Any motoring historians who also happen to be pop-music aficionados will, no doubt, have been fascinated to note that the BBC has undertaken research into the early days of the US car industry. The Radio Times preamble to the REO Speedwagon, Late Night In Concert, programme on BBC television, states that the American rock band “. . . named themselves after the inventor (sic) of the Cadillac . . .”
So the already convoluted tale of the two Henrys, Ford & Leland, is now to be further complicated by the intrusion of Ransom E. Olds, who (we are thus led to believe) `invented’ Cadillac, presumably in between `inventing’ Oldsmobile and Reo. What a pity that the BBC didn’t divulge their sources— but they must be very certain of their material, because it was repeated, on the box, by Annie Nightingale in her introduction to the show. She went on to tell us that “Speedwagon” derives from an American horse-drawn fire-appliance (quite a shock to those of as who had foolishly accepted the notion that it was the name of a petrol-driven Reo lorry).
New and original research of this calibre, which courageously overturns the generally held order of things, deserves unstinting praise. The BBC is to be congratulated on shedding light upon a previously grey area — the inventions of R.E. Olds. Or could it possibly be, on reflection, that most of the inventing was carried out by one of their copywriters?
DAVID M. LANDERS Longframlington