Lot 209

London 2023

1902 Oldsmobile Model R 'Curved-Dash' Runabout


Sold After Auction

United Kingdom | London, United Kingdom



Engine No.
  • Considered to be the first mass-produced automobile
  • Powered by a water-cooled, single-cylinder engine rated at 5 horsepower
  • Previously displayed in The REO Auto Museum, Salina, Kansas; imported into the UK in August 2020
  • Eligible for the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, the Veteran Car Club Creepy Crawley, and similar events
  • Accompanied by a Veteran Car Company Vehicle Identification and Dating Certificate, and dating report

The fast-moving nature of the early automobile industry leaves plenty of room for debate as to which manufacturer achieved which milestone first. Yet historians generally agree that the Oldsmobile Model R, entering full production in 1901, was the first motor vehicle to be successfully mass-produced on an assembly line using interchangeable parts. It was not the cheapest car on the market at $650 but the Oldsmobile found success thanks to the value for money it offered and an outstanding reputation for reliability and durability. It is estimated that over 6,800 Model Rs were built between 1901 and 1903, and additional variants followed until 1907.

The ‘Curved-Dash’ model paired a water-cooled one-cylinder horizontally mounted 95-cubic-inch (approx. 1,550 cc) engine and two-speed transmission, also fitted with a reverse gear. While this engine only produced around 5 horsepower, this was mitigated by a curb weight of just 385 kilograms. A gravity-feed carburettor was added in 1902, as was a brake contained within the differential. Solid axles were found on both front and rear, with the rear wheels powered by chain drive and steering accomplished by tiller. Perched atop leaf springs was a simple, yet instantly recognisable body; its toboggan-like curved dashboard gave the model its enduring nickname.

This 1902 Model R ‘Curved-Dash’ Runabout was dated by the Veteran Car Company in 2021 and a Vehicle Identification and Dating Certificate was issued on 2nd December 2021. It is accompanied by a full dating report of 37 pages, which is available to view on file. The car is UK registered and wears the registration number “BS 8738”.

Refreshingly simple in its construction and design, this fascinating Oldsmobile represents an intriguing era of American automotive manufacturing. The Runabout could be an ideal contender for entry into the many rallies and events for which it is eligible, not least the world-famous London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.