1916 REO Fifth Series, Type R owned by John Judge
WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING
Diehard car buffs know the historical role of Ransom E. Olds as the founder of Oldsmobile and producer of his own REO upscale models from 1905 to 1936. But few may be aware of the rare and versatile “All-Seasons” top on Judge’s REO that allows it to become anything from a closed sedan to a wide-open car. “You can take all the windows out or any one of the windows out,” he says. “You can take the entire top off. If you take the windows out and it starts raining, there’s a compartment that stores a set of side curtains. You slide them into place and snap them in, and you’re ready to go.”
HOW LONG HE’S OWNED IT
WHERE HE FOUND IT
He bought it from a Hewlett, New York owner. “When I saw it,” he says, “the top was there and it was all smashed. I decided that top is just too unique and rare not to fix it.” The custom tops were made in the early 20th century by a horse-drawn carriage builder, the Rex Buggy Co. (later Rex Manufacturing Co.) of Connersville, Indiana.
Judge restored the REO himself. “I started taking all of the broken pieces of wood from the top and gluing them and screwing them back together. Then, I made templates and ordered all of the wood because it’s all white ash. I had to cut all of the individual pieces.” He also freed up the seized engine, rebuilt the carburetor and redid the brakes with material he fashioned. The impossible-to-find dome light was recreated from a jelly jar. The original upholstery is still stuffed with horsehair.
TIPS FOR OWNERS
“Either have a lot of money or learn everything you can,” he advises. “I had to know how to do carpentry, and I had to do sewing and metal work. It cost me about $3,000 to put the top back together. If I paid somebody, it probably would have cost $50,000.”
“Honestly, I wouldn’t sell it for millions,” says Judge. “To me, it’s priceless.” The few period REOs for sale in recent years have been priced in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.
THE BOTTOM LINE
“I love this car,” he says. “It is so much fun taking your time and enjoying a nice ride on a weekend. I get off work and I run home just to get out to my car and enjoy it.”