For 18 months, I searched extensively for information on the Heil pedestal design. The answer to this mystery came by way of a special friendship and a single black & white photo.
The Elusive Heil Pedestals
When we purchased the Texaco tanker, five threaded studs extended from each side of the Heil tank where the hand rail is positioned. The hand and toe rails were both missing, as were the original pedestals that support them. So we faced the challenge of trying to solve the mystery of the shape and dimensions of these pedestals.
One stud was welded at the bottom of the vertical part of the hand rail and the other four ran horizontally across the tank above the ‘TEXACO’ lettering.
On inspection, Steve discovered that these studs had been welded in areas where there is no internal access due to the tank structure.
Across the toe rail area where access is possible, there are holes through which long bolts would have been inserted from behind.
A hole is visible in the bottom right hand corner of this image where the rear hand rail pedestal sits. As there is access to this area from inside the trunk, a long bolt would have been used in the same manner as the toe rail pedestals.
Other Pedestal Systems
The only tank trucks of the same design that we have been able to study the pedestal / rail systems on are the three restored Dodge Airflows and David Finlon’s 1940 Diamond T. The tanks on the Dodge Airflows were all made by Gar Wood, and David Finlon’s tank was manufactured by Standard Steel Works.
The pedestal shape on this specific tank design was unique to each tank manufacturer and is one of the ways to visually identify who the maker was.
I also discovered when studying the other tanks that Heil went against the grain with the number of hand rail pedestals. The Gar Wood and Standard Steel Works tanks all have a total of six horizontal pedestals supporting the hand rail. Heil only used five.
The Standard Steel Works company designed a simple pedestal with a small circular base. The fixing of the base is concealed so I am unsure how these were attached to the tanker in those areas where access from behind wasn’t possible. This image is of David Finlon’s tank and shows the rail held quite close to the body.
An image of the Henry Ford Museum Dodge Airflow shows the Gar Wood styling which is similar in design to the Standard Steel Works pedestal. It also holds the rail close to the body but the base is an elongated oval shape.
The three restored Gar Wood tanks all have externally fixed pedestals. A close up shot of the Transport World Dodge Airflow shows the pedestal base screwed directly into the steel body.
Searching For Answers
Studying the pedestal style of both these tank manufacturers left us with even more of a dilemma. How on earth did Heil incorporate these long threaded studs in their pedestal design? With no other known streamlined Heil tanks in existence to date, I exhausted every avenue I could think of to unravel the mystery.
I first made contact with John Harper at the Chevron Corporate Archive. The Chevron Corporation merged with Texaco in 2002 and now stores all the historic material. I had read that the archives hold more than half a million photos so I was hopeful that we might have some success. Unfortunately nothing has emerged so far.
I contacted Nollie Neill, a Dodge historian with a large collection of material including the Dodge Airflows. Nollie searched through his records and kindly sent us some Heil promotional brochures featuring various tankers. The images unfortunately didn’t show the finer details of the hand rails.
We were very fortunate to have been contacted by Lee Boozer in Newberry County last year who recognised the ’38 Texaco tanker.
Lee, Rush and other locals have continued asking around about the tanker but we haven’t progressed any further in our search for a photo of the original truck.
I emailed the American Truck Historical Society last year but they also haven’t been able to locate a photo of a Diamond T / Heil streamlined tanker.
Jeffrey Edwards, Director of Export Sales & Marketing at Heil Trailer Asia Limited, contacted us at the beginning of the project and offered his help with anything we needed.
I emailed Jeffrey several months ago and explained our predicament of having no reference material on the Heil pedestals. Jeffrey put me in touch with John Snodgrass, Vice President-Strategic Accounts for Heil Trailer International. John has worked for Heil for more than 45 years so he has an extensive knowledge of the company, the history and the archive material.
John has kindly been making enquiries with other colleagues and retired employees about the old archives and any historic build information that Heil holds on file.
I naturally spent many, many hours searching the internet and discovered that unfortunately there is very limited information on any of these old streamlined tankers.
But little did I know, as I made these enquiries, that a photo was about to surface that would solve the mystery and steer us in the right direction for replicating the Heil pedestals.
Throughout 2019, we had a very special person in our lives helping us with research. Rich Harner has spent more than a decade studying these streamlined tankers, and has amassed an extensive amount of material. He also loves Diamond T’s and has studied the history of the company in great detail. Needless to say, Rich is over the moon to see a Diamond T Texaco streamlined tanker coming back to life. The fact that it is a 1938 model is just icing on the cake for him.
It just so happens that Rich also owns a Diamond T fuel truck. It is a 1940 Diamond T 306 truck with a tank manufactured by the Joliet Manufacturing Company in Illinois, Chicago. Originally owned and operated by Standard Oil of Indiana, the truck is smaller than the 614 with a cylindrical style tank. Rich has begun to restore the truck and tank, and has researched and gathered up literature on Standard Oil of Indiana. This Diamond T adds yet another historic vehicle to the fleet of preserved trucks used in the oil and fuel industry during this era. It also, of course, creates an important awareness and knowledge of another American tank manufacturer.
Early in 2019, Rich introduced us to Steve Rutledge. Steve has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Diamond T trucks and has also been extremely helpful to us. Like Rich, Steve openly imparts his knowledge and freely shares any information and material that he has. Our friendship with both these men has progressed past the Diamond T truck connection to encompass family, friends and life in general.
We will forever be indebted to Rich and Steve for their contributions to this project and we will never forget their exceptional generosity and kindness. Rich often speaks of the ‘Diamond T family’, and we feel privileged to have experienced how members of this ‘family’ look after each other.
To help us search for information on the tanker, Rich spent countless hours during 2019 poring over reference books at the American Truck Historical Society library. He was recently however going back through his own collection material when he struck pure gold…… a Heil promotional photo of a streamlined tank on a 1938 Diamond T.
1938 Diamond T Texaco streamlined tanker – Rich Harner Collection
It is hard to describe our reaction when we received this image from Rich. Finally, we were able to see an original photo of a Diamond T truck of the same year combined with a streamlined Heil tank. It was one of the most memorable moments of the project to date.
Rich’s discovery of this photo has been pivotal in moving the restoration project forward. The historical detail contained in the image will hopefully enable us to recreate and preserve the style and design of the Heil hardware that may otherwise have been lost. Our sincerest thanks to Rich for searching for, and sharing, this invaluable image.
The Heil design is dramatically different to the Gar Wood and Standard Steel Works pedestal systems. Unlike the sleeved rail supports designed by the other tank manufacturers on this tank design, the Heil pedestals were made up of a number of machined components. These pieces were stacked over the long studs and secured in place with a hex nut tightened above the rail. This design raised the height of the rails quite a bit further off the body than the Gar Wood and Standard Steel Works tanks.
It is little wonder that we were mystified as to how these studs formed part of the pedestal system.
From what we can make of the photo, the pedestal is composed of a circular base, a rectangular upright tube, a sleeve that encases the rail and a hex nut that tightens down over the rail sleeve.
We are relieved to discover how the Heil system came together but it will still be a challenge to recreate the component dimensions with absolute precision.
If anyone knows of the existence of another Heil tank of this style, we would be very grateful to get the exact measurements of each piece. Heil manufactured many types of tanks during that era and supplied a lot of these to Chrysler for their Dodge trucks. So there could be a water truck, milk tanker, fire truck or a different brand of fuel tanker that still exists in a museum or private ownership. It is possible that Heil used the same style of pedestals on some of these other tank applications during this time.
As with everything else on the tank truck, the studs that were on the tank body had corroded after 80 years. Rust had affected not only the threaded ends of each stud but also the shaft surface.
The studs needed to be replaced in order for the body work to continue in that area. Steve had new ones machined with a thread to secure the hex nuts in place above the rail.
He has now cut off the corroded studs and welded the new ones on to enable the filling, blocking and sanding to be completed along the hand rail line of the tank body.
A New Year
We are now 22 months into the restoration. Over this time, the preservation of this rare and special truck has created a lot of interest across the globe. When starting the blog, we never imagined the number of people who would take the time to visit this site.
Thank you to all those who follow the updates. We have appreciated very much all the support and encouragement that we have received from friends and strangers alike.
2020 will see the reassembly of the truck and tank, the overhaul and reconditioning of all the running gear and, of course, the red paint! There is still so much to do and learn about this great old tanker and we look forward to sharing it all throughout the coming year.
We wish everyone all the very best for 2020.
Happy New Year!
Steve & Sue.