While November 3rd might not be the optimal time of year to hold a car show when the Automobile Club of America chose this date to hold their first event, there wasn’t much of a precedent— the year was 1900. The term “automobile” hadn’t caught on yet, so the show was dubbed the “Horseless Carriage Show,” to help folks relate to the up-and-coming mode of transportation. Since the event was being held in New York City, Madison Square Garden was the designated place to hold the event and keep attendees out of the cold.
The week-long event featured goods from fifty-one vendors, thirty-one of which had some form of the new self-propelled carriage to try and sell to the auto’s well-to-do, early adopters. It is estimated that up to 40,000 people attended the auto’s first indoor car show event. Of those trying to move ahead in this highly-vertical sector was Ransom Eli Olds’ prototype for a new body style known as the “runabout.”
The first car show was held at the beginning of the last Century at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The horseless carriage was new and exciting to many. It is reported that up to 40,000 people flocked to see the show.
The Oldsmobile nameplate has established itself in racing and automotive lore throughout history, but did you know that its creator, Ransom Eli Olds, holds other accomplishments beyond the company that bears his name? Before Oldsmobile, the company was called the Olds Motor Works, which through Ransom’s persistence of driving his creations and attending shows such as North America’s first one in 1900, had increased production of their horseless carriage to around 4,000 units a year in just a few short years.
By 1905, Ransom became disenfranchised with investors and left the company to start another. Of course, there was already a company bearing the name Olds, and a quick lawsuit from those who held title to it helped draw the point home with Ransom. He decided to use his initials “REO” to draw from a distant-enough well to avert further legal action.
The REO Motor Car (and truck) Company existed from 1905 through 1975 in various forms, its most famous contribution to pop culture in the form of “REO Speedwagon,” using the title of one of REO’s early trucks as their band’s name.
What’s Olds Is New Again!As is the case with many of the early automotive nameplates from the dawn of the automotive age, Both the REO and Olds monikers were absorbed into larger entities, with REO going the way of heavy haulers and Olds being absorbed into General Motors. And that is where history circles back around to November 3rd, 1911.
Famed French racer, Louis Chevrolet and Flint, Michigan’s William C. “Billy” Durant joined forces in 1911 to form the Chevrolet Motor Car Company. Only years before that, Billy Durant founded and ran what would become the massive General Motors Corporation. After forming GM by numerous acquisitions of companies such as Oakland (Pontiac), Olds (Oldsmobile), Buick, and Cadillac, Billy Durant was tossed from the cash-strapped corporation and looking for another endeavor to scratch his entrepreneurial spirit. The Chevrolet automobile’s sales had increased to a level where Durant could again, leverage his way back into the General Motors board room. By 1916, Billy Durant had purchased enough GM stock to re-establish himself as President of the corporation, a title he would hold until 1920.
What started out as a joint venture between Durant and Chevrolet has withstood the test of time, becoming a world-famous brand which has changed throughout the years, but stayed true to its original intent.
Billy Durant would eventually leave the corporation for the last time, and reportedly spent the remainder of his days in Flint, Michigan, where he tended the grill of his bowling alley/restaurant. The company he founded with the famous French racer still stands as a cornerstone of the world-wide corporation called GM. Holding true to its early values of, “a car for every purse and purpose” has secured Chevrolet as a world leader when other marques (and their founders, such as Durant) have fallen between the dusty pages of the history books.
For over 100 years, car shows and Chevrolets have become major components in the automotive scene. It is interesting to note that while both were officially started years apart, they both have the same birthday this day in history.
Article courtesy of Rod Authority, written by Andy Bolig.