REO Speedwagon

I’ll bet you said “why is he posting a thread about a rock band?” Well, I’m not.
My town just acquired an “open” wood-bodied school bus with a canvas top called an REO Speedwagon that was built by REO Motor Company in the very early 1900s. Seats about a dozen students. And it’s in running condition! Until I talked to the town agent and saw the photos and information on it, I’d never heard of one. I’ll post a photo when it’s brought to its town location (a special garage being built for it), but that may be a month or so.

REO = Ransom E. Olds, founder of Oldsmobile, which he left in 1904 (it was sold to GM in 1908) and then founded REO.

The name definitely goes back a ways…

REO survived (as part of Diamond-REO truck company) until they finally went under in 1975.

That’s all cool history. Thanks.

The owner of a local hardware store, the one where Elvis got his first guitar as a matter of fact, was still using an old Diamond REO pickup every day in the mid 60s. The owner lived around the corner from me and had an old barn behind his house where some large pieces of inventory and the truck were kept and in the summer I saw it going and coming several times a day. I have no clue how old it was but the fenders and running boards dated it to pre war. The old truck seemed to run OK with no noticeable problems and it didn’t smoke. The hood was considerably longer than a Model A so it likely had a 6 cylinder engine.

The company was actually around for many years and made a great many vehicles. I was kind of surprised when I looked up the history. I’d never heard of them.

I worked one summer during college at my county’s supply division. We were moving stuff into a new school. A driver showed up with a big load of desks and chairs with a Diamond REO tractor. He was very proud of his new truck. He and a couple of full time supply division employees spent about a half hour talking enthusiastically about his Diamond REO.

Then the band changed that just a bit and called themselves Diamond Rio ( rio ; spanish for river )…close but no cigar…for the car related music groups thread.

This thread takes me back to the early to mid 1950s when our small midwestern town had a 1928 REO Speedwagon with a straight 6 cylinder engine in its fire department fleet which included a Model A Ford truck with a water tank. I recall being near the fire station one night when the alarm was sounded and I watched the REO Speedwagon leave the fire station for the fire. The Speedwagon driver, from a cold start wound the engine RPMs up until it would not rev any more and only then he would shift to second gear. That fire truck seemingly had one tough engine. I never heard that it ever blew a connecting rod which was a weak point in vehicle engines back then.

Are they going to restore it? That would be kind of cool if they got it restored.

Shouldn’t this be under “Car Related Music Groups”?

ken green: R.E.O. Speedwagon was a mainstream band in the 1970s-80s named after a flatbed REO truck a member had studied in a transportation history class. Diamond Rio was a Country/ Christian band formed in 1982 that I had never heard of.

I really liked the old commercials for the REO semi tractors that appeared on the back of Popular Mechanics back in the 1950s. One advertisement read like this:

Bed bumpy
Oatmeal lumpy
Wife grumpy
Climb into your REO and relax!

Another commercial:
Engine slow
Earning power low
Tain’t your friend but your foe
Trade it in for a REO

Excellent question Mike. I’ve seen the photos and read the report and it’s actually in excellent shape, apparently kept in storage, maintained, and repaired over the years as needed. It’s even running. The current plan is to give it a “sympathetic restoration”; get it mechanically back into like-new shape but not change anything strictly for aesthetics. It will then be put on display in a bespoke garage in front of town hall and used for parades. Its original purpose-build was as a schoolbus, and I’m told that it’s exactly like the buses that out town had in the early 1900s.

Interestingly, I know we’ve had discussion about the development of electrical starters… and this one has a 6VDC starter system! It also has a hand crank, with a slide door in the lower radiator shell to access the shaft that the crank turns.

I’m going to keep in touch with the town manager (who told me all of this and showed me the photos, reports, etc.) and hope to get a ride on it if possible.

I’'m surprised that no one has thrown in a groaner about kids riding in an open REO Speedwagon bus with a canvas top in inclement weather and riding the storm out… :wink:

Don’t let the lawyers know. There’ll be a class action lawsuit for the great-grandchildren of the kids who rode in the bus a century ago! :smiley: