Lot 340

1902 Oldsmobile Model R 'Curved-Dash' Runabout

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$38,500 USD | Sold

United States | Hershey, Pennsylvania

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Chassis No.
6640
Engine No.
6640
Documents
US Title
  • Benefits from a mechanical restoration by Curved-Dash Oldsmobile authority George C. Green
  • A foundational and truly significant piece of automotive history
  • Offered from a half-century of dedicated enthusiast ownership
  • A highly useable and enjoyable early motorcar benefitting from widespread club support
  • Eligible for countless tours worldwide, including the prestigious London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

The fast-moving nature of the early automobile industry leaves plenty of room for debate as to which manufacturer (or backyard tinkerer) achieved which milestone first. Yet historians generally agree that the Oldsmobile Model R, which entered 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 least expensive car on the market at $650, nor was it the costliest; it found success by offering buyers a solid value for the money. It is estimated that over 6,800 Model Rs were built between 1901 and 1903, and additional variants followed through 1907.

The “Curved-Dash Olds” paired a water-cooled one-cylinder horizontally mounted 95-cubic-inch engine and two-speed (plus reverse) transmission. While this engine only produced approximately five horsepower, this was mitigated by a curb weight of just 850 pounds. A gravity-feed carburetor was added for 1902, as was a brake contained within the differential. Solid axles were found both front and rear, with the rear wheels powered by chain drive. Perched atop leaf springs was a simple, yet instantly recognizable, body; its toboggan-like dashboard gave the model its enduring nickname. Steering was accomplished via tiller, ensuring that the driving experience offered by this Oldsmobile is unique when compared to vehicles built even a decade later.

Pioneering enthusiasts seemed to recognize the Model R as something special, and consequently, a healthy number have survived to the present day. This 1902 Model R Runabout is a cherished example that has been in present ownership since the early 1970s. It sports an older cosmetic restoration by the owner, with an engine rebuild conducted by the late George C. Green. During his lifetime—he lived to be nearly 90—Green was recognized as the dean of the Curved-Dash cars, as he repaired and restored many of the genre. A Curved-Dash Olds restored by George Green was the gold standard for the marque, and it remains so today, despite the fact that he died nearly five decades ago. After Green’s passing, mechanical maintenance duty was picked up by the capable Donald Mates.

In the half-century of present ownership, the car has participated in numerous one- and two-cylinder tours, as well as club activities, and today exhibits a wonderful patina that speaks to its many years of faithful and enjoyable service. This 1902 Model R will open the door to innumerable events worldwide—including the celebrated London to Brighton Veteran Car Run—all while providing its next owner a very special experience from behind the tiller. Accompanied by a spare cylinder jug and muffler, it is rare to find a genuine and significant piece of automotive history that is so accessible, so useable…and so much fun!