Reo Motor Car Co. -1908-1939 - Reo Motors Inc. 1940-1957 - Reo Division, White Motor Co. 1957-1967 - Lansing, Michigan


REO buses (1925-26, 1930s & 1947-49) (parlor car bodies by Fremont ? Fremont, MI)

Ransom E. Olds is the only man in automotive history to have two companies named after him, both surviving into modern times, and both making passenger cars, trucks and buses. After leaving the Oldsmobile company, Olds with a group of Lansing business men formed a new company in August 1904 and produced the first car only six months later. Reo commercial car production began in 1908 with the introduction of a truck on the single­-cylinder 8 hp Model H chassis, this being continued through 1914. The first all-truck Reo came in 1911, having the 4-cylinder engine under the seat, chain drive and pneumatic tires. One of these carried the baggage and equipment for the 1911 Glidden Tour from New York to Florida.

Reo entered the heavy-duty market in 1913 with the 2­ton conventional Model J which continued until 1916. In 1913 electric lighting and starting were offered as standard equipment, a first for the truck industry. The big seller for Reo was the I-ton Speedwagon which was introduced in 1915 and continued basically the same for ten years and, with extensive modifications, into the late 1930s. The initial engine was a 30 hp 4-cylinder unit driving through a 3-speed transmission and bevel final drive. By August 1919 19,900 Speedwagons had been built, making Reo the largest producer of pneumatic-tired ­trucks at that time. In about 1920 Reo brought out the %­ton Power Wagon with twelve standard bodies all made in Reo's works. Engines and other major components were also made by Reo, which was unusual at a time when so many trucks were assembled products.

A 6-cylinder Speedwagon came in 1925, at about the time that Reo began to go after the bus market. The 6­cylinder Model W chassis was intended specifically for passenger work, following on from the popularity of the 4­cylinder Speedwagon chassis with jitney operators. Transit type (so-called "streetcar type") bodies were built by FitzJohn and parlor car bodies by Fremont, but a great many Reo chassis had bodies by other makers too. It is estimated that about 2400 Model W chassis were sold by 1927 when it was replaced by the FB and larger GB with kick-up frames. More than 1300 FB and GB chassis, mostly for buses, were sold by 1933. Meanwhile the trucks had acquired 4-wheel internal expanding hydraulic brakes by 1928, and came in five sizes from 1/2 to 3-tons. For 1929 a Junior Speedwagon with 6-cylinder engine was intro­duced. From 1932 to 1934 Reo had one of the few straight­8 engines in a truck, a 4-tonner. The 6-cylinder Gold Crown engine made its debut in 1934, when the range ran from 1 V. to 6 tons, and the smaller panel delivery vans shared the styling of Reo's passenger cars with sharp V-­grille. In 1935 all trucks were re-styled with V-grilles and skirted fenders, and Reo's first cab-over appeared. During 1936 to 1938 Reo built a seven-model range of trucks and buses for the Mack company to sell under the name Mack Junior. The Speedwagon name finally disappeared in 1939, when a new heavy duty range with round-nosed hood and set-back axle appeared that would be made to well into the 1950s. However, financial problems caused the company to be re-organized, and for a while lawn mowers were made to help keep the company going.

Meanwhile the buses continued to be made, the line of conventional culminating in the 3L6H of 1937 with 6­cylinder Buda engine. These were not as widely sold as earlier models, though, as operators were turning more and more to integral buses. Reo's first 'metropolitan' type of bus was the 2LM of 1937, and 3P7 pusher chassis with FitzJohn or Bender body was introduced in the same year, though unsuccessfully. Once the decision has been made to proceed with a line of integral buses a team of engineers was hired away from Yellow Coach in order to avoid the problems and expense of starting from scratch, and a line of rear-engined buses known as Flying Clouds was produced from 1939 to 1942, but only 170 were sold. During the War Reo sold about 300 buses with front engines and Wayne Mate sectional bodies, mainly to the US Navy. As early as 1943 plans were laid for the 'victory' or post-war bus, to be based on a Continental 427cu in 6­cylinder gasoline engine mounted under the floor. Arrangements were made to have the body built by the Meteor Motor Car Co. of Piqua, Ohio, an ambulance and funeral car builder. Some 969 sales were recorded in three years (1945-47) a small number compared with other manufacturers or with Reo's own production of over 3000 school buses during the same period. A complete assembly line was again set up at Lansing during 1947 to produce a new monocoque series of Flying Cloud buses using under-floor Continental engines and Spicer torque converters. The expensive preparation for this line of buses never paid off as only 101 vehicles were sold, after which Reo withdrew from the bus business.

As well as the buses, Reo built military trucks during World War 2, especially the Series 29 6x6 trucks and tractors built to a common design with Federal. After the war a new engine, the Gold Comet ohv 93 hp 6-cylinder unit was introduced, and non-Reo components included Warner 4-speed transmissions and Timken axles. The new Models 30 and 31 conventionals came in 1948, with full-­vision cab and flat grille. GVW was 36000 lbs, and they were powered by 170 or 200 hp Continental engines. Some long-wheelbase 6-wheelers were made for oilfield work. The name Speedwagon made a brief return for the smaller round-nosed pick up and stake trucks, and other small models included the Step-and-Serve round nosed vans, and Merchandiser forward control vans, both for multi. stop delivery. In 1953 Reo introduced liquid propane gas engines, and in 1954 a heavy-duty V -8 truck engine of its own design, and in 1956 they offered their first diesels, turbocharged Cummins units being used.

Reo's World War II experience in building military trucks was recognized when they received major contracts to make the new 2V.-ton 6x6 Eager Beaver, production of which was shared mainly with G MC, though other firms such as Studebaker made some as well. Powered by Reo Gold Comet or Continental engines, the Eager Beaver remained in production for over 20 years, outlasting Reo's lifespan. In 1957 the company was acquired by White who purchased Diamond T the following year, and late in 1960 moved that operation into the Reo plant as a separate division. For 1961 a new line-­haul DC series of cab-overs with hydraulic tilt cabs was introduced in the 26000 to 43000 lb GVW range with 207 and 235 hp Gold Comet engines. In 1962 came the well­-known E Series conventionals with a new 200 hp 6­cylinder ohv engine which found considerable favor in the construction industry. At this time Reo had 43 basic models, seven gasoline engines of 130 to 235 hp, fourteen diesels (130 to 335 hp) by Cummins, Detroit and Perkins and the LP-gas engines. A wide range of 6x4, 6x6 and 8x6 chassis were offered as well as smaller two-axle jobs. However, as the Reo and Diamond T ranges were similar in many ways and made in the same plant, White consolidated the two divisions in 1967, and with some face lifts the trucks were continued under the name Diamond-­Reo from May1 st 1967.



For more information please read:

Ed Strauss & Karen Strauss - The Bus World Encyclopedia of Buses

G.N. Georgano & G. Marshall Naul - The Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles

Albert Mroz - Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks & Commercial Vehicles

Donald F. Wood - American Buses

Denis Miller - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trucks and Buses

Susan Meikle Mandell - A Historical Survey of Transit Buses in the United States

David Jacobs - American Buses, Greyhound, Trailways and Urban Transportation

William A. Luke & Linda L. Metler - Highway Buses of the 20th Century: A Photo Gallery 

William A. Luke & Brian Grams - Buses of Motorcoach Industries 1932-2000 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Greyhound Buses 1914-2000 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Prevost Buses 1924-2002 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Flxible Intercity Buses 1924-1970 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Buses of ACF Photo Archive (including ACF-Brill & CCF-Brill)

William A. Luke - Trailways Buses 1936-2001 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Fageol & Twin Coach Buses 1922-1956 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Yellow Coach Buses 1923 Through 1943: Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Trolley Buses: 1913 Through 2001 Photo Archive

Harvey Eckart - Mack Buses: 1900 Through 1960 Photo Archive

Brian Grams & Andrew Gold - GM Intercity Coaches 1944-1980 Photo Archive

Robert R. Ebert  - Flxible: A History of the Bus and the Company

John McKane - Flxible Transit Buses: 1953 Through 1995 Photo Archive

Bill Vossler - Cars, Trucks and Buses Made by Tractor Companies

Lyndon W Rowe - Municipal buses of the 1960s

Edward S. Kaminsky - American Car & Foundry Company 1899-1999

Dylan Frautschi - Greyhound in Postcards: Buses, Depots and Post Houses


© 2004, Inc. | Index | Disclaimer | Privacy