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What is an “REO Speedwagon”?

1938 REO Speedwagon Fire Truck 103 N flickr photo by Corvair Owner shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

The Answer

The REO Speed Wagon (or Speed-Wagon) was an early precursor to the modern pickup truck, produced by the REO Motor Car Company of Lansing Michigan.

The band REO Speedwagon was given the name based on a truck that one of the founding members learned about in his transportation history class.

I had imagined that the R.E.O. in the name REO Speedwagon was likely the initials of some of the band members and speedwagon may have been what they called their tour van. I was wrong.

The founding members of REO Speedwagon met as students of Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL.

They named the band REO Speedwagon, from the REO Speed Wagon, a flatbed truck [Neal] Doughty [the keyboardist] had studied in transportation history, and the initials are those of its founder Ransom E. Olds.

REO Speedwagon – Biography – Q 92.7

You might recognize the name Ransom Eli Olds and you may have even ridden in one of his ‘mobiles’. Olds was a pioneer in the auto industry around the turn of the last century. He had built prototypes of steam, electric and gasoline-powered cars, before starting the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in 1897, later renamed Olds Motor Works. After being pushed out of his company a few years later, he started the R.E. Olds Motor Car Company, later renamed REO Motor Car Company.

The REO Speed Wagon was a light truck introduced in 1915 to considerable success. It is regarded as the precursor to modern light trucks and pickups.

Reo Speedwagon flickr photo by dave_7 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

It is said of Ransom Olds that he would take it on the run. Those who knew him well also insisted that he would keep on loving you, and he was heard to should that he can’t fight this feeling and then would immediately go back on the road again.

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