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March 9, 1901 – Olds Motor Vehicle Co. prototypes destroyed in fire

olds motor works prototype

Ransom E. Olds founded the Olds Motor Vehicle Co. in 1897 and soon started rolling out prototypes. By 1901, he had many as six horseless carriage prototypes stored inside the Olds factory in Detroit, Michigan. Plans to put multiple models into production went up in smoke when fire broke out at the plant on this day in 1901. The flames destroyed the facility and all but one of the prototypes, a Curved Dash rescued by fleeing workers.

olds motor vehicle factory fire
Above: The Olds Motor Vehicle Co on fire in 1901
Top – An Olds prototype destroyed by the fire

Inside a surviving building reserved for corporate affairs, workers installed a production line. Curved Dash models soon began rolling down it. The automaker produced 425 of them by the end of 1901, making Olds the first company to mass produce a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. Even as the company relocated to Lansing, the Curved Dash remained a staple of Old’s lineup through 1907. The following year, Oldsmobile, as it was known by then, would be sold to General Motors.


curved dash olds
A curved dash Oldsmobile. By Brian Corey

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