The 1901 to 1904 ‘Curved Dash Oldsmobile’ was the first mass-produced automobile made on an assembly line, an invention that is often miscredited to Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company. For a mass-production system to work, Ransom E Olds understood that the parts that needed to be fitted to the car should remain in one place. Each chassis, on a wheeled trolley, would then be moved to various assembly points for those parts to be fitted to it.
After Olds sold his company in 1899 it was renamed ‘Olds Motor Works’ and was moved to a new plant in Detroit. By March 1901, it had a range of prototype models ready for mass-production. Unfortunately, a mistake by a worker caused the factory to catch fire and it burned to the ground with all but one of the prototypes destroyed. The only car that survived the fire was a Curved Dash model, which was wheeled out of the factory by two workers while escaping the fire. A new factory was built, and mass-production of the Curved Dash commenced. Over 500 Curved Dash Oldsmobiles had been constructed by the end of 1901 and, by 1904, 5,000 units per annum were being produced.