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Limited Touring Prototype
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Country of origin:United States
Produced in:1908
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:March 10, 2011
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Click here to download printer friendly versionEstablished in 1897, Oldsmobile was one of the first manufacturers to produce and sell cars in considerable volume. The single-cylinder 'Curved Dash' model proved particularly popular with a production of as many as 600 examples per year in the early 1900s. Inspired by the success, the company gradually launched more luxurious four- and eventually six-cylinder engined models. These proved much more difficult to sell and on the verge of bankruptcy, Oldsmobile was acquired by William C. Durant's General Motors.

Surprisingly, the change in ownership did not result in a strategy shift. Instead, the Oldsmobile engineers continued working on an even more exclusive model. It shared some of its underpinnings with the new-for-1908, six cylinder engined Model Z but it was much bigger and more luxurious than any Oldsmobile before. Even though the first prototypes were built in 1908, the new 'Olds' was not officially introduced to the public until 1910. One of the first examples successfully raced the '20th Century Limited' train from Albany to New York. From that day the big Oldsmobile was officially known as the 'Limited'.

The original Limited shared its 130-inch (3302 mm) wheelbase with the Model Z. It nevertheless looked much bigger thanks to the impressive 42-inch (1067 mm) wheels fitted. These were so tall that a second running-board was required to climb aboard the car. The massive machine was powered by a straight six engine with a staggering 453 cu. in. (7.4 litre) displacement. It featured a 'T-head' with the intake valves on one side of the engine and the exhaust valves on the other. Officially the engine was rated at 60 bhp but it was believed to produce at least 90 bhp.

When the Limited was eventually launched in 1910, it was available with a choice of standard bodies that could easily seat seven people in great comfort. All this opulence did not come cheap; the 'base' model was priced at $5,000, while the most luxurious Limousine came at a $2,000 premium. That lifted Oldsmobile in the market dominated by companies like Packard, Peerless and Pierce-Arrow. A bored out version of the Model Z derived straight six was launched halfway through the year. Despite the hefty price, Olsmobile produced 325 examples of the Limited in the first year.

For 1911, the Limited was further updated. The engine was further enlarged to 707 cu. in. (11.6 litre). Despite the increased displacement, the engine was again rated at 60 bhp. The 1911 models also featured a slightly longer wheelbase. Despite the improvements, the demand for the Limited dropped considerably and less than 200 examples were built. For 1912 the biggest change was the drop in price of Limousine model but that did little to stop the decline in sales. Only 117 examples rolled off the line in what would be the Limited's final year.

The disappointing sales figures of the Limited finally convinced the Oldsmobile directors that in order for the company to become profitable again, more affordable cars were needed. As the monumental Limited was phased out, Oldsmobile launched a series of new four-cylinder engined cars. Although ultimately not a sales success, the Limited remains as one of the largest cars ever constructed and one of Oldsmobile's most iconic. Sadly only 13 examples are known to have survived.

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  Article Image gallery (6) 60014 Specifications