The countdown has begun with a confirmed date and location to reveal the restored Diamond T Texaco tanker here in Auckland.
The Dash Side Panels
In July 2021, we published photos of the beautiful dash centre piece that Dylan Orpwood had machine turned.
Steve sent the two side panels down to Dylan last year for him to complete the dash restoration. Dylan once again meticulously machine turned each panel and illustrated his superb craftsmanship.
The interior of the cab prior to the restoration.
The completed interior today.
The banjo style steering wheel is adorned with the Diamond T logo centre insert.
Our appreciation and thanks to Dylan for creating and returning two more beautiful pieces of art to us. We couldn’t be happier with the results!
The Diamond T Brass Badges
During the first year of the restoration, we were able to find a pair of brass Diamond T badges / plates that sit on each of the bonnet sides. The ornately detailed plates were yet another hallmark of these stunning trucks.
Steve has now polished and mounted the plates. With a limited amount of time left before we reveal the truck, Steve is unsure if he will get to infill the plates with the period correct Texaco green. Either way, they will look very grand!
The Rear Bumper Lights
Steve stripped and restored the bases of the lights that illuminate the number plate / license plate in the recessed area of the rear bumper.
Now fitted in the rear bumper, the chrome bezels and convex glass lenses are visible on each side.
Starry Malcolm researched the license plate format and colour of the South Carolina commercial truck plates in 1938. Using the number of the plate that was on the tanker when we received it, Starry had a set of plates manufactured and sent to us. We were extremely thankful and appreciative for such a thoughtful and well-planned gift.
The detailed and stylish design that Diamond T were renowned for was carried through to the headlights with two polished stainless steel strips being mounted on the base.
The headlight bases were photographed after being stripped. They were then delivered along with the headlight bodies to Rowan Glass. Rowan proceeded to repair and paint both components using the beautiful PPG Delfleet commercial paint system.
The headlights are back where they belong and look stunning!
The First Show
The countdown has begun as we make plans to unveil and display the restored 1938 Diamond T Texaco tanker at the Ellerslie Car Show & Concours D’Elegance on 12th February 2023.
We are honoured to have been invited to reveal the truck at such a prestigious show that would not normally accommodate a commercial vehicle of this size. The tanker is outside of any judged class so it is being exhibited as a display vehicle.
With only two weeks to go, Steve is working hard on finishing all the final touches of the restoration. The pressure is on!
Following the show, we will publish an update with photos from the unveiling to share with everyone overseas or those who are unable to attend the Ellerslie Car Show in person. For anyone living in or near Auckland who has followed the restoration, we would love to see you on the day. The gates open to the public at 10am and our plan is to unveil the truck around 10.30am.
We are very excited…….
The Man Behind The Project
Over the past four and a half years, I have really enjoyed showcasing the numerous craftsmen and businesses across New Zealand who have contributed in some way to restoring the tanker. We are very fortunate in this little country of ours to punch above our weight in so many areas. The talent and skill of those involved with the truck has been world class and I hope this blog has highlighted the high calibre of craftsmen that we are lucky to call our own here in NZ. But as the restoration draws to a close, I want to place some much deserved focus on the man behind this project, Steve Keys.
Steve likes to be under the radar and to just get on with things. He will definitely be outside his comfort zone with me acknowledging his input, but he deserves the recognition and I’m sure there will be people who are interested in what motivated him to undertake such an enormous mission.
It would also be reasonable to assume that I am biased about Steve’s talents and abilities because I am his wife. But those who know Steve well will agree with the following description of a remarkable man who tackles a challenge head on and never gives up.
From a personal perspective, Steve is there for everyone…….always.
Be it his time, friendship, support, advice, the sharing of knowledge, giving someone a helping hand, providing a meal or a bed for the night, participating in and contributing to group events, lending tools or vehicles – Steve gives so much to so many people. The contrast to these generous traits is that he is very independent and finds it difficult to ask for, and accept, help from others.
Steve is a very unassuming man and he makes everyone he meets feel at ease. He is family orientated and is a devoted husband, an extremely proud dad to Mitch and Lani and a doting grandfather to Carson. He loves to laugh and thoroughly enjoys spending time and travelling with good friends. He is a car guy through and through, an avid follower of motorsport and a passionate collector of gas memorabilia. Steve has held a number of positions on vehicle related committees in a voluntary capacity, with over 20 years sitting on the most recent one.
Steve is always interested in what people in his life are doing and is the first to congratulate someone who has either achieved or acquired something through hard work. He has a huge respect for anyone who tries to better themselves and is full of encouragement to anyone wanting to give something a go.
His skill set is so diverse and extends well beyond vehicle-related work. Over his lifetime, Steve has built homes and renovated buildings – he is proficient at all the skills involved. He is a cabinetmaker by trade but is just as handy with a welder or lathe. He loves cooking and experimenting with food, is renowned for barbecuing and slow cooking cuts of meat in his smoker, and has a long-standing reputation as a brilliant cook.
The word “can’t” is not in Steve’s vocabulary and he will always overcome any problem or difficult situation. These solutions are sometimes thought about for weeks or months, but Steve always shows such amazing ingenuity to achieve the desired result. His unique ‘get up and go’ attitude is respected and loved by so many people in his life, and many of his friendships have spanned 40 – 50 years. His passion for life shines.
But Steve’s qualities that are perfect, and also required, to carry out a restoration of this magnitude are his vision, drive and exceptional passion. He has an inner energy that I have never witnessed in anyone else and one that can be exhausting to watch. There is no “off switch” in Steve and he has always had trouble sitting down to relax – he has been likened in the past to the Energizer Bunny! Without exception, once Steve has committed to a project of any description, he is 100% focused, motivated and determined to complete the task at hand.
Steve in March 2018, the month he took possession of the truck.
Steve and the Diamond T Tanker
When Steve started considering the idea of purchasing and restoring the Texaco tanker, he immediately had the vision of the truck being brought back to its former glory. Some people who saw the Diamond T in the beginning said Steve was mad to try and that it wouldn’t be possible. There were even a few humorous suggestions to bury the tanker and let it be! But others said if there was one person in New Zealand who could take on the tanker restoration, and have the commitment to see it through to the end, it was Steve.
I have recorded in great detail the work carried out by all the people involved in the project. But there were so many parts behind the scenes that had to be created throughout the restoration which Steve machined or made here at home. These were only briefly touched on, or not mentioned in the blog, due to timing or the topic being covered at the time. His diverse skills enabled him to carry out a lot of the restoration and mechanical work himself, with the exception of the outsourced areas that have been detailed throughout the progress updates.
We never recorded the time that Steve himself put into the truck but he has been the pure driving force behind this project in all aspects of the restoration. Out of interest, I estimated a conservative number of hours that he would have personally spent over the past 4 1/2 years and arrived at well over 6500 hours.
An Unexpected Challenge
I have thought long and hard about publicly disclosing some recent news that we received as it isn’t directly relevant to the tanker or its history. However, unbeknown to us, it has been part of our restoration story since the beginning, and is something that Steve is willing to share if it brings awareness to others.
For almost two years now, Steve has been noticeably struggling with his strength and mobility. For someone with such energy and motivation, it has been terribly frustrating for Steve and worrying for us both. Despite us being told it could be age related or a consequence of Steve’s Archilles tendon injury, we both knew in our hearts that something was terribly wrong. After some extensive testing late last year, Steve was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
It was news that came out of left field and is still something we are coming to terms with and trying to understand. The indications are that he has probably had it for at least a decade without knowing. I must say it makes my hair curl now thinking of some of the situations Steve has been in over the past few years, particularly while working on this truck!
Steve is already tackling his journey with MS in the same way he has always approached life – a positive attitude, a keenness to understand what he is dealing with, an acceptance that things are what they are, and a determination to stay motivated and never give up.
Seeing the project through to its completion, and the stunning end result, is testament to Steve’s incredible vision, passion and commitment. Being the extraordinary man he is, there is no plan to stop doing what he loves and I am certain that this won’t be the last project.
To say that Mitch and I are incredibly proud, and in awe, of Steve’s unwavering focus, determination and accomplishment with this restoration, is simply the understatement of the year.