Ransom Eli OldsBorn in Geneva, Ohio, Ransom E. Olds came to Lansing in 1880. He worked in his father's machine and repair shop, where he experimented with small steam engines. In 1887, Olds drove for a distance of one block, Lansing's first automobile, an experimental steam vehicle. He continued to work with steam, gasoline and electric power. Eventually he produced a gasoline-powered vehicle that seated four persons and could do 18 miles per hour on level ground. On August 21, 1897, Olds, Edward W. Sparrow, Eugene F. Cooley, Arthur C. Stebbins, Samuel L. Smith, Frank G. Clark, Fred M. Seibly and Alfred Beamer; formed the Olds Motor Vehicle Company, the forerunner of the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors. As general manager, Olds was authorized to "build one carriage in as nearly perfect a manner as possible." Four vehicles were produced that first year.
Curved Dash OldsmobileOn a site southwest of here, production of the Curved Dash Oldsmobile Runabout began on December 16, 1901. The model was first produced in Detroit in 1900, but much of the assembly was shifted to Lansing after a fire destroyed the Detroit plant. The Curved Dash built from 1900 to 1904, was the first car to carry the name Oldsmobile. With a 66-inch wheel-base it weighed about 650 pounds. It was powered by a one-cylinder, seven-horse
power engine and cost $650. It was the first car built using a progressive assembly system The company produced 425 vehicles in 1901, 2,500 in 1902, 4,000 in 1903 and 5,508 in 1904. For a time the Runabout was the best-selling model in the United States. In 1905 it inspired Gus Edward's to write the song "In My Merry Oldsmobile."