Last Olds rolls off Mich. assembly line

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Last Olds rolls off Mich. assembly line


Reuters / April 29, 2004



DETROIT (Reuters) -- After 107 years of driving roads from Nova Scotia to San Diego, the last Oldsmobile rolled off a Michigan assembly line on Thursday, marking the end of the oldest auto brand in the United States.

Workers signed their names under the hood of the last car -- a cherry red Alero -- which will be displayed at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum. It will end in the collection of parent company General Motors.

Ransom E. Olds founded Oldsmobile in Lansing in 1897, and soon after the turn of the century "the Olds" became a favorite with its curved dashboard. It had a sticker price of $650 and was one of the first mass-produced cars.

GM purchased the automaker in 1908.

Chris Duyck, president of the Oldsmobile Club of Canada in Ontario, said he is "very disheartened that it would come to this -- the end of the Oldsmobile.

"It's always been such a step above other cars -- more luxurious, a little bit more of a status symbol to a lot of people," he said.

Duyck said he met his wife when her father had a 1958 Olds. "I've often wondered, jokingly of course, whether I was attracted to her dad's Olds or to her. It was a beige, two-door hardtop." They've been married 39 years.

Duyck says a completely restored 1958 Olds costs a collector about $18,000 to $20,000.

Oldsmobile was the first to use chrome-plated trim in 1926 and the first to offer fully automatic transmissions in 1939. In 1966, Oldsmobile was the first American car brand to revive front-wheel drive.

Fred Reinhold, 74, of Woodbridge, N.J., who owned an auto repair shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., for 40 years, said he was sad to see the car go.

"I owned a maroon-colored Olds when I was in my 20s. I saw a lot of them come and go over the years," Reinhold said. "The Olds had a strong body, strong chassis, good suspension, good motor and the transmission was good. Overall, it was a very well-made car. It's still a good car. It's sad to see another one gone by the wayside."

Oldsmobile is the second historic U.S. car brand to be killed in recent years. DaimlerChrysler AG phased out the Plymouth, created in 1928.

Some folks say the beginning of the end was the 1980s GM ad campaign touting: "This is not your father's Oldsmobile." But the cars still reminded young consumers of the family sedan.

"It was a great brand, that's how I'll remember it," said Alan Starling, a former Olds dealer and past chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association.
 
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