Full Throttle Thursday

1901 Olds Runabout.jpg

Let's talk about power!  One of the most exhilarating things about driving is when you press your foot down on the gas pedal and feel the full force of the engine revving, ready for you to put the car in gear for it to shoot out of the driveway like a bullet and land on your neighborhood street at a mind blowing 25 miles per hour!

The car we honor today is the 1901 Oldsmobile Curved-Dash Runabout - a car that revolutionized car manufacture because it was the first effective use of mass production in the automotive industry, as inspired by the great car man himself - Ransom E. Olds. Of course, the idea of driving 25 miles per hour in a 1901 Runabout would have been about as conceivable as the idea of being able to paying cash for a brand new car, which would have run just about $650!  I mean, really. Who do you think we are, Mr. Moneypants?  The Runabout had a five gallon tank for gas, exactly one cylinder and one speed, and could travel a maximum of twenty miles per hour, which means it was likely pushing the limits to go that fast.  Just saying.   

"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.  

"Can't Stop Loving You" Part 1

QUESTION:  What did the "E" in Ransom E. Olds stand for?
A)  Eli
B)  Ellicott
C)  Eric
D)  Emerson

Happy Monday, and welcome back to the American Treasure Tour blog.  Our blog entries leading up to the Wurlitzer 165 from Griffith Park was such a huge hit a few weeks ago that we have decided to provide you with another sprawling adventure.  It all began on June 3rd in the year 1864.  A horrible fight was occurring near the capital city of the Confederacy.  In fact, Cold Harbor was only fifteen miles from Richmond, but it could have been five hundred for the progress made by the Union soldiers under Sheridan. Meanwhile, a baby boy was born in Geneva, Ohio to a blacksmith and ironworks manager named Pliny and Sarah Olds.  They would name him Ransom. Young Ranny moved with the family to Lansing, Michigan, where he joined his father and older brother Wallace at P.F. Olds & Sons, a company that produced and repaired steam engines. He was only a teenager when he became a part of the management, quitting high school to be able to engage in business affairs. Ranny even designed his own steam engine, one that incorporated a gas burner, which proved substantially more efficient than the then-popular coal or wood burners in use. Within five years, he turned the family business into a strong company. 

By the time he was twenty-three, Rancy (no longer Ranny) attached an engine to a carriage and he embraced his life's calling. He was using gas-powered engines by 1896, and formed the Olds Motor Vehicle Company the next year, with financier Samuel Smith as its president and owner. Olds would be vice president and primary automotive designer. We would like to say he lived happily ever after, but it didn't quite work out that way.  Tune in tomorrow to find out what became of the company Ranny built on the money of Sam Smith....

ANSWER:  A)  Eli

Michelle Pfeiffer - April 29, 2014

Welcome to a beautiful April day!  Why, you may ask, is it beautiful?  It's not because of the weather outside, and it's certainly not because the wonderful snow of this recent winter is now only a memory.  No, it's because today we celebrate a very special member of the exclusive "Faces of the Tour" series - Michelle Pfeiffer.  Not only is it her day of honor on the American Treasure Tour blog today, but it's also her birthday!  So later, when we get to the birthday section and we celebrate (spoiler alert) Duke Ellington and Richard Kline, you can also rest happy knowing that Michelle Pfeiffer is turning 56 as you read this.

It is hard to believe that the California native and daughter of a heating and air-conditioner contractor, Michelle Pfeiffer, is already in her fifties.  Maybe because she's still looking good and, although she may not be quite as active as she was in the 80s and 90s, she's still out there making movies.  She started out as a beauty queen, first as Miss Orange County, then as a runner up for Miss California.  Narrowly losing the audition to become one of Charlie's Angels to Shelley Hack, Pfeiffer worked her way through the early eighties in bit parts, until she received some positive feedback for her role in the failed 1982 sequel Grease 2.  It surprisingly helped her career when Brian de Palma cast her in his cinematic bloodbath Scarface the next year. Her big break came with 1987's The Witches of Eastwick, Dangerous Liaisons the next year, and The Fabulous Baker Boys in 1989.  Pfeiffer took a hiatus from acting at the beginning of the new millennium and has since returned to the big screen, albeit slowly.  We're glad you're back!


In what Tim Burton film does Michelle Pfeiffer play a woman related to a vampire?

a)  Sleepy Hollow

b)  Edward Scissorhands

c)  Dark Shadows

d)  The Age of Innocence

e)  Amazon Women on the Moon


Our history today isn't really that old, although there may be some who do not recall the trial of four Los Angeles police officers who were caught on tape beating up a man with a criminal record named Rodney King.  King was on parole for a robbery he had committed and served time for on March 3, 1991, when cops tried to pull him over for speeding.  He had been drinking and was afraid of getting caught violating his probation, so King led them on a chase that resulted in the harsh treatment that was caught on video.  When the video was released to the news media it went viral.  The complete acquittal of the cops on April 29, 1992, which triggered the Los Angeles Riots.  Racial tensions and a sense of injustice led to the deaths of 53 people and 2,383 people injured, and over one billion dollars' worth of damage to the city, mostly in the poor neighborhoods where the rioters lived.  Once the federal government was able to re-instate peace, the officers went back on trial and received sentences and King successfully sued the city of Los Angeles for millions of dollars.  Ultimately, the money did not help King, and he died at the age of 47 in 2012 of alcohol-related causes.

A man named Ransom E. Olds established his own company in Lansing, Michigan in August of 1897.  The Olds Motor Vehicle Company used new technology to manufacture automobiles called Oldsmobiles.  His assembly line production inspired many imitators, including Henry Ford. Eleven years later, Oldsmobile became part of General Motors, and it stayed there until the name was discontinued on this day in 2004.  When Oldsmobile died, it was one of the longest-produced cars in automotive history. 


1899 was a great year for American music because that was the year Edward Kennedy Ellington was born in Washington, DC.  Daisy, his mother, compelled him as a young man to take piano lessons and learn good posture, manners and dress.  The stylish boy was affectionately nicknamed "Duke" by his friends because of his presentation as a person of noble birth.  As it was, his formal education proved of much less value than did his skills as an artist, first as a painter of signs (often advertising banquets or events), then as a musician (he got himself gigs performing at the events for which he painted signs).  Ellington went on to become one of the most influential musicians of his - or any - era, with his big band arrangements, his collaborations with other musicians, and his contribution to making jazz a legitimate art form.  His death in 1974 created a hole in the musical culture of the United States that has yet to be filled.

Every now and again an actor is born who may not have great name recognition, but who everyone knows.  One such person is Richard Kline.  It is a little tough to grasp that the man who played the beloved and loathed Larry Dallas is turning seventy today, but those of us who grew up with the zany antics of Three's Company in all its eight season glory can only think of Larry and the man who made him tick with a smile.  Happy birthday, Richard!  May you have many more!

QUOTE:  Can we all get along? - Rodney King

Answer:  c)  Dark Shadows