Vic Macek's 1932 REO

Vic Macek of Shawnee got interested in REOs back in 1976 when he was persuaded to buy a 1924 by an owner who was being transferred out of town.

 Macek, who owned an auto repair business with his twin brother, Mike, thought he could repair the car and sell it for a profit. Macek, however, is a collector by nature, and although he repaired that first REO, he never did sell it. He eventually donated it to the McPherson College auto restoration program in McPherson, Kan.

 That 1924 REO was the beginning of a long love affair with this unique brand. Macek’s son bought him a membership in the REO Club for a Christmas present, and before long his shop and garage were awash with REOs. 

 Ransom Eli Olds left the Olds Motor Works Co. (Oldsmobile) and founded a new company in 1904. He was prohibited from using his name after he left Olds, so he used his initials. REO built cars and trucks, including the Speedwagon trucks. Car production ceased in 1936. Trucks continued to be built under names such as Diamond REO and REO Giant after REO merged with other companies.

 Macek, who always dreamed of being an engineer, calls himself “a died-in-the-wool GM man.” Even though the REO was not a GM brand, its close association to Oldsmobile was all it took to satisfy Macek.

 Macek now has so many REOs he has trouble keeping track of them all. He counts 13, unless he missed one. Two are on display at the REO Museum in Lansing, Mich. His oldest is a 1905, and his newest is a 1932 Royale, of which only 48 were built and only five have been restored. He also has three or four trucks, including a pristine 1927 fire engine. Macek’s collection numbers 30 or more cars of various brands, most of them awaiting restoration. In 1992, he restored an REO firetruck for the city of Shawnee despite the fact that his first wife was fighting cancer.

 During my visit, Macek fired up two REOs, the single-cylinder 1908 and the Royale. The Royale is a Gatsby-esque roadster whose Dietrich body is long and sleek. It has a rumble seat, side compartment for golf clubs and dual side-mount tires. The body is painted Jade Mist, and the fenders are Elk Point Green, the same as listed on the original build sheet. The 1908 is like a buggy with an engine hung under the seat.

 Now retired, Macek and his second wife, Lucille, spend much of their time traveling to swap meets, car shows and REO meets. They are constantly “in search of rust,” as Lucille said, meaning they’re always on the lookout for old-car parts. “Rust is my favorite color,” she said with a laugh.

 Macek’s love for REOs is typical of his loyalty. He recently cut short a trip in order to serve Mass with Monsignor Heliodore Mejak as he celebrated 60 years at Holy Family Church in Kansas City, Kan. Macek and his brother Mike served Mass at Mejak’s first service when they were 12 years old. And to this day, Macek wears the 1946 Bulova watch he bought as a freshman in high school. It’s no wonder he loves old cars.

Vic Macek drives his REO Royale very carefully since it is only one of five that have been restored.
Macek's 1908 REO is like a buggy with a one-cylinder engine hung under the seat.