T-Line, a Successor to Diamond T, Plans a Return Later This Year

By Tom Berg, Truck Editor | May 14, 2015

T-Line Trucks & Chassis, a low-volume business that evolved from the old Diamond T and Diamond Reo operations, plans a return to production later this year, and construction is among the vocational applications that its principals envision selling to.

Joe Whitman and Bruce Fylstra, partners in Diamond Specialty Vehicles LLC, say they will produce Class 6, 7 and 8 trucks and tractors, including powered and unpowered glider kits. The vehicles will feature quality and simplicity through sound design, methodical assembly and use of hard-wired electrical circuitry.

T-Line gliders and complete trucks will use a proprietary aluminum cab that can be altered for specialty applications, such as with low or high roofs and longer structures for crewcabs or sleepers.

Powertrain offerings include Cummins diesels and Power Systems International gasoline and alternative-fuel engines, along with Eaton Fuller and Tremac manual transmissions, Allison automatics, and Dana Spicer and Meritor axles. Equipment and photos are on the company’s website.

Whitman was chief engineer for Osterlund Inc., builder of Diamond Reo and Giant trucks from the late 1970s to the mid ‘90s. He said he had continued producing Diamond T-brand trucks, mostly for export to South America, until 2000. Then he sold T-Line trucks for domestic and foreign customers until 2010, when a dispute with a contract assembler intervened.

He continued selling parts to support in-service vehicles here and abroad until 2013. Since then he’s been working on reviving the business. More recently, Fylstra, a veteran truck salesman, invested in the project and is handling sales, marketing and dealer development. A parts stocking and distribution agreement has already been arranged with a logistics firm.

“We’ll probably start with glider kits because people are having a lot of trouble with the modern engines and their exhaust equipment,” Whitman said. “There’s a lot of opportunity there.”

The electrical system will be as simple as possible.

“We’re going to all hard wiring,” Fylstra said. “None of this multiplexing, and no fiber optics. You’ll still be able to change a light bulb in your dash. We’re cutting out all the redundancy -- no multiple fuse blocks; there’ll be one fuse box that everything will go into. ”

High-strength Domex steel from Sweden will go into T-Line frames, which will be powder-coated before air and electrical lines are strung. Because volume will be relatively low, assembly will be unlike any truck products now on the market.

“They’ll be stall-built by a team of two or three guys,” Fylstra said. “We can be more efficient this way because you can do it right and not be rushed by a moving assembly line.”

Gliders and complete vehicles might be assembled by a contract manufacturer, but the partners prefer to set up their own facility, hopefully around Hershey, Pa., where the company is headquartered. Production of fiberglass hoods will be farmed out.

“I want to build them here in America and provide jobs to American workers,” Fylstra declared

The T-Line name incorporates the ‘T’ from Diamond T, an auto and truck maker founded in 1907 by a C.A. Tilt, in Chicago. Through the years, Diamond T trucks were known for styling and mechanical innovation.

In 1967, Diamond T and Reo (for Ransom E. Olds of automobile fame) were merged into Diamond Reo by their owner, White Motor Co. Operations were consolidated in Lansing, Mich., Reo’s home. An Alabama investor bought the company in 1971, but it went out of business in 1974, the victim of an economic recession.

Loyal Osterlund, a Diamond Reo dealer in Harrisburg, Pa., soon obtained tooling and rights to build and sell the trucks. His company averaged about 150 trucks per year, until 1995. Many customers were dump and mixer truck operators. American customers were in Florida, Pennsylvania, and New England; other trucks were exported to Thailand and parts of South America.

The first customer for revived T-Line trucks is a roll-off trash hauler in the Northeast who’s ordered five, and orders for seven more in various applications are in hand, Fylstra said.