100 Years Ago February 1901 brings the first advertisements from Olds Motor Works for its new horseless carriage, the $600 "Oldsmobile Curved Dash" runabout just entering production at the Olds assembly plant in Detroit after several months spent ironing out problems with various prototypes. A mid-month issue of the weekly Automobile Topics devotes a front page story to the new car. Ironically, less than a month later, on March 9, a fire destroys the Olds plant in Detroit just as orders begin pouring in. Still, some 425 Curved Dash models are assembled before the end of the year, establishing the Oldsmobile brand in the U.S. market-place for more than a century.
47 Years Ago The record-setting 41st annual Detroit Automobile Show - the first since the 40th show was held in 1940 - closed Feb. 28, 1954, following a nine-day run that attracted more than 300,000 attendees and set a record daily attendance of 49,414 reached on the second day. Sponsored by the Detroit Automobile Dealers Assn., the show occupied some 150,000 sq. ft. (14,000 sq. m) of floor space in four buildings and included twice-daily entertainment shows featuring top-name performers. Displays included 113 new cars and 20 new trucks from 18 makers plus supplier exhibits. Color television and Mr. Mopar, a moving, talking mechanical man, also attracted attention.
Motor Co. used the backdrop of the show to unveil the Thunderbird, its upcoming "new kind of personal car." Scheduled for introduction in the fall as a '55 model, the T'bird featured an innovative composite removable hardtop and the industry's first telescoping steering column that can adjust in or out up to 3 ins. (8 cm).
Meanwhile, Nash-Kelvinator Corp. introduced the industry's first single-unit heating and air conditioning system that later becomes available on all Nash Ambassador, Statesman and Rambler models. The Nash system is contained in the engine compartment, and cold air is passed into the passenger compartment through dash-mounted vents, unlike competitors that mount the evaporator in the trunk and deliver cold air through the rear pack-age shelf or overhead vents.
25 Years AgoCorp. President Elliot M. (Pete) Estes in February 1976 forecasts that industry new car and truck sales will reach 16 million in 1980 - a 44% increase from the 11.1 million sold in 1975 and besting the record 14.4 million delivered in 1973 by 11%. The GM 1980 forecast includes 12.4 million cars and 3.6 million trucks. How-ever, a recession induced by high inflation and record interest rates in the late 1970s, plus a second oil crisis in 1979, nets the industry actual sales of just 11.5 million units in 1980 - including 2.5 million trucks and 9 million cars. Industry sales won't reach 16 million until 1986, when deliveries of 11.4 million cars and 4.9 million trucks combine for a record 16.3 million.