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Oldsmobile - a symbol of high technology
November 11, 2019

Oldsmobile - a symbol of high technology

The legendary car brand, which lasted 107 years, was the oldest in the United States. Despite the fact that 2004 was the last in its history, the interest in this brand doesn’t end. Motorists around the world with pleasure and reverence remember 35.2 million cars of this brand. Let us also do justice to good old Oldsmobile, highlighting in this article the main milestones of the development of the most popular in the twentieth century automobile company.

Ransom Eli Olds and his creation

Future urban planner, inventor, entrepreneur, Ransom Eli Olds, was born in 1864. It happened in Geneva, not in Switzerland, but in the US state of Ohio. His father was the owner of a mechanical workshop, which in those days were abundant in America. Of course, the boy from an early age grew up surrounded by a variety of mechanical devices that couldn’t but created his relevant interest. Already at the age of 13, ransom built a road carriage with three wheels and a steam engine. Tests of this device were very successful, however, during the next four years, the young man refined hard the novelty, trying to achieve perfection. Scientific American, a popular American magazine, appreciated the efforts of the young man by printing a positive review of the steam car he created. However, steam engines gradually faded out, and a new, revolutionary solution to the “motor issue” was required. And it came in the form of a single-cylinder gasoline engine with a capacity of five horsepower.

It was already 1897 when Ransom rolled out from his workshop a four-seater carriage, which got rolling and drove with a gasoline engine. The audience surrounding Olds was delighted and showed an unquestionable interest in the self-moving chariot. Therefore, on August 21 of the same year, Ransom Eli Olds launched a company for the production of cars and called it Olds Motor Vehicle Company. Unfortunately, produced cars were poorly bought, they managed to sell only six copies. Bankruptcy loomed on the horizon. At that time, the 34-year-old head of the company wasn’t upset at all, but simply found a new, financially wealthy companion. It was Samuel Smith, who in May 1899 transformed the company into Olds Motor Works. From Lansing, the production moved to Detroit, where the production facilities of the new automobile plant were just put into operation. The company began to produce cars under the “Oldsmobile” brand, and its head – to study the automotive market and its preferences.

In the early twentieth century, the state of fire safety at work was controlled not too carefully, which led, in early 1901, to a large fire at the plant of Olds Motor Works. Almost all the car plant burned down completely – even the drawings of the new model. But by some miracle, they managed to roll out a ready prototype of created car out of the fire. That saved the situation. The plant was restored, and it began to produce an inexpensive single-cylinder model for two people, designed for a maximum speed of only 30 km/h. The characteristic shape of the car’s front gave it the name Curved Dash. Gradually, this model had been improved, engine capacity increased, and, in five years, five thousand of these cars rolled out on the roads of America. They cost only 650 dollars for buyers, which was available even to poor American citizens. As a result, this Oldsmobile model was considered (by right!) the first mass car in the history of the United States.

Alas, Ransom didn’t find a common ground with his companion. Smith preferred to produce expensive cars for respectable people. In order not to waste time on clarifying the relationship instead of working, in 1904, Olds left the company, which retained the right to his name in the name of products.

In general, the fate of the Oldsmobile brand was successful. In 1908, it, along with Buick, became the basis for the created General Motors, in which the brand lasted until  April 29, 2004. The last Oldsmobile was the Alero GLS model in the sedan body, which was signed by all employees of the company who took part in its assembly. It turns out that Oldsmobile cars were produced over three centuries – 19th, 20th and 21st.

“Free floating” of Ransom Olds

The founder of Oldsmobile didn’t reflect for a long time about the commercial failure with Olds Motor Works. He just decided to go back to Lansing – the city where he was doing so well. A new company was founded there – the REO Motor Car Company. REO letters in the name were the initials of Olds. October 1904 was the month of the first REO cars’ appearance. They were enthusiastically received by the American car market, when, in January of the following year, Olds brought them to the motor show in New York. The production expanded and developed. The first conveyed assembly of a car was entered not by Ford, but Olds! Elements of the assembly line allowed to produce two-cylinder engines, and then two-stroke car engines. Business grew by leaps and bounds, although Olds just did not chase the mass. It was more important for him, as a designer, to refine his creations: Ransom carefully and meticulously brought every part of a car to perfection. Gradually, his company began to produce lawn mowers, and combine harvesters, and trucks, so popular with American farmers.

But it so happened that Olds’s interests moved into the sphere of urban planning. He set out to build a perfect city. Fortunately, the income from the sale of the company’s products was enough to implement even the most crazy ideas. Olds bought 35 thousand acres of land on the shore of one bay and began to realize his dream – to build a city according to his architectural concept of perfection. It ended literally overnight – the hurricane in 1921 destroyed R. E. Olds-on-the-Bay (Ransom called the new town that) to the ground. Interest in urban planning faded, as, indeed, shortly before that, in the automotive industry. But the REO brand nevertheless existed, cars were sold. The most famous car of this brand in 1927 was the Flying Cloud model, 29 thousand copies of which were released. In the early 1930s, the firm REO was one of the first in the United States to begin to offer customers cars with semi-automatic two-speed transmission, in early 1936, also quad automatic ones first appeared on its models. Unfortunately, the production of passenger cars had to stop in the same year – the consequences of the Great Depression and the global economic crisis. However, both trucks and buses continued to be produced. Their production outlived their founder by as much as 17 years. Old’s life ended in 1950, and the last REO car rolled off the assembly line in 1967.

Evolution of Oldsmobile’s logo 

The oldest automobile firm in the United States is positioned as “The rocketnodivision” here. Why “rocket”? After all, Oldsmobile don’t produce any rockets (no combat, no space). But there is a rocket on its logo. And since the latter was and still remains a symbol of high technology, the company has developed a certain image.

For its long history, the firm changed the emblem several times, thus the logo was simplified, became more and more stylized and laconic.

Already without Olds, in 1910, cars with a huge stroke of Oldsmobile on a grille began to be produced. In 1929, there was a birth of a new emblem, the “winged spur”. It was more like a company’s coat of arms than a brand symbol. Each element had a well-defined interpretation. So, the spur with wings symbolized horsepower, the acorns were to show Oldsmobile that became the seed from which the whole modern automotive industry has grown. The lamp of knowledge, the micrometer, and the triangle indicated research, precision, and accuracy, respectively. This lasted until the late 1940s.

In 1950, the spur-logo was replaced by a rocket aspiring upwards. Judging by the fact that the cars of that time had a new futuristic design of rocket-style bodies, the new symbol as well as possible fit into the new layout. The logo of that time was a ring in the form of a stylized crossed-out globe with the continents of North and South America depicted. Then a huge “mouth” of the grille pushed the emblem onto the hood, where a shiny rocket figure flaunted nearby.

With the release of the sports car Toronado, the emblem received a new vertical layout. Gradually, the sharp edges of the symbol began to be reflected in the product lines.

The beginning of the 1970s brought cars a breakup with his former “sports” appearance, and they got an angularity instead. The popularity of the sports style fell uncontrollably, “muscular” forms gave way to the sharpest lines – a monumental “neo-classicism” with its vignettes and hood decorations was on approach.

If the rocket was a symbol of the brand Oldsmobile in the 1930s and 1960s, ceremonial coats of arms in a lush pseudo knightly style on cars were not now a wonder. A brand arrow of a stylized image of a rocket taking off, in 1982, became the official factory mark of the Oldsmobile Division. That was until 1997, when America celebrated the centenary of the brand. In honor of such an event, the logo itself was renewed. It took the form of an oval with a zigzag, vaguely reminiscent of the capital letter “A”.

The new logo was made in the style of modern emblems of Japanese automakers, it was simple and easy to remember. According to the authors, the logo was to reflect a significant change in the strategy of the company, and they quite succeeded. The break of the stylized letter through the oval frame in which it is enclosed symbolizes the break with the past and the transition of Oldsmobile to the production of new models capable of resisting the “Japanese” and “Europeans”. There was also a connection with the old emblem – in the form of a rather abstract, but easily guessed hint at the same rocket.

However, the popularity of the brand finally fell, and in 2004 the management of General Motors announced the disappearance of the Oldsmobile brand.


Despite such an end, cars of this brand still can be found on the roads of the world. And you can’t drive them and others without a driver’s license (better an international one). You still don’t have it? We invite you to quickly and easily process an international driver’s license on our website. It’s simple, requires a minimum of effort, and the result will please you!

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