Ransom Olds

"Follow My Heart" Part 3

QUESTION:  Which of the following vehicles was not a model produced by the Reo Motor Car Company?
A)  Flying Cloud
B)  Royal
C)  Victoria Eight
D)  Model M Touring

We've been talking about Ransom E Olds and the second automotive company he created - the Reo Motor Car Company.  Beginning in 1905, Ranse began producing cars in direct competition with the previous company he established, the Olds Motor Vehicle Company. While never surpassing the initial popularity of his Curved-Dash Runabout, Olds definitely did good with Reo. In 1907, Reo was considered one of the four most successful automobile manufacturers in the country.  Unfortunately, he was unable to keep up with the successes of the emerging General Motors and Ford Companies, both of which did extraordinarily well. By 1910, Reo got into the truck production business.  Ranse proved he could re-invent himself in the automotive industry, but had clashes with his investors again. Rather than fight, he appointed Richard Scott as general manager and focused on his real estate and other ventures. 

Meanwhile, Reo continued to innovate.  1915, the same year Olds bowed out of command of the company, Reo introduced the Speed Wagon.  It became a well-regarded truck, adaptable for numerous uses, it was a dump truck, fire truck, tow truck, hearse, ambulance, and pretty much whatever its purchaser wanted it to be.  The "Gold Crown" engine was admired for its reliability and power. Speed Wagons were produced until the early '50's.  While the trucks continue to be admired by afficionados, the words " Reo Speed Wagon" have become better known by a band that took them on.  We are, of course, referring to the 1970's and 1980's rock band Reo Speedwagon.

ANSWER:  B)  Royal.  Okay, this was a little tricky.  The actual name was Royale.

"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

Woods Mobilette - June 3, 2014

Yesterday, we talked a little bit about the cycle car phenomenon of the early-19th century.  They swept the industrialized world as a practical alternative to the larger and more expensive automobiles, and the smaller, two-wheeled motorcycle, and remained popular in the States until the 1920's, when Ford and Chevrolet began a pricing war that ultimately undercut the fuel-efficient two seaters.  The first American producer of the cycle car was a man named Francis Woods.  

Woods produced his cycle car in the town of Harvey, Illinois.  Regarded as the first American cycle car, the Mobilette was manufactured between 1913 and 1917.  Over 230 different cycle car companies existed in the United States during the peak of the craze, with Woods' being one of the best-known.  The Mobilette on display at the Treasure Tour is most likely a Model 4 - powered by a twelve horsepower water-cooled engine, with staggered seating for its two passengers.  These were practical cars.  Maybe it's time for Mobilettes to come back into fashion.

QUESTION:  The American Treasure Tour is located in a former B.F. Goodrich Tire Factory in Oaks, Pennsylvania.  What is the size, by square foot, of the building?

a)  100,000

b)  600,000

c)  1,200,000

d)  1,800,000

Answer Below


Time can pass quickly!  It has been thirty-eight years since "Bohemian Rhapsody" went gold. The British rock band Queen included the highly unusual song that incorporated elements of the ballad, guitar solo, opera and hard rock for their 1975 album A Night at the Opera.  It received very mixed reviews upon its release, but there can be no doubt it has become a favorite since then.

Today marks another very important anniversary in entertainment history, as the 1988 Penny Marshall film Big was released to great critical praise.  The experts loved it, the fans loved it, and the already popular Tom Hanks saw his star rise after playing Josh Banks, a 12-year old boy transformed into a 30-year old adult.  Hanks was still five years from his first Oscar (for the film Philadelphia), but it was clear he was doing good.


The town of Geneva, Ohio saw the birth of Ransom Eli Olds today in 1864.  Olds would grow up to become one of the most powerful men in automobiles.  At thirty, he claims to have made his first car powered by steam, followed two years later by one using gasoline.  He is accredited with developing the modern assembly line later streamlined by Henry Ford, and is the namesake for the Oldsmobile and the REO Speed Wagon.

Another June 3rd birthday boy is one of the most well-known of the Vanderbilts active today:  the CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.  He has won many prestigious awards for his interpretations of contemporary news, and has been known to go near the front lines to get his story.

QUOTE: If you feel like an outsider, you tend to observe things a lot more. - Anderson Cooper

Answer:  c)  1,200,000.  The space within the building for the tour itself is 100,000 square feet.