OLDSMOBILE
LIFE SPAN: 1897-2004
RISE TO POWER: Founded by Ransom E. Olds, Oldsmobile was a company of firsts. It was the first automotive company to build cars on an assembly line (sorry, Ford), and it also made the first mass-produced automobile, the Curved Dash Olds. It was the first company to offer a cars with an automatic transmission, called the Hydramatic, in 1930. You may not think of it as a performance-oriented company, but Oldsmobile was the first automotive company in America to use a turbocharged engine, with the Turbo Jetfire in 1962. It continued to gain momentum all the way into the '80s, selling over a million models in 1985.
NOTABLE MODELS: Curved Dash Olds, Super 88, 442, Cutlass Supreme,
DEATH KNELL: After killing it in the '80s, the '90s weren't as kind to one of America's greatest car brands. GM refocused its brand lineup to make Chevy and Pontiac its performance brands, leaving Oldsmobiles as nothing but re-badged versions of other GM models. Even after a major line restyling, and introduction of the popular Aurora model, Oldsmobile couldn't reclaim its past success and began to be dissolved in 2002.