Story and photos by Chris & Connie.
REO Speedwagon was an arena-filling rock band of the 70s and 80s. But that’s not what we’ll be talking about here. Instead, we’ll focus on a line of trucks of the same name, which preceded the musical group by many, many decades and from which they borrowed their moniker. Not terribly common in this part of the world, the old workhorse seen in this report was found in the East Kootenays of BC.
The REO (or R E O) Motor Company was in business from the early 1900s to the mid-1970s. Initially they produced cars and trucks, but by the 1930s concentrated on the latter only, progressively larger and larger ones as the years progressed. The founder of the firm, Ransom E Olds, had some years earlier started the Oldsmobile Car Company but was soon forced out of that organization. The two makes were otherwise not related.
The Speedwagon was the REO company’s trademark light to moderate-duty delivery truck, in later years the firm’s smallest offering. The junior member of the line was not much bigger than a pickup of today. The example seen here, we believe based on certain trim details, is a late 1940s model. This same overall body style was used from the early 40s to the early 50s, when the last Speedwagons were made, with little change.
Most, or perhaps all the Speedwagons made, were powered by REO’s own gas engines. They were outfitted with pickup style boxes, enclosed bodies, or as plain deck trucks and we’re not built in tractor form from what we could determine.
The 1940s and 1950s model Speedwagons, with their Streamlined Art Deco-style flowing lines and distinctively shaped slotted grill and round nose, was quite handsome and very stylish. It was likely they’d never be confused with any other make. They stood out, and still do.
The REO firm lost its independence in the 1950s, becoming a subsidiary of giant White Motors. That firm also owned make Diamond T and in the 1960s, the two were amalgamated to become Diamond REO, still under the White Motors umbrella. White later sold the make, in the early 1970s, and soon after Diamond REO failed. By then they were making mostly heavy duty over the road tractors and construction chassis.
A group later resurrected the marque for a time, staring in the late 1970s, but they were not REO (or Diamond REO) trucks in the true sense and had little outside the name to connect them to the earlier firm. That company operated into the 1990s.
Some REO cars were made in Canada, way back when, but only for a brief time I understand. Otherwise, production came from the firm’s factory in Michigan. This brand was never terribly common, especially so in this country. We’ve only come across a handful in our adventures, most of them interestingly enough, similar Speedwagon models.
This truck came from the US. The old Idaho license plate shows it was lasted used in the mid-1980s. That’s some thirty five years on the job. Not bad! How it got to where it is today, in the back lot of firm in Cranbrook, and when that happened is not known. The employees on duty there, who allowed us to photograph it, did not seem to know much about it. We left our number…
This truck seems to have taken a good hit to the front end at one time. A look inside shows very basic accommodations and instrumentation, typical of the era I guess. A hive of angry wasps kept us from taking more than one photo of the interior. Run for it!
If you have an old truck or any machinery that’s interesting, we’d love to document it. Drop us a line, tell us what you got and we’ll arrange to come see it. It’s what we do!
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: August, 2015.
Location: Cranbrook, BC.
Article references: American Truck Historical Society.
The tuck is on private property. BIGDoer.com visited with permission.