The King of the Brass Era: The 1908 Oldsmobile Limited Prototype

The most prestigious model ever to wear the Oldsmobile name, the sole surviving Oldsmobile Limited prototype is being offered at RM Auctions’ upcoming Hershey collector car auction.

Andrew Miterko

In 1908, Oldsmobile set their sights on creating a world-class luxury car to challenge America’s most prestigious manufacturers of the era: Packard, Peerless, and Pierce-Arrow. Oldsmobile models had been growing steadily in the Brass Era since 1899, when Olds Motor Vehicle and Olds Gasoline Engine Works of Lansing merged to form the marque. Each model grew in stature and power, with each design bolder than the last. The Limited was soon to become the crowning achievement of their efforts as the largest and most opulent model to ever wear the Oldsmobile name. This example is one of only thirteen Limiteds to remain in existence today and is the sole surviving example of the two 1908 prototypes.

No other Brass Era car is as large or impressive as the Limited, and the few examples remaining are among the most significant artifacts of early American motoring.

Click ahead to explore the details of the Oldsmobile Limited prototype, offered at RM Auctions’ Hershey collector car auction held 10–11 October 2019.

1908 Oldsmobile Limited Prototype

Estimate $550,000 - $750,000

Limited not only in name:

The Limited’s name was selected because of the amount of time required to produce each model, resulting in very limited quantities and a price tag ranging from $4,600–$5,800. Oldsmobile’s records indicate that, in its short three-year production span, a total of 325 were completed for 1910, 196 in 1911, and only 117 in 1912. Only two prototypes were completed, based on the 1908 Model Z—Oldsmobile’s flagship touring model at the time. Today only thirteen examples remain in existence: a pair of 1910s, ten 1911s, and a single 1912 model, as well as the early prototype offered here.

The largest Oldsmobile ever produced:

The Limited’s wheels measure 42 inches, among the largest ever to be fitted to a production automobile. Its tremendous wheels and tires were fitted to the Model Z’s 130-inch-wheelbase chassis with longitudinal leaf springs and live front and rear axles, giving the Limited the imposing stature that it would become famous for, literally towering above the rest.

Effortless performance:

Beneath the hood is the 453-cubic-inch T-head six-cylinder inline engine capable of producing 60 horsepower, allowing the Limited to easily reach speeds of 70 mph. Power is driven through a three-speed manual gearbox and is brought to a halt by an expanding rear-wheel hand brake and external contracting on the rear wheels.

Formerly of the legendary Barney Pollard Collection:

Barney Pollard was among the most famous names in early automobile collecting. Reportedly, this example was sold “out the back door” of General Motors to Mr. Pollard through a well-connected friend. In the late 1930s, he began searching and acquiring significant automobiles to prevent them from being destroyed by the government to be used as materials for the war-time efforts. During this time, he amassed approximately 1,200 cars in several warehouses around Detroit, disassembling many vehicles to stack them vertically or, in some instances, to hang them from the ceiling by their front bumpers in order to maximize the use of space. 

Award-winning restoration:

The Limited was purchased in unrestored condition from a friend of the Pollard family by Ron Carey and Bob Sullivan, who commissioned an extensive restoration at the hands of skilled craftsman Allan Schmidt’s Horseless Carriage Restorations. The Limited had been fitted with a later touring-car body during its time in the Pollard collection and was unfortunately the victim of one of Southern California’s wildfires. The current body was crafted from the best features of other large Oldsmobiles of the era, including the externally braced top with isinglass windscreen and “flying”-style fenders. Following its restoration, it received the Children’s Hospital Award for its outstanding level of restoration at the Kirkland Concours d’Elegance in 2010.

Original mechanical components:

Amazingly, the Limited retained all its original mechanical components. The engine, transmission, suspension, steering, and brakes, as well as the correct magneto and carburetor that were fitted, are all believed to be original to the vehicle.

Ideal for both concours and Brass touring events:

The Oldsmobile Limited was built with the open road in mind—large, fast, and well equipped for long journeys. Their unparalleled quality and craftsmanship have allowed the surviving examples to be reliable enough to effortlessly conquer 1,000-mile tours. This example, courtesy of its magnificent restoration, will be a fine candidate for both the show field and for any Brass Era touring event.