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The Amazing Socony Vacuum Oil Company Reo Tanker Trucks


The remarkable streamlined Reo Speed Tankers owned by the Socony Vacuum Oil Company of Australia have been the subject of research by others for some time. Unfortunately little information turned up about them other than a couple of photos, a bit of information about the builder and the fact that the trucks were built on a Reo Three-Ton Cab-Over-Engine chassis.

The photo (above) courtesy of the Australian NSW Library has a caption that states: “The tank capacity was 1075 Imperial gallons, and the tire size was 7.50 x 20. Enough of the trucks were built to be assigned to each of the seven Capitol Cities in Australia (probably for the units advertising value). Some of the streamliners were also reported to have been sent to New Zealand”.


  • One of the Plume Super Ethyl tankers posed for photographs at the “Dog on the Tuckerbox” historical monument near Gundagai, New South Wales, AU. Thanks to reader TinIndian for the identification.


Thanks to researcher Ace Zenek, who spent a great deal of time combing the photo and newspaper archives of Austraila and New Zealand we now have the full details of the Speed Tankers. Ace was able to find two more photos of one of the trucks and a number of newspaper articles from the time when the units were first introduced.

The form of the Streamliner was a concept by an unknown Melbourne artist, who worked with Vacuum’s Transportation Experts. Martin and King Coachbuilders also located in the City, built the bodies with four internal tanks for the Oil Company on Reo Model 2LM forward control bus chassis’. The discharge hoses were stored in the chrome tubes that started at the rear of the headlights and followed the catwalk on each side of the body

  • stream                  Maryborough Chronicle Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser article – May 24th, 1937.

Ace describes the results of his work: “The flurry of newspaper articles in late March to early April appears to have happened because a Streamliner (the first?) was being driven from Melbourne, Victoria, where the Martin and King shops were, to Brisbane, Queensland. The Reo arrived at Sydney, New South Wales on March 22nd, and it left for Brisbane on March 24th”.

“The Maryborough Chronicle article and photo (above) was printed one day before the truck may have appeared at the Coronation International Motor Show. A piece in the May 25th, 1937 The Argus, of Melbourne, had the following sentence. “On the Reo stand is the most extraordinary vehicle in the show — a fully streamlined tanker which looks as if it is several years ahead of its time.” No mention is made of the Vacuum company or Plume brand”..

“The earliest date of the articles is from the March 20th, 1937, Daily Advertiser, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. The latest date appears to one found in The Australian of Melbourne, Victoria on October 1st, 1937. The last known appearance of the truck at a specific location was for a weekend visit to Mount Gambier, South Australia on July 24th-25th, 1937″.
“Looking at the design of the cab and body, the REO Streamliner must have been very interesting to drive. Although there are mirrors at the side of the cabin, other than to the front, visibility must have been horrible. The placement of the external mirrors also indicates that the driver sat pretty far back by the small side windows. Note also the single small windshield wiper in front of the driver”.
Let us know you can find any new information to add covering these tankers or if a source of better quality photos or drawings can be found.
  •                  Streamlined Reo Van on a Cab-Over-Engine chassis offered during 1937 in the US.


6 responses to “The Amazing Socony Vacuum Oil Company Reo Tanker Trucks

  1. The “Dog on the Tuckerbox” is a tribute to drovers and their dogs. It is lauded in a poem.
    A line goes “where the dog sits on the Tuckerbox , 5 miles from Gundadai”
    It is still there just off the Hume Highway which is the main highway connecting Melbourne and Sydney.

  2. Adding to the ‘interesting to drive’ comment, cab overs are always hot inside due to the heat from the doghouse. This truck doesn’t have very big side windows for ventilation and the windshield doesn’t look like driver could open it. With the heat in some areas of Australia, it must have been like a sauna in that cab. Also, servicing engine and rad, even on modern cab overs, which you can tilt, is time consuming. Even with a removable doghouse, it must have been something to service this REO.

  3. A REO tractor was also streamlined to act as the power to tow a Curtiss AeroCar. The AeroCar was an early iteration of the 5th wheel camper/RV. Also Check for the British Australian Petroleum (BAP) stream liner.

  4. The driver of the tanker was given 12 days to travel between Melbourne and Brisbane departing Melbourne at 7.30am on Wednesday 17th March 1937 and arriving Brisbane Tuesday 30th March 1937. He was to drive the full normal day’s work hours and not to exceed 25 M.P.H. The tanker had temporary garage number plate of A 283 for the trip.

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