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The Hancock Shaker Village REO: How members of the AACA came to the rescue of a 1923 REO

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Stripped to bare metal, the REO awaits final refinishing at Reflections Auto Restoration in Belchertown, Massachusetts. Photography by author.

One cold Saturday this past February, I traveled to Belchertown, Massachusetts, to see a 1923 REO that was being restored by the members of the Connecticut Valley Region of the AACA. These volunteers have spent numerous weekends working on the REO and preparing it for refinishing so it can be used and enjoyed by visitors at the Hancock Shaker Village in nearby Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The 1923 REO T-6 Sedan was acquired by The Village back in 2002 and is identical to the REO owned by it through the 1930s. According to Maribeth Cellana, communications manager of Hancock Shaker Village, “The REO was purchased from Mrs. Ruth Roberts of Poultney, Vermont, with funds donated by local car collectors Dale Fowler and Robert Quattrochi, Village Board Chairman. The car was a source of pride for the Roberts family as three generations spent many happy hours restoring the vehicle and sold the car only after the death of the eldest Roberts. While the family had taken good care of the REO, when it arrived in Pittsfield it was in need of some mechanical adjustments and cleaning.”

1923 REO

CVA club members Doug Galanek (white sweatshirt) and CVA president Jerre Hoffman work on scraping off years of caked-on grease prior to refinishing the exposed portion of the REO’s chassis.

George Brooks, a local member of the REO Club of America played a significant role in obtaining the REO for The Village, acting as a consultant and accompanying The Village staff to examine the car. Once the car was in their care, some of the members of the Connecticut Valley Region of the AACA (CVA) worked with The Village to get the car up and running so visitors can experience the joys of riding in a pre-war automobile.

Although the REO was running when it first came to The Village, it needed a lot of work to make it safe to drive. President of the CVA, Jerre Hoffman told Hemmings:

Back in 2008 when we first got involved and made the car drivable, we all said how bad the finish was. The CVR helped Hancock Shaker Village raise the funds needed; every year we donated money toward the upkeep and maintenance of the REO. And now to be a part of the project is very gratifying. We also got several students from Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School in nearby Palmer, Massachusetts to assist us. They worked with us repairing rust and prepping the metal on the body, so to be able to get them involved was the icing on the cake. We’re also fortunate to have club members with the skills needed to make the project happen all because of our common interest in old Cars and the CVR.”

With the REO being painted by Duane Wilson of Reflections Auto Restoration in Belchertown, and soon to be ready for the upcoming summer season, Maribeth told us: “We will continue to operate the REO and provide rides throughout The Village on select days, to give visitors the opportunity to ride in it. Exhibiting the REO provides an important window into the world of the Shakers, a communal society that embraced technology and innovation and that adapted to change. REO’s appealed to the Shakers because they were utilitarian: a good, durable car at a fair price. Because of the car’s size — it seats five passengers — the REO could accommodate a number of Shaker Sisters and Brethren.”

1923 REO

Longtime CVA member Bob Watkins spent hours wire brushing the engine block. 

Like most museums who rely on contributions to assist with their projects, donations to maintain the REO are readily being solicited. Maribeth indicated: “We are accepting donations for the ongoing preservation of this beauty. Donations in support of the restoration and maintenance of the car are important to allowing the successful exhibition and interpretation of the car to continue.  Financial donations support the purchase of parts, paint, gas, oil, and other supplies.”

If you’re interested in seeing this noteworthy 1923 REO, or have an interest in donating to the museum to help with its maintenance costs, contact:

Maribeth Cellana, Communications Manager
Hancock Shaker Village
PO Box 927, Pittsfield, MA 01202
413-443-0188, x221