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B625 Automobile, full size, Reo, model A, 16 hp, twin cylinder, side-entrance tonneau body, serial No. 1279, engine No. 3263, metal / leather / rubber, made by the Reo Motor Car Co, Lansing, Michigan, United States of America, 1905. Click to enlarge.

1905 Reo model A 16 hp tourer

Designed by Olds, Ransome Eli in United States of America

This American-built 1905 Reo touring car was designed by Ransom E. Olds. His initials R.E.O. provided the name for the company's cars first made in Michigan from late 1904. The Reo is typical of the Edwardian cars driven by the motoring pioneers of Australia. According to Australian motoring author Pedr Davis, drivers of this time had to be "strong, resilient, tenacious and above all enthusiastic. Otherwise the cranky vehicles they owned would have driven them to desperation". Just starting ...


Object No.


Object Statement

Automobile, full size, Reo, model A, 16 hp, twin cylinder, side-entrance tonneau body, serial No. 1279, engine No. 3263, metal / leather / rubber, made by the Reo Motor Car Co, Lansing, Michigan, United States of America, 1905

Physical Description

The car is a two-door, 5-seat, vehicle with a side-entrance tonneau body. This term refers to an early car body in which the rear seats form a separate section, with access via side doors. It was used until 1910 and was replaced by the term "tourer". The car is not fitted with doors in the front and only low doors in the rear. It has deep buttoned front bucket seats and a rear bench seat. It is right-hand drive with an upright steering wheel and column. The rear body section is detachable and has floorboards underneath. The car is fitted all around with Perdriau tyres on artillery wheels. The body is painted dark green and black and is fitted with small kerosene-powered head lamps. A distinctive feature of the car is the radiator, which is so constructed that if any of its flat grill tubes were damaged that section could be easily removed for repair without impairing the operation of the car.

The car's twin opposed horizontal cylinder engine is located under the front seat so the bonnet is largely a dummy. It conceals a radiator, separate water tank, tool chest and six gallon fuel tank. The engine has a water pump but there is no fan. The inlet and exhaust valves are placed in the top of the cylinders and are mechanically operated. There are two carburettors, one for each cylinder. The clutch bands are exposed to the rain and mud while the gear assembly is mounted directly on the flywheel. A single roller chain carries the drive to the rear axle. Control of the petrol to the engine is by means of a throttle operated by a foot pedal. Ignition is high tension electric, with dry cell batteries. The spark-lever is situated on the steering post, and the foot-operated throttle pedal is provided with a rack so that it can be fixed in any position. The transmission and rear wheel drum brakes are external contracting. The footbrake operates on the transmission and the long-handled handbrake on the wheels. Although the car has no clutch there are four foot pedals including one for reverse.

The following items are missing from the car: two ignition coils, coil box lid, ignition wiring, fuel line from the tank to a carburettor, bulb horn, rear hub caps, tail lamp, lens from right front headlamp, floor boards from the front of car and crank handle.

Serial No. 1279
Engine No: 3263
Horsepower: 16
Capacity: 3500 cc
Engine: Double opposed horizontal
Bore: 4¾ inches (1206 mm)
Stroke: 6 inches (1524 mm)
Gears: Epicyclic with 2 forward, 1 reverse
Carburettors: 2, gravity fed
Ignition: trembler coil
Lubrication: mechanical on crankcase
Transmission: planetary
Suspension: Semi-elliptic leaf springs on front, full elliptic springs on rear
Steering: worm and sector
Cruising speed: 35 mph (65 kph)
Top speed: 45 mph (72 kph)
Wheelbase: 88 inches (223 cm)


Plaque on vehicle reads 'REO CAR COMPANY / NO. 1279 / LANSING MICH'.



1900 mm


1700 mm


3100 mm



The Reo Motor Car Company took its name from its founder, Ransom Eli Olds (1864-1950), one of the few men to have two successful cars named after him, the Reo and the Oldsmobile. Born in Geneva, Ohio, in the United States of America in 1864 he was fascinated with engines and by the 1880s was manufacturing steam engines of his own design. In 1887 he developed his first steam-powered vehicle and in 1895 his first gasoline-powered automobile. In 1901 he began manufacturing a single-cylinder vehicle, the Curved Dash Oldsmobile, at the Olds Motor Works. Three years later there was a falling out of the company's partners and Olds left to start his own firm, the Reo Motor Car Co.

This car is an example of the first model made by Reo, a 16 hp two-cylinder vehicle, which was ready for testing in October 1904. It was priced at US $1250 and the body was cleverly designed to allow for the removal of the rear section to convert it into a basic utility. It was soon joined by a cheaper single-cylinder runabout for $685. Reo production in 1905 was said to be 864 models. In 1906 a 24 hp four-cylinder model joined the smaller cars. Old's company prospered and by 1907 it was the third largest American automobile producer behind Ford and Buick. Reo continued making cars until 1936 and made buses and trucks from 1911 until 1975.

Ransom Olds was not only innovative in his car designs; he was a great salesman with a flair for publicity. He is notable for being the first to introduce the world's earliest mass-produced car, the Curved Dash Oldsmobile.

Georgano, N. "The Beaulieu Encyclopaedia of the Automobile", The Stationery Office, London, 2000.



Australia was an early export market for the Reo from 1905. After the First World War Larke Hoskins, the importers, took over the Reo franchise. In 1925 John A. Gilbert took over Reo Motors in Sydney and later Brisbane.

The Reo automobile was donated to the Museum in 1934 by the Managing Director of Reo Motors Ltd, J.A. Gilbert, of 171 William Street, Sydney.


Credit Line

Gift of Reo Motors Limited, 1934

Acquisition Date

15 June 1934

Cite this Object


1905 Reo model A 16 hp tourer 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 20 January 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=1905 Reo model A 16 hp tourer |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=20 January 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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