10-11 October 2013

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Lot 212

1905 Oldsmobile Model B 'Curved Dash' Runabout

  • Engine no. 50620

$60,000 - $70,000

7 hp, 95.4 cu. in. horizontal single-cylinder engine, two-speed planetary transmission, solid front axle and live rear axle with single chain drive, suspension by a single longitudinal leaf spring on each side, and a transmission brake and two-wheel mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 66 in.

  • Beloved Curved-Dash Oldsmobile Runabout
  • New paint and tires
  • Restored original leather license plate
  • Perennial winner at Greenfield Village Old Car Festival

After experimenting with steam and electric propulsion, Ransom Eli Olds switched to internal combustion. His light runabout, the famed curved-dash model, was completed in 1900 and was ready for the market early in 1901. A fire in the factory delayed the start of production, so cars didn’t reach the public until late summer. The 650-pound vehicle sold for $650.

This model was propelled by a horizontal single-cylinder engine under the seat, and it had a two-speed planetary transmission and driver controls on the right, with steering being controlled by a center tiller. The chassis design was elegant. A long leaf spring on each side connected the front and rear axles. The wood body attached to the top of the springs, and a small, transverse full-elliptic spring in front damped out any fore-aft rocking motion. Truss rods were added to the axles in 1902. The car’s popularity grew and grew, surpassing the steam Locomobile as America’s best-selling car in 1903.

For 1905, Oldsmobile extensively redesigned the curved-dash model, although it looked almost identical to its predecessors: the engine was sturdier, although it had the same displacement; the springs were revised; the front truss rod was eliminated; and the differential brake drum was moved to the transmission. Successive curved-dash models remained in production through 1907, by which time they had been joined by a straight-dash model and cars as large as a 106-inch wheelbase four.

This 1905 Model B Curved-Dash Olds is a perennial winner at Dearborn’s annual Old Car Festival held at Greenfield Village. It has also received a myriad of other awards. It sports a recent body freshening, new buttoned black leather upholstery, and new paint. The car is black with maroon accent panels on the seat and body sides, and the renowned Olds crest appears on a maroon background. The whole car is artfully pinstriped in gold. Other recent work includes a new radiator, a rebuilt water pump, and new springs made by Amish craftsmen.

The car runs and drives very well, and it has been equipped with new tires. It has a very rare original brass bulb horn that is mounted to the steering tiller, which nicely complements the brass lamps. A custom-made storage box mounts to the engine lid, enabling the car to be used for touring as well as show. With the box installed, it becomes a natural for one- and two-cylinder tours.

Of special note is a correct, period license plate. In the period, Michigan assigned owners a number that was engraved on a solid silver medallion. The owners then fashioned a leather plate with house numbers that corresponded to the number on the medallion. The leather plate, carefully restored, is included in the sale.

This is a charming example of a truly legendary American car.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver


+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat


+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht


+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig


+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose


+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould


+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff


+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach


+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry


+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut


+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire


+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn


+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin


+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill


+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher


+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers


+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden


+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more