Brief CDO History
Starting in 1897, R. E. Olds and his father started the Olds Motor Vehicle Company. However he was unable to decide between electric or gasoline engine propulsion. The company made several prototypes with both gasoline and electric propulsion. The electric is thought to be the one in the Smithsonian Museum.
In April 1901, the factory caught fire and burnt to the ground. Rumor has it that one gasoline prototype was saved, the CDO and the decision made to produce that model. Closer inspection of the events indicate that the decision to produce the CDO had been made prior to the fire, but it's a good story.
It is estimated by some people that 20,000 CDOs built were between 1901 and 1907. Although these vehicles all look similar, with a distinguishing "toboggan" like front end, there were actually three distinct models produced:
- Model R1: 1901 only, about 425 built
- Model R: from 1901 to 1903 with likely some being built into 1904 (a few special body styles offered, but in very small quantities)
- Model 6C: from 1904, maybe into 1905
- Models T, N, & B: from 1905 to perhaps sometime in 1907
- Railroad Inspection Car: probably from 1902 to 1907
R.E. Olds left the company early in 1904, due to problems with the Board of Directors.
Without doubt, Oldsmobile was the first manufacturer to achieve mass production, before Henry Ford had even formed the Ford Motor Company.
Ranson E. Olds c. 1904