1947 Diamond T 201S docent 002

1947 Diamond T 201S

Donated by Allen Vandekerkhove Victoria BC

Known affectionately as the “The Cadillac of Trucks”, Diamond T was founded in Chicago in 1905 as the Diamond T Motor Car Company and built high quality touring cars and later became known for it’s Trucks. C.A. Tilt was the son of a cobbler and his father’s logo was a Letter “T” for Tilt on a Diamond shaped background. Tilt Junior took the name Diamond T for his trucks as he thought it symbolised high quality.

Not only did Diamond T’s have high quality, they were styled like no other truck and often had flowing lines and rich chromed details. According to Diamond T founder C.A. Tilt, “A truck doesn’t have to be homely,” Diamond T built around a quarter-million trucks over a 56-year history.

Building their first car in 1905, two years later Diamond T started  production of 3 passenger cars and they built their first truck in 1911 at a customer’s request. Soon cars were phased out in favour of Trucks and Diamond T built many for the war efforts once WWI started. The cars were extremely high quality and some models had up to 70 hp.

1936 was Diamond T’s best year with sales well over 8,500 trucks. Mid way through that year they joined REO, Mack, Federal and International who all thought they could make money in the light truck business. Diamond T built the 3/4 ton Model 80. The Model 80S for standard and the Model 80D for deluxe with an electric clock and jewel cigar(cigarette) lighter. A few thousand were guessed to have been built over just two years.

Replacing the Model 80 with the Model 201 Diamond T one-ton claimed to be unique, ” 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.” It came as pickup, stake truck or Panel and resembled no automobile at the time.

The Model 80 was then replaced in 1938 by the classic. According to 1941 Diamond T paperwork, the “Model 201 is a unique vehicle in the light-duty field. Its Available as a pickup, panel delivery, or stake truck, the Model 201 shared nothing, save for a touch of style and grace here and there, with any then rolling.

The Model 201 had a super tough heavy-duty frame, Lockheed hydraulic brakes, extra-rigid front I-beam axle, cast-iron spoke wheels, 16″standard or 20″ optional. Regarding the frame the company wrote “The exceptional rigidity of the X-type frame promotes longer life for cowl, cab and bodies by its freedom from weaving and distortion.”

That beefy frame meant more weight. In base chassis form, Diamond T’s one-ton pickup weighed in at 2, 750 pounds. “Model 201 is necessarily built heavier than the usual competition,” continued the Diamond T brochure, “but this additional chassis weight is required to provide its long life and low maintenance cost. It will do its job at a lower cost per mile and per day and for a longer useful life by far than any of the lighter and less rigorously designed vehicles commonly offered in this market.”

The GVW was 8,000 pounds and much of that was because of the 13 steel leaves that made up the heavy-duty leaf rear springs that looked like a dump truck’s.

Powered by a 73-horsepower, 205-ci Hercules L-head six-cylinder  and the postwar trucks had a stronger 91-horsepower, 236-ci Hercules L-head. Transmissions were usually 3 speed Warner units while a T-9 granny low four speed was optional. Along with the clock and lighter the trucks also came with dome lights, armrests, chrome mirrors, fender-mounted parking lights and chrome bumpers.

For WWII Diamond T built the 980/981 a heavy truck suitable for the heaviest of loads and used for transporting Tanks for the British. With very low gears and the Hercules DFXE diesel engine making over 200 hp (150 kW), the 980/981 was able to haul 115,000 lb (52,000 kg). Towing a Rogers trailer, the Diamond T served well for the British Army in North Africa.

Only ranking 47th among WWII US military contracts, Diamond T built G509 Series 4 ton 6×6’s variously used as Wreckers, semi tractors, dump trucks and cargo haulers. Diamond T also produced two lighter duty pick up trucks, a Model 80 and model 201 powered by the 6 cylinder Hercules QX engine. The Model 201 was built from 1938 to 1949.

Around 7,000 Diamond T Model 201’s were built until 1949 with a grille variations and some mechanical upgrades.

The Model 222 was announced 1950 as a bigger pickup but had very poor sales. The post war era was very different for light pickups, with lots of competition. Almost every manufacturer had added 3/4 ton and one ton models to their 1/2 ton trucks and priced them suitably for tradesmen, but with long option lists to suit almost every customer.

The 1948 Diamond T was $1,275-for the chassis only, add a cab for $215 and a body for $165, But Ford’s new 1/2 Ton pickup was only $1,232, while their 1 ton was still $200 less than a Diamond T.


I live in Surrey, BC Canada and am a volunteer with the museum,