Car Company in World War Two / WWII
Rest in Peace
This page updated 11-25-2015.Reo's plant was located
at South Washington and Baker Streets in Lansing. The plant was
torn down in the 1980's after then Diamond Reo went out of business.
My grandfather took part in one of the few non-violent sit-down
strikes that were sweeping the US auto industry at the time that
started on March 10, 1937. My grandmother along with other
workers' wives took food and supplies to the workers and passed them
through the factory windows during the four week strike. After
the strike my grandfather got a job at Fisher Body which was timely as
Reo went bankrupt in 1939 which closed the doors for a year.
Reo or REO stood for Ransom E. Olds and was the company he
founded when he left what later became the Oldsmobile Division of
General Motors. Although he originally built automobiles by the
time WWII arrived the company was only building trucks. It was an
important source of employment on the south side of Lansing, where I grew up.
In looking at the numbers in the column to
the left it would appear that during WWII Reo was not producing
vehicles to capacity as it had an apparent annual capacity of 50,000
units. However, this was a problem that bedeviled the company
for many years and finally led to its demise in 1975. I remember
as a teenager walking past The Reo, as we called it, on my way to
downtown Lansing. At that time the Vietnam War was in full swing
and Reo was producing many M-35 Army 2.5 ton trucks for that conflict. Probably
without these it would have gone out of business earlier.
Reo Motor Car Company
World War Two / WWII Production Numbers / Statistics:
(594) 11/2-Ton Navy Stake
Trucks, (743) 3-Ton Navy Stake Trucks, (200) Navy Aircraft Salvage
Trucks, (438) 3-Ton Navy Stake Trucks, (594) 11/2-Ton Navy Dump
Trucks, (875) 3-Ton Navy Dump Trucks, (300) 5-Ton Navy Dump Trucks,
(2,318) Tractors for Fuel Trailers, (22,204) 2 1/2 ton 6x6 Trucks*, (700)
Diesel Powered Tank Transporters, Buses, Aircraft Radial Engine
Starter Parts, Aircraft Engine Parts, Amphibious Tracker Parts, Bomb,
Projectile and Rocket Fuses.
*The 2 1/2 ton 6x6 Trucks
were license built Studebaker M6s.
Mia Tioli made this excellent looking model of
what the Reo Plant looked liked in 1906. In the end most of the
green space was covered with factory expansions. The road along the
bottom is Washington Ave and I used to walk this section of Washington
from my house to the downtown area during the mid sixties which would be to the left or north . I remember trucks, and especially Army 2&1/2
ton and five ton trucks, coming off the assembly line no doubt on their
way to Vietnam. In the lower right hand corner which would be the
intersection of Baker Street and Washington the City of Lansing had a
firehouse with a Seagrave engine. On the site where the west side of
the test track is located the Reo Clubhouse was later built.
Looking south with the Lansing railroad
station for the Grand Trunk Railroad. Now you know where Grand Funk
Railroad got its name from. Author's photo.
The Reo Complex looking SE at at later date
than the model above.
This is a post 1979 photo looking NW of the
Oldsmobile Complex in Lansing, MI when at it apex as much of it has now been
torn down. In the back ground one can see the Fisher Body /
Olds Forge / Olds Jet Plants that have also been razed. However, of
interest from a Reo prospective is the empty field in the front center
of the photo as this is where the The Reo used to stand. Since
this photo was taken the area has been made into an industrial park.
The red building to the right (north) of the former Reo complex is the
train depot that can be seen in the model above. The train station
may out last all of us!
The train station still stands even though
the Lansing Board of Water and Light has built a new building just to
the north of it. Someone has had the presence of mind to make sure
there was room for the structure. It will outlast all of us!!
Author's photo taken on 4-8-2015 and added 4-30-2015.
Its 1907 and R.E. Olds is driving President
Teddy Roosevelt in a Reo to Michigan State Agricultural College in East
Lansing (Now Michigan State University.) so he can deliver the
commencement speech. Photo added 4-30-2015.
Seen here at the James Dean Festival in
Fairmount, IN is a Lansing, MI built Reo/White M35 2-1/2 ton truck.
Since the beginning of this website over a year ago I have been
searching the military events to find a Lansing built M35. Then of
all places I find it at a car show 25 miles from my house.
Author's photo added 10-5-2014.
During WWII Reo built Studebaker designed US6
2-1/2 ton trucks for the war effort. After WWII Reo in 1949 Reo designed
and built 5,000 1-1/2 ton 6 wheel trucks designated as the M34 and known
for a while as the "Eager Beaver" due to its ability to ford rivers and
streams. The M34 was quickly replaced by the 10 wheel M35 that was
produced by Reo, General Motors, Studebaker, Kaiser-Jeep, AM
General from 1950 to 1999 and was known simply to the troops that used
it as the "Deuce and a Half". It was this design that replaced the
WWII GMC CCKW in service.
The original M34/35 series was powered by a
Reo built 331 cu. in. 6 cylinder Gold Comet Engine.
Below is a photo of seven of the 5,000
M34 6x6 2-1/2 ton trucks built by Reo. This photo was taken out in
front of the Reo office buildings looking north-northeast along
Washington Avenue in Lansing. These can be identified as the M34
as the trucks only have single tires on each end of the rear axles and
the clearance cut-out over the tires in the bed.
Photo added 4-14-2015.
After the Korean War was over Reo lost the
contract to General Motors, which had a lower cost structure.
Later it again started producing them for the Vietnam conflict. As
an interesting aside, as noted above Reo built Studebaker 2-1/2 ton
trucks during WWII, and Studebaker was building Reo designed M35s when
it went out of business in 1963. (See my Studebaker page for a
The reason I was looking the Lansing Reo M35
is that growing up in Lansing in the 1950s and 1960s I used to see these
trucks come off the end of the assembly line. Many times I would
see them being test driven on Washington Ave. During the 1960s as
I walked by the plant I knew that the trucks were destined for Vietnam.
Author's photo added 10-5-2014.
White Motor Company bought Reo in May of
1957 and Reo became the Lansing Division of White Motors. So while
the name tag says White Motor Co., the plant was still
known to us locals as "The Reo". In any event, this
truck was designed by Reo in 1949 and assembled in the same plant 15
years later. They were still Reo trucks. This M35A1 was built in February
of 1964. Maybe I saw it come off the end of the assembly line on
Washington Ave. as did many of this type.
Author's photo added 10-5-2014.
A year after White purchased Reo, it then purchased the Diamond T Truck
Company. One of the immediate benefits to Reo is that its OH185 V8
engines were then supplied to Diamond T. In 1960 White moved the
Diamond T operation from Chicago to Lansing and built both truck lines
in the plant until 1967 when the two truck products were combined into
one product line, Diamond Reo. Author's photo added 10-5-2014.
This militarized version of the Holt Tractor
was built by Reo in 1917 as a 5 ton prime mover for artillery in WWI and
can be seen at the Ropkey Armor Museum in Indiana. The Tractor has a 45
hp engine and Holt later evolved into Caterpillar. Author's photo.
A 1938 Reo Speed Wagon at the RE Olds Museum
in Lansing, MI. My grandfather worked at The Reo in 1938 so he
contributed to the building of this in some form or manner. Back in the old days they sure knew how to build a
good looking fire truck. Author's photo.
This Reo built Mark 229 Hydrostatic Tail
Fuze was used by the US Navy during WWII in its 650 and 1000 depth
charges. The fuze is 16.33 inches long with a diameter of 3.25
inches, while the sixteen blade arming vane is 5.25 inches in diameter.
Depth settings were made by a hand dial on the device and could be set
for 25, 50, 75,100 and 125 feet. The small hole on the left end of
the body was used to inserting a pin into the device to disarm it.
This was an explosive and dangerous device. Author's photo from
the RE Olds Museum in Lansing, MI. Added 4-30-2015.
Also on display at the RE Olds Museum
is another Reo built depth charge fuze. Note the pin that keeps
the vanes from spinning and maintains it in a safe mode. Author's
photo added 4-30-2015.
This is a Reo built T13E1 was one of two
prototypes built by the company under contract from The Trackless Tank
Corporation. The first was completed in May of 1942 and it along
with the second prototype was shipped to Fort Knox, KY for evaluation.
Testing resulted in the cancellation of the project.
The 22,204 2&1/2 ton 6x6 trucks Reo built
during WWII would have looked like this Studebaker US6 2.5 ton truck as
Reo license built the Studebaker design. This example is located
at the National Military Historical Center, Auburn, IN. Author's
Pictured here is a WWII photo of one of the
2-1/2 ton 6x6 trucks built by Reo in Lansing during WWII. Photo
This last and only Reo building still in existence as seen in April
2015. Author's photo added 4-30-2015.
The former Reo Showroom on South Washington
Ave. as seen in November of 2015. Artist Tony Hendrick painted
this mural that was attached to the building in 2015. Author's
photo added 11-25-2015.
Author's photo added 11-25-2015.
The building in the mural shows
several former Reo employees with the now razed Reo Clubhouse in the
background. In its prime the Clubhouse was a gathering place for
Lansing residents to come and listen to concerts and participate in
parties and dances held there. Author's photo added 11-25-2015.
Today this new building occupies the
location of the former Reo Clubhouse in the Reo Industrial Park.
Author's photo added 4-30-2015.
The former Reo storage lot. Author's
photo added 4-30-2015.
REO Produces for War