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Aristocrat of Trucks: 1937 Diamond T 80 Deluxe

Diamond T, founded by Charles Tilt in 1905, was manufacturing passenger cars until a customer asked for a special delivery vehicle in about 1911. Cobbling up a truck cast its fortune in a different direction, and from then on, Diamond T was known for indestructible commercial trucks. Its early designs were not particularly distinctive, but in the 1930s, Diamond T’s adopted the Art Deco styling that set it apart. It was the fanciest truck on the market with a price to match and for a couple of glorious years, it sat fifth in sales. Diamond T’s best year was 1936 when it sold over 8700 trucks, but competition from Mack and Ford gnawed at its sales in the 1940s. After several mergers, the company finally vanished completely in 1966. (While its trucks are rare, its cars are virtually extinct – no one has seen one in the wild.) Here on eBay is an eminently restorable three-quarter ton 1937 Diamond T Model 80D, bid to $10,700, reserve not met. This truck might run! The seller is having the starter rebuilt and believes that’s enough to make her growl again. But I wouldn’t drive it home from its yard in Lockeford, California just yet.

The deluxe has a plethora of gauges – including a clock – whereas the standard has just two, and stainless trim surrounds the crank-out front windows, rather than a painted frame. The ignition switch is missing from the lower edge of the instrument panel. The green vinyl seats might clean up but if this truck is headed for restoration, re-upholstering is the way to go.

The engine is a Hercules QX-series inline six-cylinder making about 73 hp. The QX series propelled a number of vehicles including farm equipment, so parts are not completely impossible to find. The transmission is a three-speed manual; the brakes are hydraulic drums at all four corners. Driving a pre-war truck enlists all the senses: the transmission whines, the steering wanders, the ride is … lively. You’ll hear the road, smell the grease, and get much better at double-clutching, but that’s the charm.

This truck has an express box bed, which has a slightly rolled edge (for easier loading!), little interior interference from the wheel housings, and a wood floor. The floor is long gone, but the seller is including another box – also not in great shape but at least suitable for patterns. Amplifying the truck’s charisma, a ranch’s name and logo are still vaguely visible on the passenger’s door. A buyer will have plenty to do here, but the final result will be worth it, and I’m not talking about money. Diamond Ts are stunning in fresh livery, and rare as hen’s teeth.


  1. Howard A Member

    Hmm, hmm, hmm, oh what a beautiful morning,,( sound of screeching tires), it’s okay, I’ve made peace with my past,,until stuff like this comes up. Actually, with how rare it is, the condition, and and where it’s located, I’d expect a lot more Restored original, they brought $100grand 20 years ago. I sold my ’49, 201, in driving condition,( similar body condition) to a close friend for $4grand in 1999 due to a court snafu I never recovered from, and the Diamond T was one of the casualties. Enough of that, I’m not the only one.
    The model 80 was before the 201, new for ’38 and was very similar, although, the 201 was a slightly cheaper version. Gone were the swoopy 30s touches, the dash, the grill, replaced by more simple versions with the 201. These weren’t cheap by any means, even though they used many of the same parts as all the others. I can’t find a price new, but a ’37 Ford pickup was $850. These were at least 3 times that, and not really 3 times the truck. It was all about pride. Sure, a Peterbilt is nice, but a Freightshaker will do the same job, the same here. You showed up in a Diamond T, there was instant respect, much like a Peterbilt.
    Again, snowballs chance in Hades of staying original, got resto-mod all over it, and that’s okay. 73 hp and straight gears in a 5,000lb vehicle, just won’t cut it today. Great find, and while I said these things will come out of the woodwork for years to come, surely not many like this. Thanks again for the memories.

    Like 13
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      Howard A.- Thank you for an excellent follow up to Michelle’s outstanding find and write up. A few of us know and feel your pain of losing a machine like that especially under those circumstances but the fact you share your education of the mark is very much appreciated. Ie, Never knew there was a Diamond T passenger car, and photos of those are even more scarce!!

      Like 7
    • Steve

      Love is grand
      Divorce is sixty grand and up

      Like 2
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I knew you would be right in there, Howard. It’s a real tragedy you couldn’t have hung onto your 201. But maybe there is still some solace in the memories. I liked the 201 a lot more than this version, the grill made them look tough as nails. However I wouldn’t kick either one of them off my driveway. And they would be bone stock, right down to the T-9 crashbox.

      I happened upon a modified 201 a few years back. I imagine about the only part of the original 201 left was the cab. It was powered by a 12-Valve Cummins 5.9 with the P-pump supplying the fuel. The guy did a good job and he drove it a lot with an RV hitched onto the back. Needless to say, the stock powerplant might have pulled the trailer in low and 2nd, maybe 3rd but I have my doubts if it would reach high…

      Like 2
      • Howard A Member

        Hi, my friend, yeah, I’m as predictable as 6 o’clock at 5:30 in these regards. Better to have tried and failed, seems to have been my life. Even with the failures, I’ve done a lot I can be happy about.
        When people say, “just fix it up and drive it”, you of all people would know the complications of that. It, like all of these, is horribly out of date for any travel more than a couple miles. Today, it seems, Americans have to everything over the top. Having the absolute best is paramount. It’s our stubborn pride that won wars, but can be a real PITA. Looking at “images”, some beautiful creations, but really? Someone will dress this up to the 9s, with some motor that would power an army tank, and for what? The only logical thing to do here, is ditch everything below the belt, and mount the body on a stock modern chassis, 4×4 if you wish, but keeping it simple, I hope, will be the rule in the future. You’d have the coolest of both worlds and had the cookie crumbled differently and I DID keep the truck, it’s what I would have done. Sky is the limit here.

        Like 1
  2. TheOldRanger

    Looking at this Diamond T sure brought back old memories.
    Lots of work to be done on this one, but I think it will be well worth it. This is 5 years older than I am, and I’m not in prime condition either, but I can still putt down the road. This baby has seen its working days done, and now it should be spruced up to just drive around, and hauling only minor items.

    Like 3
  3. Robert White

    This T was built the same year Amelia Earhart ditched her spy plane on Gardner Island in the Pacific Ocean.

    Nothing quite like the Art Deco era of manufactured goods. Radio was in its infancy as well as automotive manufacture.

    As I age out Art Deco era stuff seems attractive, frankly.

    I’d save the drivetrain and wouldn’t Restomod this piece of art.


    Like 5
    • Howard A Member

      I heard she was spotted working at a HoJo just outside Phoenix,,,I’m with you, but a dwindling kind and most today have no use for this, as is. Just the fact the relatively small amount of comments, tells me, WE’RE the choir,,

      Like 0
  4. Yblocker

    Unique, expensive, and challenging project, I doubt there’s many parts laying around. Pretty much a parade truck, way too slow to ever see the highway in this day and age. Mack built one of these also, for a short time.

    Like 4
    • Howard A Member

      For a while before the war, these heavy duty pickups had a calling. The Mack Jr. was really a rebadged 1/2 ton REO. I don’t think Mack never made a HD pickup. REO did make a HD pickup truck, and Federal too, very similar to the 201, all with a 2 ton rating. That translates into a very rough ride. After the war, a shift to tractor trailers and bigger straight jobs, ended the HD pickup for 50 years until now. Today, for some reason, we need these HD 4×4 pickups to run down 6 lane highways and 9 blocks to Walmart.

      Like 4
  5. Glenn Schwass Member

    Beautiful. I’d clear coat it and drive it. Great lines and in nice shape.

    Like 1
  6. MikeH

    “You’ll hear (and feel) the road, smell the grease, and get much better at double clutching, but that’s the charm.” I couldn’t agree more—that’s the charm. Resto mod it and it’s no longer a ‘37 Diamond T.

    Like 5
  7. Mike

    Install a new drivetrain as stealthy as possible and restore the rest as-is.

    Like 4
  8. chrlsful

    now I see Y they were a cut above. Wondered, altho seein pic of them before, why the expense. Now for some reason it’s more apparent. Will have to look closely at nxt truck show (they have several every May at ATCA’s big rig event every yr altho those are 90% rd tractors). A few my bronks, ’30/1 “A” p/u, the T p/u, Brockway (late model – mini mac I call them R my fav) waitin 4 a Hudson Terraplane Cab Pickup, a 3/4 ton real hauler (misnomer ‘bigboy’ as that might apply only to the 7 inch longer wheel base model).

    Like 0

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