Oldsmobile Firsts

These "firsts" include Oldsmobile specific firsts, American market firsts, as well as automobile industry firsts, please keep this in mind as you read through.

A 1905 REO Speedometer

1901 - The first speedometer to be offered on a production car was on an Oldsmobile.
First (1901) U.S. state law in Connecticut, regulated motor vehicles to a speed limit of 12 mph in cities and a 15 mph outside. Preceding this, cabbie Jacob German was arrested and jailed in New York City May 20, 1899, for driving his electric taxi at the "breakneck speed" of 12 mph.

1904 Oldsmobile Mail Car
A 1904 Olds Mail Car

1901 - The United States Post Office Department ordered its first motorized mail truck from Oldsmobile. It cost $750.
In 1901 the Oldsmobile Curved Dash Runabout was 1st light car to make rough passage from Detroit to New York. In seeing this, the United States Postal Service put into service a wire-wheeled Oldsmobile Runabout which is said to be the first gasoline powered car used in any postal service in the world. The testing was so successful, that a fleet of Oldsmobiles was soon added for mail service.

1901 - Oldsmobile became one of the first car companies to procure parts from third-party suppliers. It was forced to do this when a fire destroyed the main Oldsmobile plant in Lansing, MI, and crippled the company's ability to build cars using its own parts.

Oldsmobile at the Chicago Auto Show 1903

1901 to 1903 - Oldsmobile leads all American automobile manufacturers in number of automobiles produced.

1904 - The Curved Dash Olds becomes the first mass-produced vehicle in America. Olds Motor Works is the first American car company to export, to 18 countries. It was making 20 cars a day in 1904, many years prior to Ford's claim in 1913. Oldsmobile was the first American car built in a factory designed specifically for automobiles and in standardized volume production.

Details of the 1904 first above have not been fully verified, if anyone has information regarding this, please let me know.

GM incorporation - 1908

1908 - William Durant’s (incorporated GM in 1908) answer to Oldsmobile’s woes was to integrate Buick engine technology and stretch the Buick body to make it a completely different car in the customer’s eye. This was the industry’s first example of using common components and engineering to create various distinctive vehicle models.

1915 - Oldsmobile provided a windshield and top as standard equipment.

1926 - Oldsmobile began chrome plating the radiator surrounds and other parts on its cars. This was the first automotive use of chrome plating.

1929 - Oldsmobile introduced the first monoblock V8 on its Viking model. Previously, V-8s were made up of two castings, basically split down the center line of the crank. They were identical castings that were bolted together. Ford said they were the first to make a 'low cost' mono-block V-8, with their inception in 1932. This could indicate that one or some of the higher priced V-8s would have been mono-block prior to 1932.

1932 - Oldsmobile became the first to offer an automatic choke on an automobile.

A GM Hydra-matic ad from approx 1948

1940 - The Series 60 Sedan could be ordered with a Hydra-matic, the first fully automatic transmission offered on a volume basis.

1948 - Oldsmobile, along with Buick and Cadillac offered one piece compound curved windshields. Prior to this, windshields were split in the middle. The area of the curved windshield on the 1948 4-door Futuramic 98 was 30% greater than that of the same 1947 model.

1949 - The Rocket-88 co-introduced the first high compression V-8 along with Cadillac, ushering in the era of high-compression V-8 engines. Offering super acceleration that earned it the nickname as GM's "Rocket" division.

1952 - Oldsmobile made history along side Cadillac when they introduced the "Autronic Eye" - the first automatic headlight dimming system. When the phototube mounted on the dashboard detected approaching headlights, it would automatically switch the car's beams to low until the other lane was clear. The Autronic Eye evolved, and even continued in Cadillacs until the 1988 model year.

1953 - The complete Oldsmobile lineup switches from 6 volts to 12 volts.

1962 - First production turbocharged American car, the 1962 Jetfire. While turbochargers had long been applied to internal combustion engines in many different applications to boost their power, General Motors became the first automaker to offer a turbocharged engine on a production car.

1966 - The Toronado is the first mass-produced front-wheel-drive American car. The 1929 Cord L-29 was officially the first American front drive car, but quite limited in production and success.

1966 - A Toronado goes down in the history books as GM's 100 millionth car built in North America (this includes Canada). Not to be confused with the US built 100 millionth GM car, the 1967 Chevy Caprice Custom.

1969 - First electric grid rear window defogger - 1969 Oldsmobile Toronado was one of the first few American automobiles to offer an electric rear window defroster option, a feature not offered on the upscale Cadillac Eldorado until 1971, and then only on the convertible model. The Toronado shared the availability of this option only with a very few 1969 models, including the Chevrolet Caprice and Impala Custom Coupes, Pontiac Grand Prix, Ford Thunderbird, and Continental Mark III.

1969 - First use of chromed ABS plastic exterior trim - 1969 Oldsmobile Toronado.

1970 - First year that Oldsmobile used windsheild integrated antennas.

1970 - True-Track anti-lock brakes were introduced late in the 1970 model year, as an option on Toronados. This system was only available on the rear wheels. Chrysler had introduced a computerized, three-channel, four-sensor all-wheel ABS called "Sure Brake" for its 1971 Imperial. True first use of anti-lock/skid brakes were on aircraft around the late 1940s.

Integrated high mount stop lights on a Toronado

1971 - First high-mount brake lights, 1971 Oldsmobile Toronado. Readers, please let me know of any discrepancy on this one. It is commonly noted that in 1974, psychologist John Voevodsky invented the third brake light, the brake light that is mounted in the base of rear windshields.

1972 - First year for facotry coolant recovery bottle.

1974 - The Toronado is the first American car to offer a driver-side airbag. Airbags in 1974 in B, C, E carlines. Shared with Buick/Cadillac.

1975 - First year for catalytic converters for all Oldsmobiles.

1977 - Marking an automotive milestone, the MISAR Ignition System is standard equipment on the 1977 Oldsmobile Toronado which is the first production automobile ever to be equipped with an electronic digital microprocessor. This technological development is the first step toward the use of a programmable digital computer to manage complex vehicle and engine control functions and provide a new dimension of driver convenience.

1981 - First use of high-impact moulded plastic body components (think Saturn), 1981 Oldsmobile Sport Omega. GM's Oldsmobile Division was first to use RRIM (Reinforced Reaction Injection Molding) as opposed to RIM (Reaction Injection Molding) that was in use since the 70's. RIM applications had limitations (poor heat resistance and thermal expansion). Olds Division recognized this and improved upon the process and equipment, to improve product quality for use in fascia application.

Early Cutlass HUD Unit

1988 - GM's first HUD units were installed on Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Indy Pace Cars and replicas. Optional HUD units were subsequently offered on the Cutlass Supreme and Pontiac Grand Prix before being more widely available. It allowed drivers to view the speedometer reading on the inside of the windshield.

1995 - Oldsmobile presented Guidestar, the first on-board navigation system to be offered on a US production car. Guidestar combined computerized road mapping and satellite positioning to route drivers to their destinations.

1997 - Oldsmobile is the first American car company to turn 100.

2001 - The fully redesigned 2002 Oldsmobile Bravada SUV became the first truck ever to pace the Indianapolis 500.