Ransom Eli Olds was successful in selling his Curved Dash Oldsmobile, but when he resisted dropping it in favor of a more modern, expensive automobile he was forced out of his own company. The name REO represented the initials of automotive pioneer Ransom E. Olds, for whom the Oldsmobile was named. Olds launched the REO after leaving Oldsmobile in 1904.
The REO Company was formed in Lansing, Michigan and manufactured automobiles and trucks from 1905 through 1936. Their first car was completed in October of 1904 and shown a few months later at the New York show in Madison Square Garden in January 1905.
The model lineup consisted of a sixteen horsepower twin-cylinder car that had a base price of $1,250 and a single-cylinder car priced at $650. This put them in the Olds Curved Dash price range which made management at Olds nervous, as the REO were a lot more car. By 1906, REO sales surpassed Oldsmobile's. In 1907, it was one of the top four automobile manufacturers in the United States, based on sales. After 1908, the demise of the REO Company began due to competition from Ford and General Motors. Their single-cylinder cars would continue in production until 1910.
This 1909 model was produced prior to the time Olds moved to producing a more powerful, expensive automobile. This early model REO is a two-cylinder, full touring riding on a 96 inch wheelbase. The original price was $1,000. This example was purchased from a private collection in 2010 in non-operating condition. A year was spent making it a satisfactory road vehicle. It has participated in three one week tours since that time.
In 1908, REO introduced metal fenders which replaced the previous fenders made of wood. Also, new for 1908 was the full running board between the front and rear fenders. Prior one cylinder REO models had only a step plate. REO discontinued its one cylinder automobile after the 1910 model year, but offered one cylinder trucks for several years thereafter.
1909 was the first year REOs had steel seat backs and extensive use of aluminum. The engine was located under the front seat with the radiator, water and gas tank located under the hood. It is believed that this was the first year red paint was used on REOs. The windshield was a dealer installed option.