Progress on the Heil tank body – Update # 6

In our first post “Diamond in the rough – the lucky survivor”, we added a series of photos detailing the condition of the Diamond T truck and the Heil tank body. When referring to the image of the rear hatch / trunk, we asked if anyone could help with information on the lining of the trunk floor.


A view of the rear hatch / trunk. Positioned across the badly rusted floor are upright extended bolts which we suspect may have secured wooden slats on top of the steel floor. There are remnants of wood in other locker compartments as well. Can anyone shed any light on this please? Are there any family members of drivers, or people who saw these in the forties or fifties, who recall if timber lined the floors of these trunks and lockers?


Amazingly, not only has our question been answered, but we have also been provided with a photo of inside the trunk of this actual tanker while it was still located in South Carolina.


The image details the wooden slats that remained inside the trunk and were still in the tanker when it left the East Coast. Somewhere along the way, the slats have been stripped out.

We are wondering if the use of timber in the trunk and the other lockers was possibly to minimise the risk of sparks from metal containers carried in these compartments.

One of Steve’s hidden talents is that he is a cabinetmaker by trade, so he is well placed to fit the replacement slats. Steve is going to source and use an American timber to keep the restoration as authentic as possible.

A wealth of information about the Texaco tank truck is being put together at the moment. The details, and the source of the image and tanker history, will be published shortly. Watch this space!

The Rotisserie

When Steve has turned the tank body on his own, he has used a chain and D shackle to steady the body while the pin is out of the right angle gearbox on the rotisserie. He had a small incident the other day when the D shackle came apart while rotating the body with the pin removed.

We have a theme park here in Auckland with a pirate ship ride that basically swings back and forward and gradually gets higher and higher. That was all I could visualise as Steve relayed the story of the swinging tank body. He is a great storyteller so the tale was told with the usual animation and humour.

When the angle drive started freewheeling, all Steve could do is stand back and let the body swing like a giant pendulum. While he, the tank body and the rotisserie came out of the incident unscathed, the angle gearbox had a bit of a rough time during the “ride”.  Steve has had to strip and rebuild the gearbox –  it has since been fitted back on the rotisserie and everything is working perfectly.

After hearing of Steve’s experience, Tom Andrews came up to Auckland and he and Steve cut the tank body from the rotisserie and re-positioned it slightly. The aim of doing this was to improve the ease in which the body can be turned on the rotisserie. Steve and Tom had calculated the centre of gravity when they constructed it but the new adjustment, as small as it was, has made all the difference and the rotation of the tank body is now a lot easier.

Just to note that when the tank body is being worked on, there are three safety measures in play. The first is the angle gearbox itself that locks the rotisserie bar in place (except when Steve is operating it!). Then there are strops attached to each side of the rotisserie frame that provide a safety backup to keep the body in position when it is not upright. And thirdly are supporting beams that lie across the frame underneath the body as an extra protection as well.

Our thanks to Tom for helping with the adjustments to the rotisserie.

The Heil ID Plate

At every opportunity, Steve is restoring the small Texaco tank truck parts that adorn our house at the moment.


Relevant to the tank body is the Heil ID plate that is mounted in the right rear locker.


Steve has restored it in black to keep it consistent with the other ID plates on the tank truck.

The Turn Signal Lights

There are four amber “arrow” turn signal lights on the Texaco tank truck – two on the front fenders and two at the back of the tank body. These were also used on some 1940s trucks and buses.

The intact lens in the image is from the front fender but the opposite lens is broken. Both of the rear lenses are missing. These are proving difficult to find so if anyone can help, please get in touch.


The amber lens is 110 mm / 4 3/8″ wide and 70 mm / 2 7/8″ high.

The Texaco Lettering

Our son, Mitch, at Electric Creative Ltd is going to draw up the missing letters on the Heil tank body. Mitch has initially used some vinyl to create a template of the existing letters to scale.


The Panelwork Repairs

The main update on the tank body is that Steve has delivered it this week to the clever and talented Simon Tippins at Creative Metalworks. I can’t wait to share the amazing work in progress photos that will follow once work begins on repairing the Heil tank body.



A.W. Wheaton Brass Works – the tank truck equipment


The heart of the tank truck – The Diamond T Super-Service engine


  1. Craig Houston

    Hey guys there’s an outfit in Australia that will remake lenses although they will not be glass. I’m not sure of their name but I can recall seeing their add in Cruzin a while ago.

  2. Nostalgic Reflections
    P.O. Box 350
    Veradale, Washington 99037

    Could have restored the HEIL ID Plate, or could make an exact replica of it using the same materials, and number stamp font.
    This type of data plate would not have had any back filled paint.

    As for the glass lens, Nostalgic Reflections can make the lenses you need, but we would need to borrow your best example for a tooling pattern.
    Jerry Turner
    Nostalgic Reflections

    • Sue Keys

      Thanks Jerry. Do you think the data plates were painted over in the Texaco red originally? We have been unable to find any literature on the factory finish of the Heil bodies. There were remnants of red paint on the plate which could have been painted over at a later time.

      That is good to know about the lenses. What material would you be able to make some new ones out of?

  3. rick schaefer

    Late to the party, but I am so happy that I found you. Amazing progress by an amazing group of craftsmen. Are you working the cab at the same time?

    • Sue Keys

      Work has just started on the cab. The focus has been on the tank body so far but now that it has been delivered to the fabrication workshop, Steve has begun stripping the cab. I am hoping to have some photos and an update on this in the next few weeks. Great to have you following the project Rick.

  4. Uhlmeyer

    You all are awesome. Reading the blog and seeing your pictures is a monsoon of memories. Being on U.S. Air Force bases from 1958 – 1976, I’ve seen a lot of tank trucks. All over the world, there are many examples of American hardware. I was in Pacific ops, so many of the oldies were already rusting badly dispite Uncle Sam’s zealous maintenance. You may find something useful through military equipment buffs. Just a thought. Keep up the great work.

    • Sue Keys

      Thanks so much. That is a great suggestion. Have you seen many photographs over the years of these during the fifties and sixties on the Air Force bases?

  5. George

    Great really interesting project you’re working on. Seems like you have some dedicated and skilled professionals working with you. I’ve done this type of work, but not on this large a scale.
    Wish you the best of luck with this,and would enjoy reading updates on your progress.

    • Sue Keys

      Thanks so much George. The scale of the project can become overwhelming at times so we just try and focus on one area at a time. It seems to help 🙂

  6. Bradley Brown

    Greetings from Switzerland, I came across a link to your blog on Hemmings, and I have „binge“ read every post – the restoration is very interesting and the blog posts so well written I am anxious for the next instalment, frankly the project is almost „archeological.“ I wish you all the best and look forward to reading more!

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