The Olds Motor Works began in 1897, founded by Ransom E. Olds, with the financial help of his partners, the Smith family. In the early 1900s, the one-cylinder "curved dash" Oldsmobile was a top-selling car, until Ford.
Q: How is the REO related to Oldsmobile?
A: Despite the success of the one-cylinder model, the Smith family wanted to devote more production to more expensive multicylinder models, though Olds preferred his popular "one-banger."
In January 1904, Olds left his original company in frustration. (It later became part of General Motors.) He created REO (using the three initials of his name, as did some other manufacturers who left their first organization to start over). Olds had first called his new company the R.E. Olds Company, but the Smiths strongly objected, so Olds compromised with the REO corporate name.
Q: So, when was the first REO car completed?
A: In October 1904. REO was a hit at the January 1905 New York Automobile Show, and production commenced at that point.
By 1907, REO had outsold Oldsmobile and was in the No. 3 spot, just behind Ford and Buick. The original Olds Motor Works, under the Smiths' direction, was in financial difficulty and was sold late in 1908 to Billy Durant's new General Motors Corporation.
Q: Did REO build trucks as well as cars?
A: Yes! The REO "Speedwagon" delivery truck was very popular in the 1920s, and REO built trucks long after it built its final 1936 cars.
In the 1970s, a successful rock music quintet began recording under the name REO Speedwagon (on EPIC records). The band is still touring today.