One thing leads to another. and in the case of a certain 1935 Diamond T farm truck, Day Radebaugh is glad that’s the case.
After his 1949 Diamond T 201 1-ton pickup was featured on the Wheels page in December of 2013, Caldwell farmer Gerald Schmidt contacted Radebaugh about the 1935 Diamond T.
“He said, ‘I’ve got this old thing here, it’s not running. We blew the engine up cutting wheat back in the ‘50s.’ ” The truck had been stored in a barn since it broke down.
“He was afraid the junkies would start stripping it down,” Radebaugh said.
Schmidt wanted to see if Radebaugh could give him an idea of what it might be worth. The odometer showed a little over 41,000 hard-working miles on the truck.
Just in case, when Radebaugh went down to check the ’35 out, he drove his 1980 Autocar rollback truck.
“I got it for a song because it wasn’t running. To make a long story short, I went down and rescued the truck and now have it running,” Radebaugh said. He was impressed with the condition of the 83-year-old Diamond T. “The doors opened and shut, the windows went up and down … the fenders were not shot.”
In fact, the truck was in such good condition that his plan of action seemed obvious to him.
“The point is to keep it original,” he said. As automotive collectors often say, “They’re only original once … you can restore them as many times as you want, but you can only preserve them once.”
That’s not to say there weren’t issues to be addressed, the first being the Hercules JXA 6-cylinder flathead engine. When the engine was pulled and torn down for inspection, it turned out the number two rod bearing was shot. That posed a problem because it was a poured babbitt bearing, meaning it would be hard to replace. Engine builder Jerry Phillips of Galva, however, had a source and the engine went back together, with Merrill Green grinding the valves in the rebuilding process, supervised by machinist friend Clint Winger.
“I rebuilt the carb and sent the fuel pump off to be rebuilt,” Radebaugh said.
The original 6-volt integral generator was rewound to 12-volt output, the headlight sockets upgraded to match.
Inside the cab, rodents had attacked and destroyed the seat, so Radebaugh had Connie Parscal, a skilled upholsterer from El Dorado recreate the factory red vinyl seating surface.
The working pitted chrome windshield cranks, however, were left in place, as were the original gauges and the tiny factory A.M. radio.
“We redid all of the brakes … after 50 or 60 years, they were all froze up,” Radebaugh said. He was able to save the old bias ply tires on the front end of the truck, but had to buy four more heavy duty tires for the real duals.
He also readjusted the control rods on the hydraulic bed lift so it operates like new now.
Most old farm trucks’ fenders are dented and cracked from years of heavy use, but the ’35 Diamond T’s are virtually pristine, as is the tall grille, which shows eight decades of patina. Although the paint was rubbed out, Radebaugh says he has no intention of repainting or rechroming anything on the truck.
“This is as far as I’m taking this thing,” he says. He plans to show the truck, but to also use it to haul limbs and other materials on his farm west of El Dorado.
A sign attached to one of the many trucks that populate Radebaugh’s big farm shed sums up his mission: “Saving the World One Old Truck at a Tme.”
Mike Berry: firstname.lastname@example.org