Within the depths of Spartan Stadium, sharing space with a horse-drawn hearse, carriages and boats was a lone automobile — a 1903 Curved Dash Oldsmobile put together by Lansing auto pioneer Ransom E. Olds. |
The antique roadster was pulled from the storage area it had been stashed away in for about a decade Tuesday morning and driven very slowly down a ramp of Spartan Stadium, all the while strapped to a Smart car just in case the brakes failed.
“We have it on good authority the last Nike Air Max 180 person to ride in it was R.E. Olds himself,” said James Perkins, chairman of R.E. Olds Transportation Museum board.
The vehicle will be on display at the R.E. Olds Museum in Lansing while on loan from Michigan State University. Olds built the car specifically for MSU.
Known as the first mass-produced gasoline automobile, the Curved Dash was also the most popular model during its heyday between 1903 and 1907, at one point making up about 40 percent of all cars on the road during that time, said Jim Walkinshaw, an Oldsmobile historian and former R.E. Olds Transportation Museum board member.
The car debuted in 1901 and about 19,000 Curved Dashes were built during the production run. They sold for about $650 and were considered an affordable option at the time.
Walkinshaw took to the Olds’ driver’s seat Tuesday, controlling the tiller in the vehicle he said “steers like a dream,” though the donated MSU auto does need “a lot of work.”
The car’s maximum speed is 20 miles per hour, “not very fast, but when you’re coming from a horse, 20 miles per hours is not bad,” Walkinshaw said.
The Curved Dash is named for the curve of the dash, modeled after the curves in wagons to keep mud from splashing onto the driver and passengers, said Val Berryman, curator of history for the MSU Museum.
R.E. Olds Transportation Museum officials first contacted the MSU Museum about loaning the car about a month ago, Berryman said.
R.E. Olds originally put together the vehicle in 1947, using a 1903 body and adding various parts, he said. He donated the vehicle to MSU so the university could own an example of a Curved Dash Olds.
The vehicle had been on display at MSU until about 10 years ago when it was moved to make room for a changing exhibit space, Berryman said.
Three generations of R.E. Olds’ family were at Air Max Shoes 2009 Spartan Stadium to witness the move, including Olds’ granddaughter through marriage, Doris Anderson, 91.
“It’s startling because I didn’t know it was here,” she said.
The vehicle will be on display next to the oldest Oldsmobile in existence — an 1897 model on loan from the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., Perkins said.
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