Diamonds Are Forever: Mid-Engined, Hot Rod Diamond T Truck

Diamond T manufactured trucks from 1905 to 1967 for public use, transport and a variety of uses including military service. As a result, the brand still holds a special place in the heart of many Americans.

These Chicago built trucks are known not only for their robust towing capacity and durability, but their everlasting style as well. With each model a dependable workhorse, Diamond T’s can haul whatever you need, whenever you need them to.

From pulling tanks and artillery in World War II, to moving machinery on friendly soil, these trucks were a common sight on the roads back in the day. Today, over fifty years after the last Diamond rolled off the assembly line, these trucks are a much rarer sight.

Many are sitting in the garage of collectors or museums, only sporadically being cranked to life for special occasions or the odd parade.

A few of these trucks however have managed to escape the sedate life and wind up in the hands of a hot rodder. Because of their unique nature Diamond T hot rods steal attention anywhere they appear. Even a unique event like Detroit Autorama’s Autorama Extreme.

Show Stealer

We first spotted this truck on the first day of the Autorama, but the crowd around it was so thick we had to wait until early morning the next day to take it all in.

A popular feature of the 2018 Autorama Extreme show we had to return several times to capture this truck in it’s entirety.

While most of the Autorama crowd was recovering from a night of festivities, we seized the opportunity to capture what makes this truck feature worthy. Due to it’s length though this was still no easy task. At over fifteen feet long, we had to be quick with the camera to capture all of it during the rare moments no one was staring at it with jaw on the floor.

Sitting fist high from the ground, Jack Burnette’s ’48 Diamond T is, as the accompanying signboard says, built in Chicago but made cool in Detroit.

Mid Engine Low Rider

With the top of the original cast iron wheels sitting nearly in line with the cabs lower window trim it’s clear as day that this truck has seen more than it’s fair share of work.

The bones of the truck might have come from that of a work vehicle but this ’48 is nothing but hot rod at its core.

Instead of under the hood, a big block V8 motor now sits behind the cab, "muffled" just barley by Borla mufflers.

Throughout the weekend the hood of this truck stayed closed because it’s power-plant isn’t sitting between what’s left of the trimmed front fenders.

Instead of being positioned under the hood, a detailed big block V8 sits directly behind the cab. Behind the motor is an aluminum radiator fit with an electric fan to make sure the motor stays cool no matter what the weather or load.

A short exhaust system is somewhat muffled by a pair or Borla universal round body mufflers that exit through up turned tips. The tips feature rain flappers, a feature not uncommon to work trucks like Diamond T’s.

In addition to keeping rain out of the exhaust these flappers produce a unique ‘tink, tink, tink’ drum line at idle.

No air suspension here! This truck rides on coil overs in the front, and leaf springs in the rear.

If you thought this truck was on air, we don’t blame you, but there’s no dynamically adjustable suspension to be found under this rig. Coil-overs are being used up front in conjunction with the original straight axle. In the rear leaf springs are used along with a significant frame kick up, to bring the truck closer to the ground.

The heavy gauge bumper in the front is sure to cut down anything that gets between this truck and where it needs to go.

Earned Patina

The original Diamond T styling has been preserved inside the truck.

Diamond T’s were known for having a little bit more style than their competitors and inside this truck, much of that factory flair has been retained. This includes the beautiful factory gauge cluster that sits in the middle of the dash.

The instruments and switches feature still shiny bright work. Even though the original gauges look great they were never designed to monitor a big V8. To make sure the motor is within operational limits at all times auxiliary gauges are mounted to the back of the cab visible through the rear view mirror.

A tall shifter snakes up to hand height in front of a recovered bench seat. The rest of the interior maintains an authentic patina.

Original patina is combined with the pinstripe work of Michagian's own Dr. Ru

The exterior of the truck also wears work earned patina, with black, red, and even some green colors making their way to the surface. Where modifications were necessary to the body of the truck Jim made sure to refinish in a way that wouldn’t look out of place.

Complimenting the patina are pinstripe brush strokes laid by Michigan resident Dr. Ru. Blackie’s Sunoco is featured on the door, while a motivational “Keep On Truckin!’ can be found on the rear of the massive differential. R. Crumb would be proud.

A heavy gauge bumper is sure to cut down anything that might obstruct this trucks path.

Some purists might argue that the bones of this truck would have suited yet another factory restoration but we’re glad the owner transformed this truck into what it is today.

There are more than enough factory restored Diamond T’s to go around but mean, mid-engined rat rod rigs like this are a rarity.

If you’re in Michigan keep an eye out for this truck cruising the streets. When you hear the roof mounted air horn go off, followed by the bark of a V8 that means only one thing…

Move over!

About the author

Dave Thomas

Currently living near Toronto, Dave spends much of his free time behind a camera at car events, and likes just about anything with wheels, but usually the lower the better. When not taking photos, writing articles, or going upside down on his bike he can be found in the shop wrenching on his 1951 GMC pickup.
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