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History The Salt Lake Diamond T: A History of Tires, Bonneville Racing, and Old Farmers

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Barn Find, May 11, 2013.

  1. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    My favorite thing about old cars is that each one has a story. I think it is worthwhile to record those stories, so I’m using this forum to share what I’ve pieced together about an old truck I found. Maybe others here can help me collaborate, correct or add to the bits of evidence I have uncovered.
    [​IMG]
    <O:p</O:pThe truck is a 1947 Diamond T 201. Diamond T was an independent truck manufacturer until being purchased by White in 1958. Diamond T was most well-known for heavy duty trucks with a stylish flare. With the exception of a handful of similar Model 80, ¾-ton trucks produced in 1937, the Model 201 was smallest truck Diamond T built. Between 1938 and 1949, Diamond T built only 7,000 1-ton, Model 201s.

    <O:p</O:pI stumbled across this particular truck in a small Utah town. I was on a road trip to retrieve an REO Speed Wagon cab that I describe in another thread. http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=799746&highlight=reo

    I had always admired these trucks, but rarely see them. If the name Diamond Reo sounds familiar, it is because White also bought REO in 1957. After the merger Some REO and Autocar components were branded as Diamond T trucks (all medium and heavy duty, no pickups). In 1967, the independent names were dropped in favor of the short-lived Diamond Reo name.

    <O:p</O:pA little trivia: Ransom E. Olds is responsible for the name of two major auto manufacturers (Oldsmobile and REO) and two well-known musical groups. (REO Speedwagon and Diamond Rio).

    <O:p</O:pI thought the little Diamond T would make a nice running mate with Dad’s REO, but what impressed me most was the story told by the Utah owner. The truck was purchased new by the General Tire company in Salt Lake City. An employee of the tire company bought the truck from them and took it to his family Ranch in the remote southern Utah town of Lyman. The truck still wears its 1964 license plates. I presume that license plates were either not required for farm use or that Lyman was so far from civilization that the law would simply not bother the citizens of Lyman for such transgressions against state bureaucracy. The town is so small and remote, I’m sure everyone knows each other; and having spent 65 years in Lyman, the Diamond T would have been recognizable to anyone in town.

    <O:p</O:pThe old farmer thought it had been 7 or 8 years since he drove The Diamond T. His wife thought it was more like 12 or 14 years. Who knows exactly how long the truck had been sitting? The dust inside seemed to be inches deep. Thank goodness for that dry Utah climate. The truck was dirty, but rock solid with original paint on most of the undercarriage. He told me stories of the Diamond T making service runs for the tire company all over the state. In its retirement from city life, the Diamond T was used to haul grain and fence posts in some pretty remote and rugged territory in the mountains of Utah.

    <O:p</O:pThe opportunity to buy such a truck that had not been offered publicly for sale since it was new in 1947 was an opportunity I could not pass up. I love old trucks and I love the rugged west. This truck combined the two, and the more I researched the truck’s history, the more interesting things I discovered. That’s why I want to document the story and to share it. I’ll be adding more photos and history I’ve pieced together. <O:p</O:p
  2. Offset
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    Offset Member

    Interesting story. Glad you got the truck and I am assuming it now has another good home but maybe not such a tuff life.

    Nice.
  3. Phil Stevens
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    Phil Stevens Member

    great looking truck and interesting story, thanks for posting.
  4. gasmanm01
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    gasmanm01 Member

    very nice. thanks for posting.
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  5. Kiwi Kev
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    Kiwi Kev Member

    Congratulations on your discovery! That is a really great looking truck. I have always liked the Diamond T.
  6. blacknblue
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    blacknblue Member

    I saw one going down 5600 west in SLC Friday hauling a load of horse manure! It was in really good shape and still performing haul duty!
  7. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    I started researching The General Tire Company in Salt Lake City to confirm the old farmer&#8217;s story and see what else I could learn about the truck&#8217;s history. I found this photo circa 1949.
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    The oval shape of the sign matched the outline visible through the truck&#8217;s last coat of paint. A little sanding revealed the General Tire logo.

    [​IMG]
    A vast majority of the 1-ton Diamond T&#8217;s came from the Chicago factory with red paint and a green reveal at the belt line as this truck originally did. It looks like General Tire left the fenders red and painted over the cab and hood to create the two-tone effect. The fenders have since faded, but they buff out red, when polished.<o:p></o:p>
    That building is still standing today. It is now Six States Distributors at 1388 S 300 W http://maps.google.com/maps?q=six s...1wNXcF-U0KAzxrprmk5SoA&cbp=13,247.02,,0,12.94
    Last edited: May 13, 2013
  8. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    The General Tire dealership in Salt Lake City had been a fixture in the Bonneville Intermountain area going way back. Here is a photo from the early 30’s when owned by H. Spencer Brown.
    [​IMG]<O:p</O:p
  9. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    To learn more about the dealership in the 40’s and 50’ I began searching through old newspaper databases. Charles Wheeler took over the General Tire dealership in 1946. On May 10, the Salt Lake Telegram ran this ad announcing the grand opening under new management at 315 East Broadway.
    [​IMG]
    <O:pIn September of that same year, Wheel General Tire ran this ad in the Telegram picturing their fleet of four service trucks. The ad bragged about their specially equipped trucks carrying air compressors, air impact wrenches, tools, and calibrating instruments. This was precisely the evidence I was looking for, except it was a year too early. The Diamond T would become truck #6 in their fleet the following year. The 1946 fleet appears to have been made up of International Harvester pickups. In their first year of operation Wheeler General Tire had displayed a preference for the off-brand, but perhaps did not have the capitol and confidence to buy flashy and expensive Diamond T trucks.
    [​IMG]
    <O:p
  10. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    The ad featuring the fleet photo encouraged me to keep searching. Wheeler General Tire was a consistent advertiser in the Salt lake Telegram, but the ads from the next couple years added little specific knowledge about the Diamond T. Here’s a typical example.
    [​IMG]<O:p</O:p
  11. thunderbirdesq
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    thunderbirdesq Member

  12. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    Occasionally, Wheeler General Tire would show up in the news section, like when A.J. Wood got hurt on the job when a boom fell on him while inspecting tires. And then there was the constant struggle in the intra-city softball league between Wheeler General Tire, Kennecott, and Structural Steel. These brief stories updating the community on victory and defeat and rain-outs are an interesting snapshot of life in the post-war era. It sure seemed simpler then. Players weren’t called out by name, but I like to think that Mr, Okerlund, who drove my Diamond T, took time out to recreate on the softball field and beat the pants off those Structural Steel guys.
    <O:p</O:p
    The next big news for Wheeler General Tire was expansion. In 1950, Wheeler moved from Broadway to a $150,000 building at 1388 South 2<SUP>nd</SUP> West. This new site housed the sales headquarters for the Bonneville Intermountain distributor covering Utah, Southern Idaho, Western Wyoming, and Eastern Nevada. The building was designed by Miles E. Miller & Co. and also provided space for 14 of Wheeler’s service trucks equipped with air compressors and other equipment.

    [​IMG]
    <O:p</O:p
    [​IMG]

    Unfortunately, we never learned the make of trucks #5 or #7-14. It does make sense however, that with the growth of tire sales exploding after World War II and with Wheeler’s obvious success in expanding the fleet, service area, and investing in a $150,000 building; it would be consistent for Wheeler to use the top-of-the line Diamond T. A one-ton Diamond T would have been 30% more expensive than your average pickup and several hundred dollars more expensive than a Ford or Chevy with similar 1-ton payload rating. <O:p</O:p
  13. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    One of the features that makes Diamond t pickups unique to even the casual observer are the cast-iron, Dayton wheels. These were standard on every Model 201. Dual rear wheels were optional. Also optional was the express pickup bed. Though, many, many 201s were delivered without pickup beds. Here is some original sales literature identifying features and options.
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    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]<O:p</O:p
  14. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    After my library investigative work had progressed this far, I found some artifacts in the dispatch pocket (Diamond T’s don’t have glove boxes) which confirmed what I had gathered. In a mound of dust, I found this tag, originally fitted to a customer’s tire.
    [​IMG]
    I also found several tattered receipts for gas from the Lubritorium Oil Co., 50 W 9<SUP>th</SUP> South. The receipts were all made out to Wheeler General Tire and dated 1965. I also found a 1963 state registration in the name of General Tire. I believe it was soon after this the truck retired to the remote southern Utah desert.
    [​IMG]
    <O:p</O:p
    <O:p</O:p
  15. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    Part of me had hoped that I would find a vintage picture of the Diamond T, but at least I confirmed the stories. I had also hoped to learn a little more about the specific routes and duties that this truck saw covering ground from Wendover to Vernal and Cedar City to Pocatello. I wanted to know if there was any link between this truck and Salt Lake racing. I’m sure most of its duty was vocational-serving farms and fleets, but I wondered if General Tire ever supported racing events for promotional purposes?

    [​IMG]

    After all, Utah had recently become the center of the land speed record and endurance racing world. Local Utah driver Ab Jenkins pioneered the sport at Bonneville and then went out and promoted Utah to all the great racers of the world. Jenkins invited them all to Utah and proved to them that Bonneville was the place to go fast. Legends like Jenkins, Cobb, and Campbell leap-frogged each other breaking and setting new records throughout the 30’s and 40’s. Jenkins was elected Mayor of Salt Lake City, so Bonneville racing would have been integral to the culture of Salt Lake City during these times.<O:p</O:p
  16. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    In addition to Salt Lake area papers, I searched national advertising to learn what kind of images or slogans may have been used by General Tire or originally adorned the truck. General Tire flirted with slogans suggesting Bonneville fame, such as “Setting New Records for Mileage” and a medallion affixed to the Diamond T dash claims “The World’s Quickest Stopping Tire”.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I could find no evidence that General tires were ever used in official Bonneville speed attempts, but the story doesn’t end there. I also wanted to know more about the Salt Lake Diamond T dealership, and that's where I found some really interesting history. <O:p</O:p
  17. mrdodge
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    mrdodge Member

    Wow. Some great information there. Thanks for taking the time to fill in the story behind the truck. Very cool.:cool:
  18. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    I have searched in vain for photos of the Salt Lake Diamond T dealership. We’re left to use our imagination that it might resemble this Diamond T dealership in Tacoma, circa 1935.
    [​IMG]
    <O:pI did find this tow truck from the 50’s. This monster is more exemplary of the majority of Diamond T’s business over the years. The little 201 pickups were just a blip in the history when they built pickups. During World War II, Diamond T built more than 50,000 prime movers and massive tank transport trucks. In the elven years spanning 1938 through 1949, they only built 7,000 pickup trucks.
    [​IMG]<O:p</O:p</O:p
  19. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    Newspaper archives tell us that the Salt Lake Diamond T dealership was owned by O.J. Wilkinson. Wilkinson is not at all unknown. Wilkinson was a businessman with many dealings. Wilkinson was state Republican chairman and president of the Murray, UT LDS stake. He was active in politics and was invited to meet President Eisenhower in 1954.
    <O:p</O:p
    Before that, Wilkinson owned the Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg dealer in Salt Lake City, and that was the link that would finally connect the little Diamond T to Bonneville racing. Diamond T trucks have been described as the Cadillac of trucks. It is more correct to say that Diamond T is the Duesenberg of trucks. They were both independents built outside of Detroit (IL and IN), they both catered to customers that prioritized custom construction over price, and both were eventually orphaned when the makes died out permanently. In this case, they were both sold by the same dealership.
    <O:p</O:p
    These photos from the Utah archives show Wilkinson and race driver Ab Jenkins next to a front-drive Cord that was specially equipped for Salt Flats racing. Notice the louvered transmission cover. Several Cords were similarly equipped for endurance testing, including some Westchester sedans. One of these cars currently resides in the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. http://www.automuseum.org/

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  20. -Brent-
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    -Brent- Member

    Neat truck. I picked up a roadster with Salt Lake roots, a few years back, and the search was really fun.

    A side note, the names of businesses were so cool back in the day. I'd love to get my vehicle serviced at a place called the "Lubritorium." :D For as creative as we are as a society, nowadays, it doesn't seem as interesting.
  21. Mr48chev
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    Mr48chev
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    That's a lot of interesting history you dug up. Those are great looking trucks in any size.
  22. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    To properly tell the story of Ab Jenkins and the Diamond T dealer, we need to go back a little further in automotive history.
    <O:p</O:p
    I found this 1945 copy of a book originally written by Ab Jenkins in 1939. It is a very good account of the beginnings of Bonneville racing.
    [​IMG]

    I also recommend the movie “The Boys of Bonneville”. I first learned of the move from this forum. It uses a lot of text from the book and many of the same archive photos I found in my research.

    http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=754929&highlight=boys of bonneville&showall=1
    and
    http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=586048&highlight=boys of bonneville<O:p></O:p>

    Jenkins chronicled several adventures across the salt on motorcycle and racing against trains. Elsewhere, Jenkins raced hill climbs in Studebakers. In 1933, Pierce Arrow asked him to drive their new 12-cylinder. Jenkins fulfilled by tuning more horsepower out of the twelve to beat Pierce’s straight eight. In 1934, he again drove another Pierce Arrow to record setting speeds and distances in a stock car lightened and streamlined for the cause.
    <O:p</O:p
    [​IMG]</O:p>
  23. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    After that, August Duesenberg built a special car for Jenkins to further test his limits of endurance and speed. The “Duesenberg Special” was later dubbed “The Mormon Meteor” through a public contest to name the record-setting car.
    [​IMG]<O:p</O:p
  24. jreeder41
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    Great thread!!
  25. Barn Find
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    If you’re really paying attention, you’ll note that this photo of Augie and Ab is actually the Mormon Meteor II. The exhaust of the Duesenberg, supercharged, dual-overhead-cam, straight-eight exited on the right side of the vehicle. An exhaust pipe on this side can only mean that a Curtis aircraft V-12 lies under that hood. Augie eventually built an entirely new chassis to better match the heavy, 750 hp airplane engine. This stretched version of Duesenberg Special didn’t handle very well at the ever increasing speeds Ab was achieving.
    [​IMG]<O:p</O:p
  26. Chris
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    Chris
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    1. 34 Fords
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    Awesome research!
  27. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    Duesenberg provided Jenkins a superior car to compete with international competition that Jenkins would soon draw to Bonneville. The relationship also provided an opportunity for the Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg Company to promote sales as the company suffered dwindling sales during the depression.
    <O:p</O:p
    Jenkins drove Auburns and Cords on the salt to set new speed and endurance records in stock cars. Supercharged Auburns were sold with specially engraved dash plaques attesting that Ab Jenkins, himself had driven that particular car at speeds in excess of 100 mph. A member posted a photo of his grandfather's Aubrun that had such a plaque. http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=784537&highlight=auburn


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  28. flynbrian48
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    flynbrian48 Member

    Hmmm. I'd like to take my 201 to the salt and get a 100 mph plaque, since the tag on the cowl clearly says "Not to exceed 65 mph". Mine has Auburn speedster rear fenders, and an Auburn "Flying Lady" mascot...

    Great story, and a great find on another 201!

    Brian

    Attached Files:

  29. Barn Find
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    Barn Find Member

    You must have the high speed rear end. Some were rated at 54 mph.

    Just engrave a 1 in front of the 6. 165 mph seems like an acceptable limit to me.

    I knew Diamond T fenders are scarce, but not as expensive as Auburn fenders.

    Your truck looks great!
  30. flynbrian48
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    flynbrian48 Member

    I'm not sure about it making 165, but the governor from the donor trucks "black box" was deleted, so it should be capable of breaking the century mark. ;-)

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