We have received the below “Tale of Truck” from Ced Pearce after the publication of the SACARCLUB Magazine No.81, where we proudly presented the REO Speedwagon as our display, stage for the entertainment at Krugerskroon. What amazing coincidence to get more information and history on the this collection piece – a word of thanks to Nick Beukes, editor and owner of the SA Car Club Magazine.
Tale of a Truck Ced Pearce
Chances are, if you are a lot younger than I am, the words REO Speedwagon will be recognized as the wacky-sounding name of a pop group of the 1970’s and 1980’s. But you may not know of the origin of the name, the REAL “REO Speed wagon”.
Mr. Ransom Eli Olds was an acknowledged pioneer of the US auto industry, credited with inventing the assembly line (often wrongly attributed to Henry Ford). His first company, the Olds Motor works, produced the famous Oldsmobile until the eventual owners General Motors dropped the brand in 2004.
Early on, Mr.Olds fell out with the company and left to start the REO Motor Car company, using the initials of his name. They made some fine cars which were discontinued during the Depression in 1936, and trucks right up to 2013 – the later years being integrated with Diamond T.
My lifelong connection with the village of Bedfordview, sadly now being branded with the reputation of being a haven for organized criminals, goes back to my late grandfather who bought property there when it was called Geldenhuis Estates. And since as long as I could recall, Geldenhuis Estate Dairy was part of the scene. They used to deliver milk by horse-drawn carts to residents. The retirement home called Arbor Village now occupies their lands.
Apart from their horse-drawn vehicles, they had a truck for more bulky deliveries. I discovered it abandoned in the 1960’s, parked in a corner of the dairy yard with a seized engine. A 1934 Reo Speed Wagon ! After some misguided imagining having the truck restored and used for a parade vehicle with a Dixieland jazz band playing, I did a deal with Old Hector Dittberner the dairy owner.
The original canopy for the load section had fortunately been stored indoors, so its wood and canvas construction survived pretty well. The bonnet sides each wore an aluminium nameplate identifying Reo Speed Wagon, and sadly one was missing. I had vague memories of another old Reo truck lying rotting many years earlier at a bustling brickworks South of Joburg, and a took ride one Saturday in the family VW – with family on board – to see if I could salvage a nameplate. I couldn’t even find the brickworks. But strolling over the veld where I thought it had been I came across a donga which seemed to have been their rubbish pit. And lo and behold, the only piece of metal in there – was the rusted Reo bonnet, with its aluminium nameplate intact. What a find ! It was a mission to fit the bonnet into the Beetle along with the family, but it was done somehow, and I got the nameplate !
After restoring the front end bodywork, it became clear that the vehicle with canopy attached would be too darn big to fit any garage I had, so the project was mothballed while other cars got the restoration treatment. I was nagged by Siggie Duval to buy the truck for his historic village on the Vaal. Realizing that I would probably never finish the restoration in my lifetime, I let it go.
I was very pleased to see that the Reo is now in good hands with canopy installed, the front end the same brown colour when I owned it. I sure hope to see it sometime – with a Dixieland band blasting away, even !