removing the radiator water and gas tanks was relatively easy. Both were found to hold a significant amount of residual debris from the fluids last used in them. The water pump will need to be rebuilt. The car has been retrofitted with a Ford Model T carburetor, so finding a rebuild kit for it will be child's play. The toughest part of the project was figuring out how to remove the flat radiator located under the floor boards. A whole bunch of other items such as rods that connect the brake and gas pedals had to be removed first, but it was safely extracted.
1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile at Cavender Toyota
Newspaper image of J.M Cavender and Jim Junior in the Cavender Automotive Group's 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile in a Parade some time in the 1960s.
1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile belonging to the Cavender Automotive Group on display at the Central Texas Automobile Museum in Rosanky, TX, around 2007. (This museum is now closed.)
1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile on the showroom floor of Cavender Toyota in San Antonio, October 2015
1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile on the showroom floor of Cavender Toyota with Lonnie Perez in San Antonio, October 2015
1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile on the showroom floor of Cavender Toyota in San Antonio, October 2015
1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile on the showroom floor of Cavender Toyota in San Antonio, October 2015
Cavender Toyota employees helping to move the 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile off the showroom floor, October 2015
The Curved Dash Oldsmobile sold for $650 in 1903, the equivalent of around $16,000 today. The type was upgraded with a slightly more powerful 7 hp engine and a longer wheel base in 1904, but sales began to fall as more modern vehicles emerged. In its early days, the Oldsmobile company ran masterful campaigns to popularize the vehicle. Initially it simply stated that it was a great replacement for horses and mules. It soon became a staple in reliability runs on roads that destroyed its competitors. They were driven increasingly long distances, including in a transcontinental run in 1903, The journey from San Francisco to New York took 60 days. It also did well in a race from New York to Portland, Oregon the following year. One was driven up the steps of the Capitol building in Lansing Michigan, with wooden blocks added to the rear wheels for traction. The vehicle was also celebrated in a very popular music hall song, "In My Merry Oldsmobile" which was a huge sheet music hit before the age of radios.
Historic images of Curved Dash Oldsmobiles in San Antonio
Two Curved Dash Oldsmobiles plus an unidentified automobile crossing Cibolo Creek between San Antonio and New Braunfels on one of the San Antonio Automobile's Club's earliest tours in 1903
San Antonio Oldsmobile dealer Lewis Birdsong on a factory sponsored tour of South Texas.
San Antonio Oldsmobile dealer Lewis Birdsong and traveling companion Welcome Smith on a factory sponsored tour of South Texas. Pictured in Seguin, this Curved Dash Oldsmobile was the first 'horseless carriage to be seen in many communities
The wife of San Antonio Oldsmobile dealer Lewis Birdsong with her sister and mother in a Curved Dash Oldsmobile
Business card of San Antonio Oldsmobile dealers Lewis Birdsong and Frank Crothers, formerly bicycle dealers
Newspaper advert for San Antonio Oldsmobile dealers Lewis Birdsong and Frank Crothers, formerly bicycle dealers
Curved Dash Oldsmobile replica
Curved Dash Oldsmobile replica also put on loan at TTM by the Cavender Group
Curved Dash Oldsmobile replica also put on loan at TTM by the Cavender Group
Curved Dash Oldsmobile replica also put on loan at TTM by the Cavender Group
Curved Dash Oldsmobile replica also put on loan at TTM by the Cavender Group
Curved Dash Oldsmobile replica also put on loan at TTM by the Cavender Group
TTM chairman Gary Bethke with local TV personality Cleto Rodriguez during a live broadcast driving the 1903 Oldsmobile replica, July 2016
A mechanic who worked for the Cavender Automotive Group was so taken with the original Curved Dash Oldsmobile he went home and built a replica in his spare time. It has a couple of improvemsnts over the original, too, such as brakes on all four wheels, but that's what you'd expect from a mechanic who works for such a quality organization! It runs like a champ, too.

 

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Technical Specifications
Year:
1903
Make:
Oldsmobile
Model:
Curved Dash
Body Style:
Two seat runabout
Engine:
1 Cylinder, 5 HP
Fuel:
Gasoline, 5 gallon tank
Transmission:
2 forward plus reverse
Drive:
Rear wheels
Top Speed:
20+ mph
Brakes:
band within transmission
Wheel Base:
60 inches
Wheels:
28 inch diameter
Weight:
700 lbs
Start System:
Hand crank
Features:
Almost none, though after market roofs and side curtains were available
Production:
19,000 in the USA. Overseas production unknown
Original Price:
$650 ($16,000 in today's money)
Current value:
$60,000
Status:
Not in use