"Old Betsy" (1918 REO 5-Passenger Touring Car)
"Old Betsy" was arguably the most fascinating vehicle on display at this year's Studebaker meet in Tallmadge.
She's a four-cylinder REO Touring Car owned and restored by Dave Masek.
The restoration took 41 years.
As you might imagine, NOS and aftermarket parts for 1918 REOs are a little hard to find, so many pieces had to be fabricated from scratch--such as the folding top. The original was long gone; the only piece left on the car was one of the brackets that holds it down when retracted. Mr. Masek located a shop manual for 1918 REOs that included an illustration of the frame under the folding top. He measured the bracket and, working from the known dimensions of that one piece, used the shop manual drawing to determine the dimensions of every other piece in the assembly. He told me that the replica frame fit perfectly on the first try.
The prime mover is a straight four of 240 cubic inches displacement--that's 3.9L for those of you still using the metric system.
The headlight switch, mounted on the steering column, has a deliciously steampunk air about it....but there are a few quirks. The gas pedal is a small nubbin instead of the long rectangle we're used to, the parking brake is operated by the clutch pedal, the spark advance is manually set with a lever on the steering wheel, and there's a second lever on the steering wheel that also operates the throttle and can be used as a sort of primitive cruise control. The shift pattern is an H like we're used to, but the layout is "flipped" so that reverse is where you'd expect third to be and second and first are switched around too. Mr. Masek also owns a modern truck with a manual transmission, and a Model T whose control interface is radically different from both of those. He said that when going from one vehicle to the other, he has to stop and think a minute before putting it in gear!
Old Betsy is said to be the only surviving intact 1918 REO Touring Car. She's a magnificent artifact, and I thank Mr. Masek for sharing her and her story with those of us who were at the Studebaker meet.
--Cookie the Dog's Owner
The video below isn't of Old Betsy; it's one of her older sisters.