The steering box and the elusive pedestal design – Update # 30

Steve has stripped down and reconditioned the Diamond T steering box. We have also made progress with the pedestal design after discovering the existence of another Heil tank.

The Steering Box


Like everything else on the truck, the condition of the steering box and column indicated a hard life and many miles travelled. But much to our surprise, the stripping down revealed a near perfect steering box that was testament to the build quality of that time.


As with most components on the truck, the steering box and column were sandblasted and 2 pack epoxy primed.

Stripping and Rebuilding The Steering Box

In talking with Phil Game, a fellow hot rod club member, Steve mentioned that he had to strip the steering box down. Phil offered for Steve to bring the steering box to Phil’s business one weekend for both of them to strip and recondition it together.

Phil’s business, PG Hydraulics Ltd, is located in East Tamaki and has a reputation of being New Zealand’s leading power steering company. It services all power steering and manual steering boxes and racks, and also manufactures and repurposes steering components for right hand conversions for the Australian and New Zealand markets.

Phil has many years of speedway experience in modifieds and sprint cars, and PG Hydraulics has an extensive inventory of used, rebuilt and brand new steering components. These cover almost every make and model made and include hot rod, custom and race applications.

Steve was definitely going to spend a Saturday morning with the right guy!


The first task at hand was to check the pitman shaft / sector shaft for any wear.


Phil linished up the shaft and found it to be near perfect with negligible wear. The bearings in one end of the steering shaft had discoloured so they were replaced as a precaution.


All the components were cleaned and degreased in a parts washer.


Phil shot blasted the worm to check the surface for any wear.


Before reassembly, all parts were put through the Turbowash for a more extensive final clean.


All the components prior to reassembly. The new bearings can be seen on the bench.


Phil commented while stripping the steering box that the overall condition of it was unbelievably good and thought maybe it had been replaced at some time.

But Steve doesn’t think this was the case as there were no signs at all of it ever being removed.


The shims shown in the forefront of this image have been reassembled without any major alteration.


Steve traced the side plate and end cap to make new gaskets.


The new gasket sitting on the housing. The tool to the right is a wad punch that was used to punch out the gasket holes.


Steve painted the components and reassembled them with all the original bolts and plugs that have been cad plated.


The finished product ready for installing back on the chassis. Steve has the pitman arm and steering drag link also finished and ready for reassembly.

We very much appreciate Phil’s input and expertise in seeing this part of the restoration completed, and for his contribution to the project. Thanks Phil!

PG Hydraulics Ltd / Air Flo Hydraulics Ltd

15B Polaris Place 

East Tamaki

Auckland 2013      

Ph: 09-274 5871              Email:

Searching For The Pedestal Design     

Since purchasing the truck, we have searched high and low for the original pedestal system that was used on the tank.

Several months ago, Rich Harner discovered a photo in his collection of a 1938 Diamond T Texaco tanker. We were finally able to see the hand and toe rail system that Heil used on their streamlined tanks in 1938.


The Pedestal Discovery

Some weeks ago, we became aware of another Heil tank in private ownership. The unrestored tank was manufactured in 1941 and was located and purchased on its own without the matching streamlined truck. We suspect the original truck hasn’t survived and possibly ended up being scrapped.

The great news for us was that the hand and toe rails were still attached to the Heil tank. We have exchanged many messages with the owner who has been exceptionally helpful to us in our search for the pedestal design. He joins a number of streamlined tanker owners, including several museums, who are passionate about the style and history of these art deco beauties.

The ’41 Design


The pedestal style on the 1941 tank is not exactly the same as the design shown in the photo of the ’38 Diamond T. There is no horizontal sleeve along the rail line and no larger circular base. But the fact that the tanks shared the same mounting system, and these pedestals were used by Heil only a couple of years later, gives us a great starting point to begin recreating the pedestals.


The pedestals and dome nuts used on the ’41 tank were found to be machined out of brass. This was the material of choice in the early days if pieces were to be chrome plated.

Dismantling The Rail

The tank owner went above and beyond to help us determine the dimensions and design details.


He began dismantling the last lower rail pedestal at the front of the tank. This section of pedestals sit over threaded bolts that are accessed from inside the guard. The first component to come off was the dome nut.


The bolt was pulled back through the inside of the guard revealing it had two washers attached.


Heat was applied and the pedestal was removed from the end of the rail. The following comment accompanied the photos. “Since brass has a much higher coefficient of thermal expansion than steel, we were able to slide it easily once we heated it and got it moving.”


The image above shows the hole drilled through the rail that corresponds with the bored out shaft in the pedestal.


The tank owner had suspected the pedestal might have been stacked with separate components but found that the body (shown upside down) is a single machined piece. It is bored vertically through the centre, and again horizontally to support the rail.


The set of components – the pedestal body, threaded bolt, dome nut and washers.


The pedestal was stripped back to reveal the machined brass body. With the components pieced back together, the thread on the bolt is visible through the rail opening.


We initially believed that the body of the pedestal in the black and white photo was a rectangular shape. The image above, however, gives a visual perception of a square edge where the shadow is cast on the body. This may also be the case in the photo of the ’38.

The Dimensions

As well as receiving the photos shown above, we were also sent images showing the dimensions of the pedestal body. Here are a few of them.


A view of the top elevation shows the art deco style of two tiers of circles machined in the brass.


The side elevation shows the ornate detail machined out at the lower end of the body.


An image of the bottom of the pedestal body shows the internal bored hole that tapers down to the bolt diameter.


Another one of the many imperial measurements that we have received.

We cannot thank the owner of this Heil tank enough for the lengths he went to to provide us with the measurements and details of the pedestals. We didn’t expect the rail system to be disassembled like it was but very much appreciate that it was done. It has given us the opportunity to see the specifics of each piece and has provided important detail on the history of the Heil tanks.

We are naturally thrilled to discover that another Heil tank has survived. Some features and specifications on the ’41 tank are different to the ’38 which adds further information and variation to the fleet of preserved streamlined tankers.

The special part of this restoration journey for us has been the wonderful friendships that we have made with such interesting, genuine people across the globe – getting to know the owner of this tank has been no exception. We are sincerely thankful and grateful for all his help.

A search is now on for a heavy duty original streamline cab / chassis suitable for the ‘41 Heil tank.  If anyone knows of an original truck less tank (‘35-‘40 Dodge Airflow, ‘39-‘42 Dodge conventional, ‘37-‘39 International, etc), please get in touch and we will pass on the details.


The Texaco tanker body preparation – Update # 29


Almost rolling – Update # 31


  1. Steve Medley

    As always, thanks for the updates. I always get excited when I see a new update in my inbox. Stay safe.

  2. Richard Ayers

    Very impressed with the level of detail for the pedestal reproduction.

    • Sue Keys

      We really have been fortunate to have been given these details. Thanks Richard.

  3. rick

    Enjoyed this visit with ya’ll ( that’s TEXAS Speak). I think I’ve said it before, you sure picked a tough project, but seems like there are people everywhere who step up and lend a hand at opportune moments.

    • Sue Keys

      Thanks Rick. We are surrounded by really talented friends and tradesmen who are all taken with this old truck. A great team of people.

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