REO Motor Car Company


The REO Motor Car Company was a company based in
Lansing, Michigan Lansing () is the capital of the U.S. state of Michigan Michigan () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The Stat ...
, which produced
automobile A car (or automobile) is a wheeled motor vehicle Electric bicycles parked in Yangzhou's main street, Wenchang Lu. They are a very common way of transport in this city, in some areas almost outnumbering regular bicycles A motor vehicle, also ...

s and
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s from 1905 to 1975. At one point, the company also manufactured
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es on its truck platforms.
Ransom E. Olds Ransom Eli Olds (June 3, 1864 – August 26, 1950) was a pioneer of the American automotive industry, after whom the Oldsmobile Oldsmobile was a brand of American automobiles produced for most of its existence by General Motors. Originally esta ...
was an entrepreneur who founded multiple companies in the automobile industry. In 1897 Olds founded
Oldsmobile Oldsmobile was a brand A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. Brands are used in business, marketing, and advertising for recognition ...

. In 1905 Olds left Oldsmobile and established a new company, REO Motor Car Company, in Lansing, Michigan. Olds had 52% of the stock and the titles of president and general manager. To ensure a reliable supply of parts, he organized a number of subsidiary firms, like the National Coil Company, the Michigan Screw Company, and the Atlas Drop Forge Company. Originally the company was to be called "R. E. Olds Motor Car Company", but the owner of Olds' previous company, then called
Olds Motor Works Oldsmobile was a brand A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. Brands are used in business Business is the activity of making one ...

Olds Motor Works
, objected and threatened legal action on the grounds of likely confusion of names by consumers. Olds then changed the name to his initials. Olds Motor Works soon adopted the popular name of its vehicles,
Oldsmobile Oldsmobile was a brand A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. Brands are used in business, marketing, and advertising for recognition ...

(which, along with
Buick Buick () is a division of the American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the Un ...

Cadillac The Cadillac Motor Car Division is a division Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics), the inverse of multiplication *Division algorithm, a method for computing the result of mathematical division Military *Divi ...
, became a founding division of
General Motors Corporation General Motors Company (GM) is an Passenger vehicles in the United States, American multinational corporation headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, USA that designs, manufactures, markets, and distributes Vehicle, vehicles and vehicle parts, and se ...
). The company's name was spelled alternately in all capitals REO or with only an initial capital as Reo, and the company's own literature was inconsistent in this regard, with early advertising using all capitals, and later
advertising Advertising is a marketing Marketing is the process of intentionally stimulating demand for and purchases of goods and services; potentially including selection of a target audience; selection of certain attributes or themes to emphasize ...

using the "Reo" capitalization. The pronunciation, however, was as a single word. Lansing is home to the R. E. Olds Transportation Museum.

Early REO production

By 1907, REO had gross sales of $4.5 million, and the company was one of the four wealthiest automobile manufacturers in the U.S. After 1908, however, despite the introduction of improved cars designed by Olds, REO's share of the automobile market decreased due in part to competition from emerging companies like
Ford Ford commonly refers to: * Ford Motor Company The Ford Motor Company, commonly known as Ford, is an American multinational automaker that has its main headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit (strait) , nicknames ...
General Motors General Motors Company (GM) is an American Multinational corporation, multinational Automotive industry, automotive manufacturing company headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, United States. It was founded by William C. Durant on September 16, 190 ...

General Motors
. REO added a truck-manufacturing division and a Canadian plant in
St Catharines, Ontario St. Catharines is the largest city in Canada's Niagara Region and the sixth largest urban area in the province of Ontario , Label_map = yes , image_map = Ontario in Canada 2.svg , map_alt = Map ...
, in 1910. Two years later, Olds claimed that he had built the best car he could, a
tourer Touring car and tourer are both terms for open cars (i.e. cars without a fixed roof). "Touring car" is a style of open car built in the United States which seats four or more people. The style was popular from the early 1900s to the 1930s. The c ...
able to seat two, four, or five, with a engine,
wheelbase In both road and rail vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine A machine is a man-made device that uses power to apply forces and control movement to perform an action. Machines can be driven by animals and people ...

, and wheels, for US$1,055 (not including top,
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, or gas tank, which were US$100 extra); self-starter was US$25 on top of that. By comparison, the
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Series 30 and
Colt Runabout The Colt Runabout was an American Brass-era automobile A car (or automobile) is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transportation. Most definitions of ''cars'' say that they run primarily on roads, seat one to eight people, have four wheels, an ...
were priced at US$1,500; Kirk Manufacturing Company (automobile company), Kirk's Yale side-entrance US$1,000; the high-volume
Oldsmobile Oldsmobile was a brand A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. Brands are used in business, marketing, and advertising for recognition ...

Oldsmobile Curved Dash, Runabout went for US$650; Western Tool Works (automobile company), Western's Gale Model A was US$500; a Brush Motor Car Company, Brush Runabout US$485; the Black Motor Company, Black started at $375; and the Success Automobile Manufacturing Company, Success hit the amazingly low US$250. In 1915, Olds relinquished the title of general manager to his protégé Richard H. Scott (executive), Richard H. Scott, and eight years later he ended his tenure as the company's presidency as well, retaining the position of chairman of the board. Perhaps the most famous REO episode was the 1912 Trans-Canada journey. Traveling from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Vancouver, British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, in a 1912 REO special touring car, mechanic/driver Fonce V. (Jack) Haney and journalist Thomas W. Wilby made the first trip by automobile across Canada (including one short jaunt into northeastern Washington State when the Canadian roads were virtually impassable). From 1915 to 1925, under Scott's direction, REO remained profitable. In 1923, the company sold an early recreational vehicle, called the "Motor Pullman Car". Designed by Battle Creek, Michigan, newspaper editor J. H. Brown, the automobile included a drop-down sleeping extension, a built-in gas cooking range, and a refrigerator. During 1925, however, Scott, like many of his contemporaries/competitors, began an ambitious expansion program designed to make the company more competitive with other automobile manufacturers by offering cars in different price ranges. The failure of this program and the effects of the Great Depression caused such losses that Olds ended his retirement during 1933 and assumed control of REO again, but resigned in 1934. During 1936, REO abandoned the manufacture of automobiles to concentrate on trucks.

Reo Flying Cloud and Reo Royale

REO's two most memorable cars were its Reo Flying Cloud introduced in 1927 and the Reo Royale 8 of 1931. The Flying Cloud was the first car to use Lockheed's new hydraulic internal expanding brake system and featured styling by Fabio Segardi. While Ned Jordan is credited with changing the way advertising was written with his "Somewhere West of Laramie" ads for his Jordan Motor Car, Jordan Playboy, Reo's Flying Cloud—a name that provoked evocative images of speed and lightness—changed the way automobiles would be named in the future. It had a wheelbase. The final REO model of 1936 was a Flying Cloud. In April 1927, Reo introduced the Wolverine brand of cars as a companion model to the Flying Cloud. With a Continental Motors Company, Continental engine, artillery wheels, and a different pattern of horizontal radiator louvers from the Flying Cloud, the Wolverine was made until 1928. The 1931 Reo Royale was a trendsetting design, introducing design elements that were a precedent for true automotive Streamliner, streamlining in the American market. The 8-cylinder model was sold through 1933 with minor updates. The name was used on a lower-priced 6-cylinder model through 1935. Beverly Rae Kimes, editor of the ''Standard Catalog of American Cars,'' terms the Royale "the most fabulous Reo of all". In addition to its coachwork by Murray designed by their Amos Northup, the Royale also provided buyers with a straight-eight with a nine-bearing crankshaft, one-shot lubrication, and thermostatically-controlled radiator shutters. The Royale rode upon factory wheelbases of (Model 8-31) and (Model 8-35); a 1932 custom version rode upon a wheelbase (Model 8-52). As many as 3 Dietrich Coachbuilder#Early production, coachbuilt bodies were built on wheelbases in 1931. Beginning in 1933, the Royale also featured as an option REO's semi-automatic transmission, the Self-Shifter. The Model 8-31 was priced at $2,145. The model 8-35 was priced from $2,745 for the sedan to $3,000 for the convertible coupe. The coachbuilt cars were priced close to $6,000. A convertible Victoria was listed at $3,195 but only one is known to have been built. The 8-35 & 8-52 are considered full Classic Car Club of America, CCCA classics. File:Reo Runabout 1906.jpg, REO runabout 1906 File:1917 REO Model M 7-passenger Touring.JPG, 1917 Model M Touring File:Reo Touring 1919.jpg, 1919 REO Touring File:Reo Fire Truck.jpg, REO Fire Truck File:Reo Bus 1934.jpg, 1934 REO Bus File:Reo Speed Wagon Truck 1939.jpg, 1939 REO Speed Wagon Truck File:REO-bus-AngvikAuto-2-hh.JPG, REO bus in Norway File:Cottage_Grove_Dump_Truck_(Lane_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(lanDB2094).jpg , Cottage Grove Dump Truck, Lane County, Oregon File:REO Speedwagon Badge.jpg, Badge from a REO Speed Wagon Fire Truck File:ReoSpeedWagon1917-cropped-thumb.jpg, An REO Speed Wagon, from a 1917 advertisement File:REO Speedwagon Fire Truck.jpg, REO Speed Wagon Fire Truck at Jack Daniel's Distillery, Lynchburg, Tennessee File:1935 Reo Flying Cloud 4.7 litre IMG 2610 - Flickr - nemor2.jpg , Reo Flying Cloud 4.7-litre File:1931ReoRoyaleVictoriaEight-interior.jpg, 1931 Reo Royale Victoria Eight File:Reo-emblem.jpg, Car emblem for a Reo Flying Cloud (1930 model)

After passenger cars

Although truck orders during World War II enabled it to revive somewhat, the company remained unstable in the postwar era, resulting in a bankruptcy reorganization. In 1954, the company was still underperforming, and sold its vehicle manufacturing operations (the primary asset of the company) to the Bohn Aluminum and Brass Corporation of Detroit. Three years later, in 1957, Reo's vehicle manufacturing operation became a subsidiary of the White Motor Company. White then merged REO with Diamond T, Diamond T Trucks in 1967 to form Diamond Reo Trucks. In 1975, this company filed for bankruptcy and most of its assets were liquidated. Volvo Trucks, Volvo later took over White and thus currently owns the rights to the REO brand name. Meanwhile, after selling Reo's vehicle manufacturing operation to Bohn in 1954, management began liquidating the remainder of the company. For tax reasons a group of shareholders successfully challenged the liquidation in a proxy fight in September 1955, and forced REO to take over a tiny nuclear services company called Nuclear Consultants, Inc. in a reverse takeover. The resulting Nuclear Corporation of America, Inc., diversified and purchased other companies to become a conglomerate, spreading into an array of fields including prefabricated housing and steel joist manufacturing in addition to nuclear services. Most of these business were failures and the company was bankrupt again by 1966. After reorganizing, only the successful steel-joist business remained; the company started producing recycled steel, and eventually renamed itself Nucor.

Studebaker Agreement

During the Second World War, the company produced a number of Studebaker US6 trucks Licensed production, under license from Studebaker. Most of these trucks were built by Studebaker. However, the REO versions of the truck had some changes, such as different door handles and a more powerful engine. It is estimated that REO produced around 20,000 of these trucks and, unlike the original Studebaker trucks which were also used by the United States, the REO versions were exported only to the Soviet Union.



*19 AS *96-T *Comet *DC *Flying Cloud *Flying Cloud Mate *GB *Gold Comet *M-109 *M-34 *M-35 *M-35 A1 *M-48 *M-49 *M-50 *M-52 *M-Series *M-246 *R-5 "Reo the Fifth" *Royale *Royale Elite *Runabout *T-6


*19 AS *AC *Apollo *Comet *DC *GB *Giant *Gold Comet * M35 series 2½-ton 6x6 cargo truck, M35 *Raider *Royale * REO Speed Wagon, Speed Wagon *Speed Delivery *Speed Tanker


* 96HTD * W series * Gold Comet


* Toronto Transportation Commission * Israel Defense Forces

REOs in popular culture

* The band ''REO Speedwagon'' took their name from the REO Speed Wagon light delivery truck, an ancestor of pickup trucks. * The band ''Diamond Rio'' took their name from REO's successor company Diamond Reo Trucks. The band misspelled "Reo" as "Rio", but lead singer Marty Roe decided to make a virtue out of his mistake. "I like it like that. It has a country-Southwestern flavor", he told the Chicago Tribune’s Jack Hurst. * A REO is mentioned in a humorous 1933 short story ''The Car We Had to Push'' by James Thurber. It tells the story of Thurber’s family car, which would only start if pushed a long way. After several odd adventures, the car is destroyed by a trolley car. * In the John Wayne movie ''Big Jake (film), Big Jake'', set in 1909, the Texas Ranger Division, Texas Rangers were traveling in REOs, which were later destroyed by the bandits. (The cars destroyed were replicas, rather than the actual vehicles.) * The song ''The Incomparable Mr. Flannery'' by band ''Clutch (band), Clutch'' from their 2005 album ''Robot Hive/Exodus'' mentions the REO Speed Wagon. * The song ''Night Guard'' by Canadian folk musician Stan Rogers mentions "a blacked-out Reo coming for another load". In the song, the Reo is the vehicle that thieves have been using to transport cattle they have stolen from an ex-rodeo rider who left the circuit to take up ranching. The song ends with the rancher firing his Winchester chambered in .303 British at the thieves and then calling the police (the police had offered no help prior claiming a lack of evidence). * In Robert A. Heinlein's ''Time Enough for Love'', Maureen Smith explains to Lazarus Long that her husband got rid of his car when he went back into the service, not because he wanted to leave her without a car, but because he wouldn't be using it for the duration of the war and because he figured she wouldn't want to learn how to drive it. Quoting him, she says: "'I didn't sell the Reo to tie you down. If you want to drive, buy a Ford; it's easier to learn on.' I told him I didn't want to drive; I would wait until he came home." * In the novel ''Mrs. Bridges'' by Evan S. Connell, Mrs. Bridges drives a Reo. * On the ''Andy Griffith Show'' episode ''Citizen’s Arrest'', Andy and Barney are discussing a case that involved a man driving a Reo Flying Cloud. * In the book ''The Power of the Dod'' by Thomas Savage, the Burbank's brothers drives a Reo. * The famous Barnum & Bailey Circus exhibited sideshow performers, Tiny Tim and Tom Thumb, driving a scaled-down version of the 1906 Reo Model-A Light Touring Car known as the "Baby Reo".


File:REO Motor Ad 1906.jpg, 1906 REO advertisement File:Reo-owen 1912.jpg, 1912 REO advertisement. R. M. Owens & Co. File:Reo-motor-car 1919-0608.jpg, A 1919 REO Motor Car Company Advertisement. The Syracuse Herald, June 8, 1919 File:REO Motors ad Popular Mechanics Oct 1953.jpg, REO advertisement in 1953 (back cover of the October 1953 issue of ''Popular Mechanics'') File:Reo yanase ad 1929 in japan.jpg, 1929 REO advertisement sold at Yanase (car dealership), Yanase dealerships in Japan

See also

Ransom E. Olds Ransom Eli Olds (June 3, 1864 – August 26, 1950) was a pioneer of the American automotive industry, after whom the Oldsmobile Oldsmobile was a brand of American automobiles produced for most of its existence by General Motors. Originally esta ...
Oldsmobile Oldsmobile was a brand A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. Brands are used in business, marketing, and advertising for recognition ...

* List of defunct United States automobile manufacturers


External links

A Tribute To The REO Motor Car Company
many photos; site may be slow loading and have javascript pop-up ads
R.E. Olds Museum

REO Gallery at White Glove Collection

REO Club of America

A REO Speed Delivery (State Library, Victoria, Australia images)
{{DEFAULTSORT:Reo Motor Car Company Defunct manufacturing companies based in Lansing, Michigan Motor vehicle manufacturers based in Michigan Defunct bus manufacturers of the United States American companies established in 1905 Vehicle manufacturing companies established in 1905 Vehicle manufacturing companies disestablished in 1975 1905 establishments in Michigan 1975 disestablishments in Michigan Defunct manufacturing companies based in Michigan Transportation in Lansing, Michigan Defunct truck manufacturers of the United States