Quite a few famous names have been attached to pickup trucks over the years. There’ve been Terminator-edition Toyotas and Tonka F-Series. Several apparel companies have collaborated with automakers on pickups, as has the Kentucky Derby. And of course, there are several Ford and GMC pickups with ‘Harley-Davidson’ on their tailgates. But there’s also a truck that shares its name with a famous band and beloved JoJo character: the Reo Speedwagon. But the pickup truck got there first.
The Reo Speedwagon was the first pickup truck
First off, the band and anime character are named after the truck, not the other way around, FilmThreat reports. Reo Speedwagon band co-founder Neal Doughty, walking into his college engineering class, saw the name on the blackboard, and thought it was cool. But it’s not just in pop culture that the truck has priority.
Although Ford is usually given credit for making the first factory-built pickup, Car and Driver reports, the Reo Speedwagon predates both the F-Series and Model T trucks. In fact, as Hemmings explains, the Reo Speedwagon’s roots actually come from one of the first car companies: Oldsmobile.
Founder Ransom E. Olds, Truck Trend reports, was the first person granted a US patent for an automobile. Unfortunately, although the company he founded, Olds Motor Works, recovered from a devastating 1901 fire, friction with other executives led Ransom to leave. He then started another car company, the R.E. Olds Company, aka ‘Reo.’
Starting with passenger cars, the company began producing trucks in 1910. Then, in 1915, Reo debuted the Speedwagon, the ancestor to today’s pickup trucks. Ford, meanwhile, wouldn’t make an official Model-T-based pickup until 1925.
The Reo Speedwagon’s specs and evolution
The Reo Speedwagon was produced from 1915-1953, pausing for WWII. And just like today’s pickup trucks, the Speedwagon was very configurable.
There were 3 different trims available, ranging from light- to heavy-duty. There were also several wheelbase and bed lengths to choose from. And then there were the additional accessories and commercial versions.
MSU’s Michigan History reports the Reo Speedwagon was the first pickup truck to offer an electric starter and lighting, along with shaft-driven axles and pneumatic tires. They were often used as fire trucks, History Daily reports and could be further outfitted for other duties. By 1925, Reo had sold over 125,000 Speedwagons.
Initially available with a 1.0-liter four-cylinder and 3-speed transmission, the Speedwagon’s powertrain also evolved over the years. By 1949, customers could order one with a 4.0-liter six-cylinder, which Curbside Classics reports developed 89 hp. And by the time production ended, Truck Trend reports the Reo Speedwagon also offered an assortment of diesel engines.
Pricing and availability
Reo trucks rarely show up for auction. Although the company produced many pickups in the pre-war period, few survive today. And after WWII, Reo didn’t make many Speedwagons before being bought-out. As of this writing, Bring a Trailer has one 1949 Speedwagon D19XA available, currently bidding at $20,000. BaT reports only 200 D19XAs were made.
Meanwhile, Hemmings has a fully-refurbished 1931 model listed at $49,000; there’s a 1934 fire truck listed at $28,900. That’s actually not too far off what many contemporary Ford pickups go for on BaT. The only difference is, the vintage Ford’s not named after a band.
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