Sometimes, if you wait patiently, a great one-liner will deliver itself unto you unasked: "Oshkosh Truck (NYSE: OSK) reported its first fiscal quarter 2008 earnings on Friday. The results were so embarrassing, the company promptly changed its name."

Thank you
Seriously, I ought to send the management of newly monikered "Oshkosh Corporation" a thank-you note for that one. It did everything but wrap that line up for me with a bow. But there's just one problem: That zinger's entirely misleading.

Don't be shy
In truth, Oshkosh had nothing to be embarrassed about last week. The company met profit projections, earning $0.50 per share on $1.5 billion in revenue. While investors seem disappointed with Q2 guidance, which undershot Wall Street's target, management held firm on its full-year guidance. It's promising something in the neighborhood of $4.25 per share, or 19% growth, year over year.

To sum up, Oshkosh performed just fine in Q1, may slump a bit in Q2, but expects to pull out of the slump by year-end. Call me a Fool, but that hardly seems to justify slicing around 9% off Oshkosh's market cap.

Take a bow
Far from running away from their name, I think management here deserves a round of applause. Attentive Fool readers -- especially those following developments in the MRAP race at General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), Force Protection (Nasdaq: FRPT), and BAE -- may recall that I recently chastised a supplier to these worthies for its too-sunny view of the economy.

Discussing a share-buyback plan announced by Spartan Motors (Nasdaq: SPAR) last month, I quoted Spartan CEO John Sztykiel: "Emergency-rescue vehicles must still respond to calls for help every 20 seconds, regardless of the economy." Therefore, his company's business building chassis for such vehicles would do just fine going forward. I responded that with the housing crash cutting deeply into municipal tax bases across the country, municipalities would quite likely "cut back on, or at least delay, fire engine purchases until their tax bases shore up."

Oshkosh's thoughts exactly. Contrast Sztykiel's sunny optimism with Oshkosh CEO Robert Bohn's stark realism: "We believe that current weaker municipal spending ... will continue to impact near term order activity for the fire apparatus market." The way I look at it, this is bad news for Oshkosh, but good news for its investors. They've got a CEO who tells it to them straight.

Psst! Buddy! Wanna buy some shares?
As I implied above, the Spartan Motors column focused on that company's plan to buy back a quarter-billion shares. Last week, I argued that Oshkosh should likewise be buying back shares. Not hiking dividends (it's already got a leg up over rival Terex (NYSE: TEX), which pays no dividend at all.) Not paying down debt in an era of falling interest rates, where debt is cheap and getting cheaper. But buying back shares. Here's why.

When last I wrote about Oshkosh, the stock was selling for just 11 times trailing free cash flow. Today, after the company met estimates in fiscal Q1 2008, and promised to meet them for the full year, the stock sells for -- better sit down for this -- a mere 7.5 times its trailing free cash flow. For a company that analysts think will grow at 22% per year over the next half-decade, that seems like a steal of a deal.

With one caveat
I know what you're thinking: Oshkosh's price-to-free cash flow ratio is a bit misleading. The company's 2006 purchase of JLG Industries left it with debt almost equal to its market cap, so conservative investors should really value this company based on its enterprise value-to-free cash flow. (That is what you were thinking, right?)

Well, fine. By that metric, you're looking at a 15 EV/FCF stock, again projected to grow at 22%. That's still a bargain. Now throw in the potential that Oshkosh could win MRAP II business from its partnership with Ceradyne (Nasdaq: CRDN), or the even bigger profits Oshkosh could reap if its bid to build the Army's next-generation Humvee in conjunction with Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) succeeds. Neither of those possibilities seems to be priced into the stock today, essentially giving you a free call option on any resulting profits, should Oshkosh pull off a surprise victory.

Foolish takeaway
With a stock that's objectively cheap today, and potentially much cheaper tomorrow (if either of its two defense contracting bids pans out), Oshkosh looks to this Fool like a clear-cut buy. And to put my reputation where my mouth is, I'm going over to Motley Fool CAPS right now to rate Oshkosh an outperformer. Watch me do it.

Fool contributor Rich Smith owns shares of Force Protection and Ceradyne. Force Protection is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.