One Ton of Fun: 1949 Diamond T 201

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This would be quite a fun restoration project. It’s a 1949 Diamond T 201 pickup and it’s located in Mankato, Minnesota. It’s listed on eBay as a “classified ad” with a price of $13,900 or make an offer. What a show-stopper this would be!

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Diamond T Motor Car Company was founded in Chicago by a shoe maker, Mr. C.A. Tilt. No lie! The “T” inside of a diamond logo came from his shoe company logo to signify quality with the diamond and a T for his last name. What an odd progression, from shoes to trucks. They made their first vehicle, a car, in 1905 and their first truck came along in 1911 and that’s when the company realized that commercial sales were the way to go.

According to company literature of the day, the “Model 201 is a unique vehicle in the light-duty field. Its all-truck specifications and exceptionally rugged construction set it widely apart from most trucks in this classification because they are commonly passenger car adaptations, which include the use of many units originally designed for passenger car service.” Back then, “light-duty” must have meant something different than it does today, because the lightest-duty that these trucks came was in a one-ton configuration, other than a few “Model 80” 3/4 ton versions in the mid-late-1930s. I think that most folks would drive a 1/16-ton truck today if they made such a thing, just so they could sit up above everyone else in traffic.

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The seller of this fine project says that it “is VERY solid as you can see in the pictures, nearly NO rust issues!” It certainly looks solid, and you probably have a media-blaster anyway so you can put it to work here. The underside looks solid and as you can see, it was originally a red truck, as most (all?) of them were.

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I wonder when, or why, this truck was painted yellow? It must have been decades ago. It would sure be unique to have it restored back to yellow, even if that wasn’t its original color. The interior, as with everything else, will need a gut-job and restoration here. These aren’t luxury trucks by today’s standards, the top speed was probably 45-55 in real world conditions.

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This is where you’ll have to get resourceful, and creative. As you can see, this engine will at the very least need to be taken out and fully rebuilt; I guess that goes without saying. This is a 236 cubic inch six-cylinder with around 90 hp and it would have come with a 3-speed manual, although a 4-speed was an option. 1949 was the last year for the Model 201 as it was replaced by the Model 222 in 1950. An equally cool truck, in my opinion, but the writing was on the wall as they sold even fewer of them than the previous models. I think this truck deserves to be restored back to original spec, how would you restore this rugged Diamond T?

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  1. HoA Howard AMember

    Go ahead, Scotty, give that knife a turn. I don’t feel so good( $13,9, sigh),,,,just kidding. Scotty ( and others that know me here) knows I had a ’49 Diamond T 201 pickup for many years. Which may or may not be the reason he featured this. I bought mine from a junkyard in 1980 for $100, and it was 10 times better than this ( times have sure changed) The reason these are so rare, is they were twice the price of a Chevy or Ford ( and for good reason) The frames were like skyscraper girders and check out the springs. 11 on the back, and I think 9 on the front, and it rode like it too. Crash box tranny, and like 5:38 gears in the back, so 45 mph was it. I’m just bamboozled how the prices for these have risen, a restored one at BJ sold for $98,000! I ran into trouble and had to sell mine in 2003, to a friend who always admired it, for $4,000, and it was like 2/3rds restored( needed paint, interior and brakes, but ran excellent, and I know where it is) This too, will more than likely become a hot rod, but it would be worth a lot more, to me, if it was kept original. The 1950 222 was an entirely different truck, “basically” an IH, and was gone entirely by the early 50’s. Thanks Scotty for the memories.

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    • geomechs geomechsMember

      Good morning Howard. I saw this and thought about you. I feel your pain; I really do. I’d love to have one of these gems myself. I’d take a closer look at this one except that it’s only about $10K over my budget. There’s a guy in the Missoula region has one. He drove it up to Kalispell for the antique car meet a few years back. He’ll definitely agree with the rough ride and slow-going. I hope you find another one some day soon.

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      • HoA Howard AMember

        Mornin’ neighbor (not literally, of course) Thanks, but we’ve been over this and over this ( every time a Diamond T comes up, it seems) I’ve made peace with that (although, still get a little “verklempt” every time I see one). You know, better to have loved and lost, blah, blah, blah. It was a hell of a truck, though. The best of all components. Dana, Timkin, Hercules motors, which btw, this motor, I believe, was still used well into the ’80’s in forklifts and industrial applications. I’ve driven forklifts and construction equipment with this motor ( or a 4cyl(?) version. Besides, I’ve got my sights on a TR-6 ( thank you, Jamie) so I can come visit. It would be a loooong ride in this. I’d have to leave now, to get there for the fall colors.

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      • Jamie Palmer JamieStaff

        You’re welcome, Howard ;-)

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    • packrat

      I’m with you, Howard A, the restored prices on these make me dizzier than an inner ear problem. There was a weathered, maroon red example, padding around in downtown Nashville in the middle 1980s. I saw it exactly once, and the image was permanently branded in my memory. What striking, beautiful lines on a truck.

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  2. racer99

    As tempting as it would be to put this body on a late model chassis I can’t imagine that there are many of these with this solid of an original chassis underneath them laying around. If the restored value is anything close to what Howard mentioned I would think you’d have to go the restoration route. Tough choice.

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    • HoA Howard AMember

      Hi racer99, I don’t like posting links anymore, ( f’s up my comment for a while) but if you Google “1948 Diamond T 201 B-J” one sold at the 2014 Scottsdale auction for $165,000. :O

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  3. Van

    Sweet ride.
    These have a gangsters look. Even though prohibition was over I can still see tommy gun carrying gangsters ridding the running boards.
    Do I keep it original, make it fully restored? Do I save the patina?
    It’s been agreed the top speed is a problem.
    How about a two speed rear end?
    How about a Packard straight 8?
    Or do you buy a 2010 Escalade from copart and make a restomod?
    Any way you go will still make a great truck.
    Everyone has to follow their own dream.
    Pick your skill, interest, and finance and go.

    Could I make front turn signals out of tommy guns?

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    • HoA Howard AMember

      Hi Van, well, I’d think them gangster’s had better pick a better getaway vehicle. This had a top speed of about 50 ( if everything was right, unladen for sure) The engine compartment was pretty tight. Not sure a straight 8 would fit, but a V-8 sure would. If you want to drive it, your 2nd suggestion makes more sense. Get a newer chassis and just graft the body on it. Probably a better in the long run, and you can run it down the highway. I mean, the motor is already apart, why bother.

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  4. Blindmarc

    Love the look of these……

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  5. Mark S

    I’d find an early 90’s dodge 4×4 3/4 ton cumins turbo diesel with as low as possible mileage. I’d than strip the body off and refit the diamond T body on it. I’d restore the body and paint it red. Now you’d have a very nice truck that could drive down the interstate in and pull just about anything you’d like to.

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  6. Fred W.

    These are the Smith-Victor of the real truck world (S-V was a toy truck manufacturer that made Tonkas look like cheap junk). If anything deserves to be restored, this is it.

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    • packrat

      @ Fred W.: Smith-Miller, maybe? I know Smith Victor as an established company which makes broadcast lighting for ENG camera setups. Used a lot of gear of theirs when I first started working over a quarter century ago.

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  7. HoA Howard AMember

    By the time this model came out, they had already begun to “cheapen” them up. The Diamond T’s from the 30’s had a much nicer, engine turned dash, nicer gauges. Diamond T was kind of a regional thing, being made in Chicago, you didn’t see a lot of them away from the mid-west, ( like rarely seeing a Brockway in Wis.) but the farmer that rolled into town with a Diamond T, made a statement. Diamond T was also huge in WW2, supplying thousands of trucks for the war effort.

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  8. geomechs geomechsMember

    When I was a kid I saw a few Diamond T’s but I think it was 1980 before I saw a 3/4 ton version. And it was restored. It’s interesting that some of the trucks I saw when I was a kid didn’t go all that far away.

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  9. rich

    I have a 1949 diamond t 201 pickup and also 2 306 cabs and would like to get in touch with anyone who has information or parts . I live in northern Minnesota. Where is this in Mankato? my phone #218-929-1678

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    • HoA Howard AMember

      Hi rich, hang on to those things. Don’t make the same mistake I did selling it. I was a member of ATHS ( American Truck Historical Society) for many years, and they have a magazine called “Wheels of Time”. Maybe you’ve heard of it. In the back they have a classified section. Seems there’s a guy in Montana with a bunch of these. Also, a magazine called “Vintage Truck” has a section for “parts wanted”. I think both magazines can be found at Tractor Supply Stores. Good luck.

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      • geomechs geomechsMember

        Hi guys. A bunch of us were in Chester (MT) a few weeks ago and we were talking about a Diamond T collection. Strangely enough no one could really point to it. Montana is not that densely populated so it shouldn’t that hard to find him.

        Vintage Truck, as well as its two sister publications, Antique Power and Vintage Fire Truck are available at Barnes and Noble. Have a good one. G

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  10. Ed Younkin

    I have a full color late 50’s memory of Whitie pulling into our driveway to show my Dad his new road tractor. (A red snub nosed Diamond T.)
    Quite an up grade from the Reo gas jobs he and Dad were just laid off from.

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