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Vintage Auto Ads: Oldsmobile

Published: September 23, 2015

Like David Buick and Louis Chevrolet, Ransom Olds was fated to launch a car company that left him behind on its way to becoming a leading brand.

Olds was one of the originals, starting his company in 1897. The first automaker to use mass production, he produced 425 vehicles in 1901, which made him the country’s leading car manufacturer. But in 1904, the company’s board of directors wanted to move the line toward larger, more expensive cars. Olds wanted to continue producing his small, affordable models. In the end, he left Olds Motor Vehicle company to start over. Unable to use his name on a new brand, he chose his initials instead, and Ransom Eli Olds launched the REO Motor Car Company. (For more on the auto industry’s early years, check out Post‘s new special collector’s edition, Automobiles in America!)

His old company was acquired by General Motors in 1908, which positioned the Oldsmobile as a mid-priced brand.
In the decades that followed, the company introduced several innovations in its engine and transmission design. By the 1970s, it was producing America’s best-selling car. Yet within a few years, the Oldsmobile brand had lost its popularity, and in 2004 General Motors closed the Oldsmobile line.


The Olds Motor Works’ first model was its successful Curved Dash Runabout. It ran so well, the company claimed, that it wouldn’t frighten horses — an important consideration in the early days of the auto.

March 7, 1903

March 7, 1903




The seven-passenger Limited offered a six-cylinder engine. Oldsmobile was so confident of its performance that the car’s speedometer was capable of registering up to 100 mph. But such performance came at a cost. The $4,600 price tag would be the equivalent of $115,000 today.

October 8, 1910

October 8, 1910




Oldsmobile began manufacturing the slightly upscale Viking in 1929. The short-lived line was part of General Motors’ “companion make” strategy, intended to attract buyers who wanted to buy a little more car than an Olds but less than Buick.

November 9, 1929

November 9, 1929




The 1937 models introduced a four-speed semi-automatic transmission. A clutch pedal allowed drivers to operate in low range, shifting automatically between first and second gear, or operate in high-range, shifting between third and fourth gear speeds.

April 17, 1937

April 17, 1937




Three years later, Oldsmobile introduced its fully automatic Hydramatic transmission in its 1940 models.

December 14, 1940

December 14, 1940




Oldsmobile produced its last automobile for the duration of the war on February 5, 1942. (Four years later, it resumed production with a car that looked little changed from its pre-war styling.)

November 22, 1941

November 22, 1941




The 1948 Olds introduced the Rocket engine, a powerful V-8 that proved so popular the company kept it in production with limited changes for well over a decade.

May 28, 1949

May 28, 1949




The 1958 model was big, powerful, and generously decked with chrome.

April 5, 1958

April 5, 1958




The Toronado introduced in 1966 featured distinctive front-end styling and the first front-wheel drive on an American car in almost 30 years.

October 8, 1966

October 8, 1966




The same year the Toronado was introduced, Oldsmobile produced its Vista Cruiser with distinctive skylights above the backseats and rear compartment.

November 5, 1966

November 5, 1966




Beginning in 1961, Oldsmobile offered its mid-size Cutlass line. Though not particularly popular in its early years, later versions became best-sellers in the 1970s and ’80s.

September 1, 1971

September 1, 1971




The Post had a long association with Oldsmobile. We published some of its very first ads in 1902. In 1999, the magazine ran its last ad for the automaker, just five years before the division was shut down.

November 1, 1999

November 1, 1999



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  • Roger La Barre

    I love these series. Ford, Chevrolet, Buick, and now Oldsmobile. Educational and nostalgic. An era when our country was great.

  • Phyllis J Shelton

    Owned new ’67 Vista Cruiser
    Almost New ’67 Delta 88
    New ’74 Vista Cruiser
    New ’78 Delta 88 Diesel
    New ’82 Cutlass Supreme Diesel
    New ’87 Calais

  • What a delightful surprise Jeff, this time on Oldsmobile. The Curved Dash model is a real charmer, and the fact the car wouldn’t frighten the horses still prevalent on the roads then, would have been be a big selling point to me at the time.

    The 1911 7-passenger Limited is pretty astonishing. A car that could go 75 mph much less 100 I’m sure was a hot car for the well-heeled in the Edwardian Era, with the $4,600 price well worth it.

    As a vintage car guy, I never knew about the Viking! I was aware of a couple of the other GM divisions having ‘companion’ cars like the La Salle and the Oakland. The next time I run into Jay Leno at a car show, I’ll have to ask him about it. It may be on his wish list, if he doesn’t already have one!

    The blue ’42 B-44 ad is great. I love the art work depicting a beautiful Fall day, and that gas station is great. The storm clouds kind of unwittingly represent the looming full force engulfment of the U.S. in World War ll just a couple of weeks away, that would change everything.

    The ’49 Oldsmobile set the tone for the beautiful models that unfolded throughout the ’50s. My personal favorites of those years are the ’54-’57. The ’58 ad here looks more like one for the ‘chromesmobile’ convertible than one for its power steering!

    Not pictured here are some of my favorite Oldsmobiles: the beautiful 1962-’66 Starfires, replaced by the revolutionary Toronado. The Vista Cruiser is still very cool, and the ’72 Cutlass was the last of its kind, with quarter windows and the convertible option, although a convertible Cutlass did return for a few years in the early ’90s.

    Although Oldsmobile is gone now, they certainly lived up to their potential. I know people that wish it could return and appreciate their sentiment, but must point out it would now be an import fighting 4 door sedan, crossover, SUV, maybe a van and that’s about it; nothing ‘Oldsmobile’ like that final ’75 Delta 88 convertible I’d love to own.

    Jeff, would you mind doing some ad features on Mercury, Dodge, Pontiac, Cadillac or maybe even Packard too? I’ll keep my eye out for them.