Lansing, Michigan is home to many things. It's the state's capital and the home of Michigan State University, with a vibrant youth culture as well as an established baby boomer population. The one thing that has largely faded in recent years though, is that Lansing was where Oldsmobile was founded and operated for the entire time the company and later the GM brand was in being. The original Olds factory, the Fisher Body Plant, and the production facility for such muscle cars as the Hurst/Olds were all in and around Lansing, but much of that has disappeared with the death of the brand. One of the last established relics of the Oldsmobile time that still bears its name is the RE Olds Transportation Museum, which was the original Oldsmobile production facility when that company created the world's first mass-produced car, the Oldsmobile Curved-Dash Runabout. Naturally, when we got the opportunity to see this collection of forgotten to famous Oldsmobiles and other General Motors products, we took it without hesitation.
Walking or driving through Lansing, you'd never notice the little side road that leads off to the left just a few blocks from Michigan's capitol building. It goes just a few thousand feet before cutting off on the edge of Lansing's river industrial complex. At the end of this road is where we found the RE Olds Transportation Museum, housed in an unassuming brick warehouse that once held the entire management of Oldsmobile. It now houses a large collection of some of the rarest GM cars, styling models, and forgotten sub-brands in existence. As we went inside the building, we were warmly greeted by the only staff member on hand, who asked us how our day was going and advised us to check out some of the engine displays, even though the exhibit that was to go along with them wasn't opening for a few months.
The first section of the museum showed a display of Ransom Eli Olds's personal life, with furniture and pianos from his home in Lansing, and started giving the history of his company. There were large industrial engines and other mechanical pieces that Olds engineered featured with pride in working order, and the aforementioned motors strewn about from various areas of Oldsmobile history. Though the exhibit hadn't been organized yet, it was easy to tell that some of the motors were skunkworks and auto show display pieces, with cutaways and unique parts that never made it to production models. As we turned a corner, the first few years of the RE Olds automobile company were laid out in front of us. The first fifteen years of Oldsmobile, starting with the Curved-Dash Runabout, were in a line along one wall, with a car for every three years or so. The display also included a prototype for a larger production model that was planned before a factory fire in 1901, which prompted the company's original move from Detroit to Lansing.
Turning another corner, the first of the two main showrooms presented itself, showcasing the first decades that Oldsmobile witnessed under their new owner, General Motors. As well as many Oldsmobile models of the time, there were many cars from GM sub-brands that are long-gone. Cars from GM brands Viking (shown below), Ranier, and Marquette graced the show floor in various conditions, making us remember that the General has killed 32 brands over the years, most of which are not remembered today. On the other side of the room, there were many relics form all over Lansing of the deceased company. Multiple RE Olds lawn mowers and snow blowers were on display, as well as the Famous Fisher Body carriage that stood in the lobby of the Fisher Body Plant for many, many years. There was a scale model of the full RE Olds production facility, complete with little model Curved-Dash Runabouts bravely trying to run laps at the dirt track post-production. Many of these little cars were strewn about the landscape, having apparently failed their production testing.
The next room held all the cards for those who like going fast. Walking in, we immediately spotted such cars as the famous Hurst Hairy Olds twin-engine production-body dragster. There was an Olds-powered Indy car hanging from the ceiling, and an Early-Fifties NASCAR Chevy sitting in a corner. There were late-model pace cars from Daytona, Indy and other tracks, as well as the original styling molds for both the GM Areotech land speed car and the Oldsmobile Toronado, a car that revolutionized the American auto industry. Other notable cars included one of the Few GM EV1 electric cars that weren't crushed, a prototype 80's 442 based on the Buick GNX and built by ASC, and numerous vintage Oldsmobile dealer and service signs. The museum is definitely worth a visit for any car person traveling in the Lansing area.