"Don't Let Him Go" Part 2

           Frederic L. Smith

           Frederic L. Smith

QUESTION:  Ransom Olds is the only major innovator in the American automotive industry whose experiments in propulsion included three of the following technologies.  Which did he not use?
A)  Gasoline
B)  Pneumatics
C)  Water
D)  Electricity

Yesterday's blog examined the early life of the great automotive entrepreneur Ransom E. Olds. Today, we pick up with the formation of the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in 1897, in which Olds was the creative genius, and Sam Smith was the money man. We had hoped everything would be happiness and rainbows between the two, but that was not to be. They started out brilliantly, though, especially with the development of the Curved-Dash Runabout, which Olds created with an affordable price point - $650 for the two seater with the distinctive front. They were first produced in 1901, after a fire that March devastated their factory.  Olds was able to produce four hundred despite the setback, and they sold out quickly.  In fact, they became so popular they could barely keep up with demand. Olds developed an effective assembly line to build cars - the first of its kind and the inspiration for a later innovator named Henry Ford - and did so well that, by 1904, he annually produced close to five thousand Runabouts.  His cars were insanely popular, he was an internationally famous innovator.  What could possibly go wrong? Well, Sam Smith, Olds' financier, had a son involved in the company named Fred. Fred and Ranse did not quite see eye to eye.  Fred accused Ranse of getting sloppy in production of the Runabouts and, where Ranse wanted to continue producing cars for the common man, Fred saw luxury vehicles as the way to greater riches. So Ranse sold his stock in the company that bore his name and went independent.  

The Reo Motor Car Company began production of their first cars in 1905.  Since Olds was not permitted to use his own name for his new company, he used his initials. Reo would produce affordable cars and light trucks for seventy years.  Olds would retain Ranse's name, becoming Oldsmobile.  Although Oldsmobiles were produced until 2004, they gave up their independence in 1908 when Fred Smith's vision for a luxury car company failed him. That year, Billy Durant bought out Oldsmobile and incorporated it into General Motors.

ANSWER:  B)  Pneumatics.  At least, insofar as we know.