A newly available series of heavy vocational trucks uses a tried-and-true design and modern componentry with a name deeply rooted in American automotive history. “T-Line” trucks, a recent iteration of Diamond T and Reo trucks dating to the early 20th century, includes three models offered by Diamond Vehicle Solutions LLC of Harrisburg, Pa., which for five years has been supplying parts for still-running trucks here and overseas.
“The T-Line is a blend of vintage Diamond T heritage and modern engineering,” the firm said in an announcement in late October. Seven complete trucks were built in early 2008 for export to South America, and the company is ready to build more for domestic and overseas customers, says Joe Whitman, director of operations. Meanwhile, it supplies service parts for existing Diamond Reos, Diamond Ts, and Reos as old as 1949.
Most of the older trucks in the United States are dumpers, mixers and block haulers, and T-Line targets that same market, he says. The company plans a “package” mixer truck with a rear-discharge drum from Indiana Phoenix, and might do a dump version, too. It now offers one long-nose and two medium-nose conventional-cab models designed in 1996, and trucks can be custom designed to suit each customer.
Diamond Vehicle Solutions builds its own main frames and other parts, and outfits basic cabs it obtains from Navistar International. It offers Caterpillar and Cummins diesels, Eaton and Allison transmissions, and Dana and Meritor axles. It will begin using International engines, starting with the MaxxForce 7 V-8, as Caterpillar phases out its truck engines this year.
Diamond Vehicle is a small company with limited finances, but it has been able to engineer EPA-legal diesels into its chassis because “we're engineering people here,” says Whitman, adding that he and others are veterans of a predecessor company that began building Diamond Reo Giant trucks in the late 1970s. “Plus, we've had good relations with some of the supplier folks who have helped quite a bit in this.”
The company is an offshoot of the enterprise begun by a Diamond Reo dealer, Loyal Osterlund. He obtained the legal rights to the name, spare parts and manufacturing dies following bankruptcy in 1975 of Diamond Reo Trucks, which had been formed in 1967 from Reo Motor Car of Lansing, Mich., and Diamond T of Chicago. Osterlund added the Giant moniker.
After Osterlund retired, the company was run briefly by a son, then shut down in 1997. Under new owners, it built trucks using the Diamond T name until '99, and new investors again revived it in '03. Last year work moved into the Harrisburg plant built by Loyal Osterlund in the early '80s.
“There's been no truck production lately, but we did some chassis kits to refurbish old Giants — customers take cabs, hoods, and power trains from old trucks and place them on the new chassis. We have done gliders and could do more,” using 1999 to '03 diesels in new cab-chassis assemblies. “There are still some real loyal (no pun intended) customers who stay with them,” he said of the old trucks.
Loyal Osterlund once had 50 dealers worldwide, but many had left by the time the operation shut down in '97. Diamond Vehicle now has 17 U.S. dealers — mostly in the Northeast and Mid Atlantic, but also Texas and California, and four in Latin America. Whitman indicated that new business will be pursued as economic conditions allow.