16-17 January 2014

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Lot 38

1905 REO Two-Cylinder Five-Passenger Detachable Tonneau

  • Chassis no. 339

Sold for $60,500

16 hp, 35.4 cu. in. horizontally opposed L-head two-cylinder engine, two-speed planetary transmission, solid front axle and live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs and single chain drive, and two-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 88 in.

Although his curved-dash Oldsmobile was America’s best-selling car, Ransom Olds found himself quarreling with his principal investor, Samuel Smith, and his sons, Frederic and Angus, who were managing the Olds Motor Works. The Smiths felt the future lay in larger, more expensive cars, while Olds was committed to more economical vehicles. In January 1904, after a heated argument with Fred Smith, Olds left. He didn’t stay away from the auto industry very long. That summer, he founded the R.E. Olds Company, changing it to REO Motor Car Company, using his initials, after the Smiths complained.

The first REO car was completed that October and exhibited at the New York Auto Show in January 1905. This 16-horsepower, twin-cylinder car sold for $1,250, and it was soon joined by a smaller single-cylinder sibling, with an engine just half its size and priced at $650. At curved-dash Olds prices, it was a lot more car, and Olds no doubt felt vindicated when REO sales surged ahead of Oldsmobile’s in 1906. Single-cylinder cars were continued until 1910, alongside the twin, until both were superseded by four-cylinder models.

This two-cylinder REO, bearing chassis number 339, is a very early production model that was built soon after manufacture commenced on October 15, 1904. That first car was tested for 2,000 miles, with Olds himself at the wheel most of the time. It was the recipient of an older, well-cared-for restoration, but it still shines with plenty of correct and authentic brass, including a center-mounted spotlight with a dash-mounted carbide generator, a running board-mounted Sunlyte carbide generator for the Gray & Davis headlights and matching side lights and taillights, and a clock, speedometer, and bulb horn. Brass electric turn signals have been added for use on modern roads. An electric starter has been unobtrusively fitted for convenient, stress-free driving.

It was reported to the vendor that this REO was in the previous owner’s family for more than 50 years, and it has been in California since the 1950s. This older restoration “family car” has always been well-cared-for, and it still shows well today. The previous owner believed in “bling,” and over the years he found many correct brass accessories to “dress up the old girl.” Today, at 109 years old, the REO still shines. If a little brass is a good thing, surely more brass is better, and this little REO has it.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more