The REO Speed Wagon: Ransom E. Olds's Flatbed Truck

By | October 28, 2019

The Speed Wagon was introduced as a faster version of trucks at the time

Before automobiles were an American way of life, automotive daydreamers attempted to create a market with models that they thought would inspire drivers to take to the roads. The REO Speed Wagon truck is a rare animal in the auto industry. Manufactured by the REO Motor Car Company, the massive truck was given the initials of the company's founder, Ransom Eli Olds, showing the faith that the truck's creators had in it. The Speed Wagon is still considered to be one of the most versatile and dependable automobiles to ever grace the market, and while its design was the catalyst for the pickup truck, many drivers are unaware of its existence outside of classic rock radio.

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Before the REO Speed Wagon hit the road, trucks from the early 20th century weren't working with the kind of horsepower that could overpower horses. The REO Motor Car Company knew that Americans needed something powerful in order to accomplish the kinds of physical labor they were undertaking as life turned complicated. The first REO Speed Wagon was introduced in 1915 with a four-cylinder engine and a three-speed transmission that moved much faster than the trucks of the day, which could only hit speeds of about 10--15 miles per hour. The Speed Wagons were massive and meant for hauling large quantities, be it feed, fruits, and vegetables, or whatever else a person needed to move at the time. 

The Speed Wagons were a major innovation for people in every industry. Not only did they speed up transport time, but they were also able to hold more product, thus requiring fewer back-and-forth trips for those moving more than one item. It's strange to think about a truck being revolutionary, but with this vehicle, REO changed lives. 

 Speed Wagons were easy to modify

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Today, someone can just walk onto a car lot and buy a completely customized truck that perfectly fits their desires. For its time, however, the REO Speed Wagon was unusually customizable. The REO Motor Car Company initially created a basic design and chassis from which the truck could be endlessly modified. Whether someone needed to tow, deliver, or dump something, their Speed Wagons could be outfitted for any occasion. The Speed Wagons were so powerful and dependable that they were even used as fire trucks in many areas.

Speed Wagons could be refitted for whatever special purpose was needed, and the REO Motor Car Company knew that was part of their appeal. They advertised the ease with which the Wagon could be customized and started building Wagons with bigger engines, heavier flywheels, and larger water pumps. If you needed something done, the Speed Wagon could do it.