The Howard W. Kizer photos – Update # 46

Rich Harner gifted us some photos in 2019 that once belonged to Howard W. Kizer. These historical images have initiated yet another project…..2023 is shaping up to be a very busy year!

The Three Photos

After we purchased the 1938 Diamond T tanker, I began researching all the tank trucks from that era. In early 2019, I came across three original photos of a Texaco Doodlebug that were offered for sale online.

Our fascination with these trucks was already well ingrained in us both, so Steve and I immediately bid on, and won, the auction. The minute these wonderful old photos arrived from the U.S., I scanned and emailed them to Rich to share our exciting find.

Rich’s Discovery

Around the same time that we bought these images, Rich had also spotted some Doodlebug photos for sale online.

Working on a hunch, Rich contacted the person selling the images and discovered they were part of a small collection. It soon became obvious that the photos that Steve and I now had here in NZ were also from that same set. We were thrilled when we heard the news that Rich had managed to purchase the remainder of the photos to prevent any further fragmentation of the collection.

By this time, Rich had already been so kind and helpful to us by sharing Diamond T information and other material. As a small token of our gratitude, we sent Rich a New Zealand book on trucks. Inside the parcel, we placed the original three Doodlebug photos that we had bought, with a note saying that we wanted them returned back to where they belonged – back with the other photos. Rich was very surprised and appreciative, to say the least, to be able to reunite three more photos with the collection.

The three Doodlebug photos that we purchased in 2019.

The Incredible Gift

Less than two months after we sent Rich the three photos, an unexpected parcel arrived here in Auckland. The contents were mentioned in my tribute to Rich in December 2021:

“Rich had recently discovered and purchased some original images that had belonged to Howard W. Kizer. Kizer was the Superintendent of Automotive Equipment for The Texas Co and was instrumental in the design and construction of the Doodlebug model. These images were carefully protected and packed in the parcel with the research notes and literature.”

The enormity of Rich’s gift, which I didn’t touch on at the time, was that it was not just some photos, it was an entire photo album belonging to Howard W. Kizer.

The Howard W. Kizer Album

After receiving what is arguably a museum piece, I gave my word to Rich that the Doodlebug photos would not be posted online. We were both in agreement that the internet was not really an appropriate medium to document and share these rare images.

In keeping my promise to Rich, I won’t be publishing any full photos of the Doodlebug from the album on this blog or any other site, but there is a plan for the collection. I do know, however, that Rich would be happy for me to share photos of the beautifully hand painted, leather album cover.

The Howard W. Kizer album.

The album contains a series of photos taken by Howard W. Kizer himself during a road trip in early 1934 between Chicago and Florida. There are over 40 images in the album, mostly featuring the Doodlebug that was driven along this route. The remainder of the photos depict the tourist attractions that were visited on the trip. Howard W. Kizer noted the locations, and dated most of the photos, so the journey has been well documented.

Photos taken by Howard W. Kizer in Alamo Park, San Antonio, Texas on February 2nd 1934.

Two photos of the Doodlebug that are in the Kizer album were published online back in 2011. I discovered these images on other sites when I wrote an earlier post on this blog back in 2018. I have reinserted them here as an example of the album contents.

It is evident from the notations that there are several photos missing from the album, and Rich confirmed with the seller that these had been sold overseas. I am also unsure if an entire page has been removed from the front of the album. The first photo documented was taken 200 miles south of Chicago but it is possible that this was the first location that was photographed. There is absolutely no doubt, however, that Rich’s quick thinking saved the majority of the Kizer album from being split up and potentially lost forever.

Apart from the historical importance of this album, the photos provide different views and angles of the truck and these will be invaluable for us as the build progresses.

The plan that Rich and I devised for these rare photos, as a way of documenting their rightful place in history, leads to project number 3.

Project Number 3

With the ’38 Diamond T tanker finished and the Doodlebug build about to start, the third project is to produce a book.

Rich was very excited and keen to be involved in this particular plan. We had spoken at length about different subjects and were both on the same page (excuse the pun!). The book would not only contain the unseen Doodlebug photos from the Howard W. Kizer album, but would also cover the restoration of the ’38 Diamond T tanker, the history behind both trucks and other related topics.

After Rich passed away in November 2021, I lost some of the sparkle that had been generated through our many conversations and plans about creating this book. It was supposed to be a team effort but my partner in crime (of a friendship nature, of course) was now gone. I realised within weeks of Rich’s passing that my enthusiasm and confidence to produce the book had waned considerably. It has taken well over a year to regain the courage and direction to do this on my own, but I am committed to seeing this project through to its completion.

The first hurdle is a rather large one – I have no idea how to write or publish a book!

Big Dreams

There was actually a fourth project that Steve, Rich and I had planned. Once the Doodlebug was built, we were going to ship it up to the States and take it down the same route that Howard W.Kizer had travelled back in 1934.

We spoke for many, many hours about this dream, and decided we would stop over in small towns along the way and put on evenings to raise money for charities within those towns. Rich had the perfect personality and knowledge to speak at these events, so he was appointed to the role of ‘presenter’. He laughed so much when we came up with that plan.

We intended to photograph the new Doodlebug that was about to be built at every location we could identify from the 1934 trip. These photos would then be displayed side by side, the present time vs 1934.

Our dreams were shattered when we lost Rich, and since then we have had to face the reality of Steve’s health issues. I have to say though, that those dreams brought so much joy to all three of us. We laughed, we planned, we visualised…….the anticipation and excitement that we all felt seemed to bring out the childhood imagination in us all. I am so glad that Rich was still holding on to those dreams when he passed away.

Our Inspiration

We received another surprise gift towards the end of last year – this time from Rich’s wife, Joyce. A parcel arrived from Missouri back in November and inside was Rich’s Doodlebug model.

The sentimental significance of this very special gift was that Rich had looked at this miniature Doodlebug during all the years of his research. As a lovely gesture, Joyce displayed the model at Rich’s memorial service to celebrate his passion for these early 1930’s tankers, and to acknowledge the important discoveries he had made about the rare Texaco Doodlebug during his research.

We are very grateful for Joyce’s thoughtfulness, and Rich’s Doodlebug model now takes pride of place in our home. It is inspirational to us both, and we feel like a part of Rich is with us as we embark on these two exciting new projects.


A new project – Update # 45


Re-writing the Doodlebug history – Update # 47


  1. Vinod Bhikha

    Thanks Sue for the update, and re your first hurdle. If it’s split into 2 parts.
    First, you definitely (!) know how to write – your blogs on the ‘38 Diamond T Texaco Tanker are a testament to this. You have a writing style that makes for a wonderful read, and this is intrinsically amplified by your passion. This creates a flavour that’s enjoyable. Don’t be distracted or dissuaded by the short attention span TLDR ( too long, don’t read ) trend.
    Second, there are people in Hamilton ( including an exMayor, and exDeputy Mayor ) who have published and I am sure would give very helpful advice to make this a reality for you.

  2. Pam

    I’m already in love with the Doodlebug!! Bring it on ♥️♥️

  3. Grant

    This will be an incredible journey. We’re with you every step of the way. Needless to say, a forthcoming book would be a high point in any automotive book collection. Looking forward to what the future holds!

  4. Ken Smith

    I have much enjoyed following the tanker project over the past several years – and now look forward to the Doodlebug build! And as Vinod Bhikha said above – you are certainly capable of writing the book!

  5. Michel Heijligers

    What a beautiful story Sue,As always !!
    If it all becomes a book I would absolutely buy it!
    I would also love to see the pictures and the route with dates that mister Kizer traveled ,very interesting!!!
    Do you know the location with the four man in front of the truck and who they were?Or maybe that wasn’t in the album of W.Kizer.

    Kind regards

    • Sue Keys

      Thanks so much Michel. Have you had a chance to read some of the history that Rich uncovered? Do you mean the photo with the pedal car next to the truck in this post or the other image that you have as your FB photo?

  6. Michel Heijligers

    Hello Sue
    Yes I read the whole story, very interesting.Also the first time someone discovered there had to be 7 instead of 6 doodlebugs.
    I indeed ment the picture I have on my facebook,would like to know the location and men on that picture.
    The picture with the pedal car is on a promotional tour in 1934 in New Orleans. At least that’s what I read somewhere.

    Kind regards

    • Sue Keys

      Michel, sorry I don’t know where that photo was taken. The men could be from Texaco, Diamond T or Heil! I’ll do some digging to see if we can identify any of them. Thanks, Sue.

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