Even though Oldsmobile is no longer one of the many GM brands due to the government bailout in 2008, there is still a place that pays homage to the 100 year history of the brand. Amazing that a brand that lasted a full century was gone from manufacturing with just a bankruptcy, but sometimes companies have to trim the proverbial fat, in this case the bailout saw the removal of Oldsmobile and Pontiac from the GM lineup among other trimmings as well. To take a look at was part of this long and storied history, a visit to the R. E. Olds Transportation museum in Lansing Michigan give us a reminder of what once was for this GM brand.
1966 Hurst Hairy Olds
This car was one of legend and only built to quiet the skeptics who did not believe in the front –wheel drive system of the Olds Toronado. This awesome car was powered by a 7.0-liter supercharged V8 engine in the front and in the back. That’s right; two engines powered this beast and rocketed the 1966 Oldsmobile 442 body down a drag strip for a quarter mile time that came in at eleven seconds. Unfortunately this was only built for a show and the driving what difficult as the front wheels torque-steered and the rear end stepped out giving the driver a 2,400 horsepower monster that wouldn’t drive in a straight line, but it did so very quickly.
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado Pusher
This car had a special meaning for those who worked in the Oldsmobile plant. This car was there when it was time to get out of the snow and was very useful in the Michigan winters from 1966 until 1972. This car was used to be a 4,500-pound pusher and with its three inch thick rubber covered bumper would not cause damage to any vehicle it pushed. No doubt those who had to be pushed from a snow back got to realize the value of this vehicle very quickly when they were stuck in the snow.
1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser
The Vista Cruiser or something like it can be seen in many of the National Lampoon movies This was one of the classic high performance wagons of the 1970s giving us a wagon that you could fit a large portion of any family inside. Powering this classic beast was a 7.5-liter V8 engine that packed 300 horsepower and 410 lb.-ft. of torque which made this brute a powerful ride to take the whole family along for some great fun.
1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon “FE3-X”
The Cutlass had a bit of a cult following and became a muscle car of the 1980s when the car industry really didn’t have any muscle cars to speak of. This interesting car was meant to be part of the future of the Oldsmobile performance lineup and featured a 5.0-liter V8 that is attached to a five-speed manual transmission built by Hurst. This Salon version of the Cutlass was decked out in full blackout and the one in the museum even has the two-piece Gotti wheels to give it an even more dramatic look. Unfortunately this car did not ever make it to the showrooms of Oldsmobile dealerships.
1937 Oldsmobile Model L37 Club Coupe
This very interesting car was the first time Oldsmobile offered two different models. The eight-cylinder L which is in the museum and the six-cylinder F were different not only in engine but had an eight-inch difference in wheelbase length. The L Club Coupe had two small additional seats in the back that could be folded up to give owners more storage space, which makes it one of the most modernized vehicles of its era.
1908 REO Runabout Model B
In the early days of car making so many felt their ideas were better than others and would branch off and create their own car companies, many of which failed quickly due to a lack of ingenuity or money. Whatever the reason, the founder of Oldsmobile in 1897 was Ransom E Olds who was forced out and who also founded REO in 1904. As a tribute this REO Runabout is in the museum and a fitting tribute to the man who started this brand. The car is powered by an 8-10 horsepower single-cylinder engine and sold for $650 at the time with a top speed of 26 mph.
1903 Curved Dash Olds
This car has made the circuit in Michigan. First this was R. E. Olds’ personal vehicle which he owned for many years and eventually donated to Michigan State University in 1948. Once there it was on display at MSU until the 1990s when it was relegated to the basement of MSU stadium. In 2012 MSU gave the car to the museum to be put on display once more and showing the world what the founder of the now gone brand drove himself in the early days.
1936 REO Flying Cloud Sedan
REO had a great run from 1908 until 1936, but this Flying Cloud sedan reflected the state of the company which had been in the red for six years prior to ending production of their cars in the 1936 model year. This sedan was a basic vehicle that was much smaller than the cars from competing manufacturers at the time. Without the chrome that was found on many other cars and with very few interior features this car was discontinued. REO was then given new life with a public grand from the city of Lansing to produce trucks and buses until 1974.
General Motors EV-1
It’s still a wonder why this car didn’t survive but it has an interesting history and is displayed in the museum. This car is one of the first electric only vehicles and offers range between 70 and 100 miles. These cars were leased and 1,117 customers had them and seemed to love them. This car was produced and leased between 1997 and 2002 at which time GM refused to renew the leases and crushed all but forty of the EV1s. The reason is still not completely understood, but some say it had to do with the oil industry being threatened by a car that didn’t need them in order to operate at the time.
Even though Oldsmobile has gone to extinction, we can still marvel at the long and storied history this brand from GM had in our history of automobiles. From the inception by R. E. Olds until its death in 2008, Oldsmobile stood as a mark of quality, which is still evident with a tour of the museum.