Oldsmobile in Australia

The earliest record of Oldsmobiles being sold in Australia was in 1901.  The Curved Dash Runabout was a motorized buggy that sold here in substantial numbers for £195.  In these early years the models available were the Curved Dash runabout, Light Delivery van, and Light Tonneau.


Regrettably a difference of opinion between Ransom Olds and the board of directors developed in 1904 over the company direction toward higher priced luxury cars for the wealthy over inexpensive cars for the general population. This led to Ransom's departure from the Olds Motor Works and his subsequent creation of the REO Motor Company, a company that would later fiercely contest Olds in the market place.


In November of 1908 after some lengthy financial difficulties, Olds joined the newly formed General Motors Corporation. By this time Olds was swiftly moving into the luxury car market with models like the Limited with its 42 inch wheels, twin running boards and 707 cubic inch 6 cylinder engine. It was this move away from inexpensive vehicles along with war production that saw the marque disappear from Australia between approximately 1906 & 1918. It was also during the move by General Motors to gain control of the Olds Motor Works, that the decision was made to trade under the name Oldsmobile.


With its relaunch here in Australia around 1918, Oldsmobile progressively won back market share with a number of models that covered the low to medium price range.  By 1921 overhead valve 4 & 6 engines along with side valve V8 models were on offer here together with the 4 cylinder Economy Truck for the commercial market.  It's interesting to note that Olds exported all of the 43A 4 cylinder models sold here from their plant in Oshawa, Canada.


The agreement of December 1923 between the General Motors Corp and Adelaide's Holden Motor Body Builders for the manufacture of bodies for fully imported pre-assembled chassis' for GM vehicles allowed GM to avoid significant import duties.  As a result, Oldsmobiles could be landed and sold here at relatively low cost. The 30 series built between 1923 & 1927 were immensely popular here in Australia. Whilst Holdens built the vast majority of bodies for Olds in the 20's, low volume models such as roadsters & some sedan's were still imported up to the end of 1929. With Australia feeling the depression as harshly as the rest of the world, GM ceased exports of Oldsmobiles to Australia at the end of 1929.

When exports of Oldsmobiles to Australia recommenced in 1934 there were 4 models on offer to the Australian public - Sedan, Coupe, Roadster and Tourer all fitted with 6 wheel equipment as standard (an expensive option in the US). These cars were only available here with 6 cylinder engines.  Olds had offered 8 cylinder engines in V8 configuration many years earlier and released their in-line 8 in 1932 for the US market, but we were to wait till 1935 to see this engine in Australia.  Olds also introduced hydraulic brakes and independent knee action front suspension to its models in 1934 - this was the beginning of Oldsmobiles trend toward driver safety and comfort.


As GM-H were producing bodies for most makes of GM chassis, some in very low numbers, they were forced to produce a body that could be used on a number of different makes.   GM-H dealers had on offer during the 1930's several body styles that were never seen in the US.  Our Tourers of 1934 & 1935 along with Sloper coupes which ran from 1935 thru 1940 are two of the models unique to Australia.  A 1935 Sloper coupe was the first car to run down the production line at GM-H's new plant at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne, Victoria.  One specific range of Oldsmobiles that Americans never sighted were the truck range sold between 1936 and 1940. The Olds trucks were based on Chevrolet and GMC trucks but used Oldsmobile powertrain and badging. These trucks were exported from the U.S. to a number of countries including Great Britain and South Africa.


By 1941 GMH discontinued the Sloper offering just the series 66 sedan in very limited numbers with most of their production destined for local use by the US Navy. Australian assembly of 1946 models recommenced on December 18th 1946 and these '46 models continued to be assembled until very early '48.  1947 models were given just 1 months production before '48 chassis' arrived here from the US. 1948 was actually the last year that Holden's built bodies for Oldsmobiles here in Australia, as in its last 2 years of 1949 & '50 GM-H imported both completely knocked down (CKD) and fully assembled models for the market that was being guided towards the Holden.


As GM-H had moved to discontinue the Olds and Buick lines here at the end of 1950 in lieu of the increasingly popular Holden, those affluent enough to afford an Olds, Buick or even Cadillac were forced to deal with some of the major GM dealers who continued to offer models by importing and then converting them to right hand drive. The obvious costs involved resulted in very low numbers reaching Australia after 1950.  

For more information see Oldsmobile in Australia website www.oldsmobileinaustralia.info