REO Motor Car Company Lansing, Michigan, U.S.A. 1905 – 1975

REO Motor Car Company

REO Motor Car Company
Former type Automobile Manufacturing
Industry Automotive
Founded 1905
Founders Ransom E. Olds
Defunct 1975
Headquarters Lansing, Michigan
1906 REO Model B Runabout1906 Reo Runabout 1906

 1906 REO Model B Runabout in 2005

The REO Motor Car Company was a Lansing, Michigan based company that produced automobiles and trucks from 1905 to 1975. At one point the company also manufactured buses on its truck platforms.

REO was founded by Ransom E. Olds during August 1904. Olds had 52 percent 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, 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 (which, along with Buick and Cadillac, became founding divisions of General Motors Corporation).

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 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 and General Motors.

REO added a truck manufacturing division and a Canadian plant in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1910. Two years later, Olds claimed he had built the best car he could, a tourer able to seat two, four, or five, with a 30–35 hp (22–26 kW) engine, 112 in (2845 mm) wheelbase, and 32 inch (81 cm) wheels, for US$ 1055 (not including top, windshield, or gas tank, which were US$100 extra); self-starter was US$25 on top of that. By comparison, the Cole 30 and Colt Runabout were priced at US$1500, Kirk‘s Yale side-entrance US$1,000, the high-volume Oldsmobile Runabout went for US$650, Western‘s Gale Model A was US$500, a Brush Runabout US$485, the Black started at $375, and the Success hit the amazingly low US$250.

In 1915, Olds relinquished the title of general manager to his protégé 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.

1912 REO advertisement - R. M. Owens & Co.

1912 REO advertisement – R. M. Owens & Co.

Perhaps the most famous REO episode was the 1912 Trans-Canada journey. Traveling 4,176 miles (6,720 km) from Halifax, Nova Scotia, toVancouver, 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 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 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

1931 REO Reo Royale Victoria Eight1931 REO Reo Royale Victoria Eight

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 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 has a 115″ 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 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 streamlining in the American market. The model was vended until 1935. Beverly 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 125 hp (93 kW) straight-eight with a nine bearing crankshaft, one shot lubrication, and thermostatically controlled radiator shutters. The Royale rode upon factory wheelbases of 131 and 135 inches (3,400 mm); a 1932 custom version rode upon a 152-inch (3,900 mm) wheelbase. Beginning in 1933, the Royale also featured REO’s semi-automatic transmission, the Self-Shifter.

1917 Model M Touring 7 pers.1917 Model M Touring

1919 REO Touring1919 REO Touring

REO Fire TruckREO Fire Truck

1934 REO Bus1934 REO Bus

1939 REO Speed Wagon Truck1939 REO Speed WagonTruck

1917 ReoCarsA portion of REO’s 1917 line of cars

REO-bus-AngvikAuto-2-hh NorwayREO bus in Norway

REO Cottage Grove Dump Truck

Cottage Grove Dump Truck, Lane County, Oregon

REO Speedwagon BadgeBadge from an REO Speed Wagon Fire Truck

1917 Reo Speed Wagon

An REO Speed Wagon, from a 1917 advertisement

REO Speed Wagon Fire Truck at Jack Daniel's Distillery, Lynchburg, TennesseeREO Speed Wagon Fire Truck at Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Lynchburg, Tennessee

1935 Reo Flying Cloud 4.7 litreReo Flying Cloud 4.7 litre

1931 Reo Royale Victoria Eight interiour1931 Reo Royale Victoria Eight

1930 Reo-emblem

Car emblem for a Reo Flying Cloud (1930 model)

After passenger cars

1946 REO truck

 c.1946 REO truck

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 vehicle manufacturing operations (the primary asset of the company) to the Bohn Aluminum and Brass Corporation of Detroit. Three years later, in 1957, it became a subsidiary of the White Motor Company. White then merged REO with Diamond T Trucks in 1967 to form Diamond-Reo Trucks, Inc. In 1975, this company filed for bankruptcy in the Western District of Michigan and most of its assets were liquidated. Volvo later took over White and thus currently owns the rights to the REO brandname.

Meanwhile, the corporation remained nominally after the 1954 Bohn sale. Management began liquidating the organization, but due to shareholder issues, instead acquired Nuclear Consultants, Inc., a nuclear medicine or nuclear industry services organization (unclear), and renamed the combined company “Nuclear Corporation of America, Inc.” The company diversified, and purchased other companies, to become a conglomerate, including nuclear, prefabricated housing, and steel joist businesses. Most of these business were failures, except for the latter, and the company was bankrupted once again in 1965. Upon reorganizing, only the successful steel joist business remained; that company started producing recycled steel, leading to today’s steel company, Nucor.



  • 19 AS
  • AC
  • Apollo
  • Comet
  • DC
  • GB
  • Gold Comet
  • M35
  • Raider
  • Royale
  • Speed Wagon
  • Speed Tanker


  • 96HTD
  • W series
  • Gold Comet


REOs in popular culture

  • An REO is mentioned in a humorous 1933 short story by James Thurber entitled, The Car We Had to Push. 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, the Texas Rangers were traveling in REOs, which were later destroyed by the bandits. (The cars destroyed were replicas, rather than the actual vehicles).
  • The American Country Music band Diamond Rio took their name from Diamond Reo trucks. The bands leader Marty Roe settled on the name Diamond Rio, taking the name from a member of the truck model line that had previously inspired the name of the rock group REO Speed-wagon. Roe misspelled “Reo” as “Rio,” but 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.


1906 REO advertisement

1906 REO advertisement

1919 REO Motor Car Company Advertisement - The Syracuse Herald, June 8, 1919

A 1919 REO Motor Car Company Advertisement – The Syracuse Herald, June 8, 1919

1953 REO Motors ad Popular Mechanics

REO advertisement in 1953 (back cover of the October 1953 issue of Popular Mechanics)

1905 Reo Motor Car Company 1906 REO advertisement 1906 REO Model B Runabout 1906 Reo Runabout 1906 1906 Reo-auto 1906 logo 1907 REO 1908 Reo motor car co Ad 1909 reo grill emblem 1912 REO advertisement - R. M. Owens & Co. 1914 REO Speedwagon vrachtwagen Sneek 1914-27 REO Sneek 1916 REO J (2t) 1917 Model M Touring 7 pers. 1917 Reo Speed Wagon 1917 ReoCars 1918 The REO Speed Wagon was a motor truck manufactured by REO Motor Car Company 1919 REO Motor Car Company Advertisement - The Syracuse Herald, June 8, 1919 1919 REO Touring 1919 Reo-motor-car 1922 REO model U6 1923 REO Hainje Heerenveen B-6217A 1924 Reo School Bus - 1st School Bus in 1924 REO Speed Wagon 1924 REO Speedwagon Badge 1924 REO Speedwagon Pickup 1925 Mike's 1925 REO Miss Salem 1925 Reo Speed Wagon Delivery Truck 1925 REO Speed Wagon Fire Truck at Jack Daniel's Distillery, Lynchburg, Tennessee 1926 REO MODELE G Speedwagon 1926 REO Pullman Eaton B24F 1927 Reo Flying Cloud Brougham Ad 1927 Reo Flying Cloud Sedan 1927 REO Pullman maudslayml4 1928 REO Adelaide 1929 REO advertisement sold at Yanase dealerships in Japan 1929 Reo bus interior 1929 Reo Fire Truck 1929 REO Spanje 1930 Reo Flying Cloud Model 20 Sedan 1930 REO in aanbouw bij Hainje Heerenveen B-15312 1930 Reo Light Delivery Express 1930 Reo Safety Coach limavady-bus2 1930 REO 1930 REO-arm 1930 Reo-emblem 1931 ESA 8 REO. Kromhout. Hainje 1931 REO bus graphic 1931 Reo Car AG 6470  1931  Reo FB/Economy  Bounty Country Buses 1931 REO ID 1931 REO Pullman NG1109 1931 REO Reo Royale Victoria Eight 1931 Reo Royale Victoria Eight interiour 1931 Reo Royale Victoria Eight 1931 Reo Royale Victoria Eight-interior 1931 Reo school bus 1931 Reo Speed Wagon Panel Truck 1931 REO Sweden 1931 Reo-1 Granby International Classic Car Show - 1932 Reo Flying Cloud 1932 REO modelo Royale 4d 1932 REO modelo Royale 1932 Reo Royale Convertible Coupe 1932 Reo Royale Five-Passenger Victoria 1932 REO Royale Street Rod 1932 REO Speedwagon 1932 REO-A.R.M. KLM 1933 REO BBL7 Dysons Bus Service 1933 REO Hainje Heerenveen B-6217 1933 REO StateLib Qld Wilston-Fortitude 1933 reo-speedwagon-model-bn 1934 REO Bus 1934 REO Fitzjohn Winnipeg 1934 Reo Flying Cloud Three or Five-Passenger De Luxe Coupe 1934 REO, ARM carr. GTM 610, M-19539 1935 reo blew bus 1935 Reo Flying Cloud 4.7 litre 1935 REO Flying Cloud 6 cylinder Sedan 1935 REO log 1936 REO 1 1936 Reo car 1936 Reo Flying Cloud Six-Passenger Sport 1936 Reo Flying Cloud 1936 REO Hainje Heerenveen B-15312 1936 REO Speedwagon Fire Truck 1936 REO Speedwagon Pickup 1936 Rio bus Isreal Ad Proof Commercial Car Journal Sept 1947 1937 1904-67 REO Motor Car Company 1937 Reo Half-Ton Speed Delivery Pick-Up And Panel 1937 REO Pick Up 1937 REO Speedtanker 1937 REO Trucks 1938 reo 1 1938 REO Model 383-P Canandian American Trailways 110 1938 REO Panel 02 1938 REO with 1938 Curtiss Aerocar trailer a 1938 REO with 1938 Curtiss Aerocar trailer b 1938 REO with 1938 Curtiss Aerocar trailer c 1938 REO with 1938 Curtiss Aerocar trailer d 1938 REO with 1938 Curtiss Aerocar trailer e 1938 Speed Delivery België 1939 Reo Flying Cloud 1939 Reo Gold Crown with Heaver 35 seat full front bodywork 1939 REO Speed Tanker 1939 REO Speed Wagon Truck 1940 Bell Bus REO Speed Wagon 1941 REO 23BHRS, 6x6 1941 REO Speed Wagon bus 1942 REO 29XS (F1), 6x6 1942 REO LS60F, 4x4 1942 REO up259 1943 REO US6.U3, 6x6 1943 Syd Wood bodied Reo 1945 Reo Emblem 1945 Sydney built REO White Semi-trailer bus with MBA body 1945 1946 REO truck 1947 Reo Bus Emp Transp colectivod el Estado Ex ENT Santiago 1947 Reo Safety School Bus 1947 REO waiting for restauration 1947-52 REO NB-28-13 1948 REO D21 1948 Bury 2 1948 REO Flying Cloud 1948 REO Motors Inc 1948 Reo speed wagon 1948 Reo 1948 REO-bus-AngvikAuto 1948 REO-bus-AngvikAuto-4 1948_REO_Speed_Wagon_Restored_Truck_resize 1948-reo-4wd-school-bus-1 twiddys-gillig 1949 nanaimo-BLT36reo-cox 1949 REO 019 XA 1949 REO Speed Wagon in South Hill, Virginia 1949 Reo 1949 Reo-big- 1950 REO Car Company Diamond T or Reo Bus 1950 REO Motor Car Company Australië Reo Speed Wagon 1950 REO Motor Car Company Reo side loader 1950 REO Motors Lansing MI Ad 1950 REO, KAT Nash load ???????????????????????????????????? 1952 Reo bus 1952 Reo with a Watt Bros body 1952 REO М34, 6x6 1952 REO М35, 6x6 1953 REO Motors ad Popular Mechanics 1953 REO М36, 6x6 1953 REO ХМ282, 8x8 1953 reo 1954 Reo F221B Civil Rescue Car 1955 REO 1955 REO-logo-High-Res 1956 REO C-2 29XS 7½ tons kraan 1956 REO cab over 1956 REO Gold Comet 6X6 1956 Reo pusher Syd Wood Entrance Red Bus Svce 1956 REO М342, 6x6 1956 REO ХМ375, 8x8 1957 REO Advertisement 1957 Reo Gold Comet 1957 REO Hank Suderman Coll 1957 Reo M35 1957 REO pick up green OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 1957 Reo-t Finland 1958 REO Cottage Grove Dump Truck 1958 Reo dump truck 1959 Reo M-109-A2 Truck-Motorhome 1959 REO School Bus 7nov10 1959 REO ХМ453Е3 (8x8), left  ХМ434Е3, 6x6 1960 REO C332 Tip Truck (2) 1960 REO C332 Tip Truck 1961 Diamond-T 534CG - factory photo 1961 Reo series DF 1905 1961 Reo series DF cab over tractor 1961 Reo series DF truck with a straight box 1961 Reo series DF 1963 Reo tractor picture given to me by the White truck company in the 1960's. 1964 reo 1964 reo-ginkel-Automobielbedrijf Gebr. van Ginkel, Ederveen 1967 Reo 1972 REO with Syd Wood bodywork belonging to the Hunters Hill Bus Co 1972 Reolian midi bus REO 3-1,5 ton 6X6 truck (prototype) REO 25 REO 97460 REO A733 Tractor with Lowboy and Cat Dozer REO book REO C378+C478+C578 REO cabover using the Diamond T cab. Reo Coe Reo D 23 R REO Diesel a REO Diesel REO E ad REO Militar reo pub REO ss reo

Author: Jeroen

In Dutch, my homelanguage: Ik ben Jeroen, tot januari 2015 was ik al dik 26 jaar werkzaam in een psychiatrisch ziekenhuis in een stad vlakbij Werelds grootste havenstad Rotterdam. Eerst als verpleegkundige/begeleider op high care, later op afdeling dubbeldiagnose (verslavingen) en ook nog een tijdje als administratief medewerker. Ik heb een spierziekte "Poli Myositis" (alle spieren zijn ontstoken) daardoor weinig energie. Sinds augustus 2015 is daarbij de diagnose Kanker gesteld, en ben ik helemaal arbeidsongeschikt geworden en zit middenin de behandelfase. Gelukkig ben ik daarnaast getrouwd, vader, en opa, en heb de nodige hobby's. Een daarvan is transportmiddelen verzamelen en daarmee een blog schrijven. Dit blog begon met bussen, maar nu komen ook sleepboten, auto's trucks en dergelijke aan bod. Kijk en geniet met me mee, reageer, en vul gerust aan. Fouten zal ik ook graag verbeteren. In English: I'm Jeroen, till januari 2015 I was already 26 years working as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, near Rotterdam, Worlds biggest harbour with more than 98 nationalities living within it's borders. First I worked on closed high care ward and the last years on a ward with mainly addicted people. I liked my work very much. In 2007 I got ill. I got the diagnose Poli Myositis, a musscle dissease. Al my mussles are inflamed. And last august I got another diagnose. Cancer. It's plaveicelcel carcinoma and treated with Chemo and radioation. So I've even less energy than the last years. Still I try to make something of my life and the blog is helping with surviving with some pleasure.

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