The countdown has begun – Update #43

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 Headlights

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.

Steve Keys

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

May 2018

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.


Enamel and reassembly – Update # 42


The reveal – Update # 44


  1. steve curle

    this is a great credit to you both i too didnt think what was laying in our warehouse would ever look like this.
    alot of people have enjoyed watching the restoration over the years all the best when the public get a chance to appreciate it too

    • Sue Keys

      Thanks for your help over the years Steve. Wish you could be here on 12th to share your part of the story!

  2. Lloyd Wilson

    Sue, that is a wonderful tribute to Steve. I’m very proud to have had him as a friend for over 40 years and I can attest to the accuracy of all you’ve written. But don’t under-estimate your personal contribution – not just to the tanker project, but in your supporting Steve with all his projects and endeavours.


    Well done Steve and family.

  4. B & B

    The Diamond T Texaco tanker looks incredible, even more so
    considering the condition of the tanker when you received it.
    We thank you for making it possible to follow along with the project.
    Would love to be there, but Auckland is a long way from St. Louis, MO, USA.
    Hope Feb. 12th is an incredible day.
    Best Wishes,
    B & B

  5. Brent. Mathieson

    Such a touching tribute Sue. What a show stopper the Diamond T tanker is, I admire the attention to detail and the dedication it takes to achieve the restoration/rebuild of what is, a true contender for the ‘ultimate rolling sculpture’ . Well done that man, the woman at your side and all who contributed.

  6. michael eggleton

    This project was so massive that I believe very few people in the world could ever see it through to the end and to such a high quality.
    Such a credit to you, family & friends.
    Your just a bloody good human I reckon.
    Cheers Michael

  7. Carol Bond

    Congratulations to you both, what an achievement!
    You have been a great team, working on this restoration-
    you know what the saying is Susie, behind every great man is a great woman!😊
    Well done both of you👍

  8. John Murray

    Sue, that is a well written and awesome tribute to Steve and his vision and work ethic.
    I was lucky enough to see the Diamond T back in 2018 and then saw it again when it was painted, I was stunned, but not surprised, at the amazing transformation that had taken place. It was just incredible.
    The quality of the workmanship is second to none and something that Steve, you and your family, and everybody else involved in the restoration can be extremely proud of.
    I am looking forward to seeing it on display on February 12th.

    • Sue Keys

      Thanks for your kind words John. We’re looking forward to seeing you on the day.

  9. Kevin & Gail Salter

    Sue what a beautiful tribute to Steve, he has done an awesome job and made it look a million $. It is an amazing project and shows just how talented he is to copy such a huge project.. Credit goes to you too for all the support and keeping such a fabulous journal for us all to see and keep up to date with.
    Best Wishes for the unveiling, it is mind blowing what you have all done. We will be there to see the unveiling. Kevin & Gail Salter

  10. Rowan Glass

    Thank you Sue and Steve for allowing me to put my best effort into your project that you have so much passion for.
    I feel like my part was so small in the scheme of the whole restoration.
    To rebuild this truck in less than five years to this incredible standard is remarkable.
    Thankyou for your trust and patience, i am so proud to of been involved.
    Now lets show the world

  11. Chris Naylor

    Chris Naylor
    What an incredible achievement! I have been following the progress from the start of your restoration and I have looked forward to each update.
    I would love to have been able to see the ‘unveiling’ but as I am in the UK it is not possible for me.
    All the best to you both and to all the other folk who assisted you with their skills and talent.
    Chris Naylor.

    • Sue Keys

      Thanks Chris. We appreciate your kind thoughts coming all the way from the UK!

  12. Chuck Dalton

    Sue & Steve, what an incredible accomplishment with the tanker!
    I am on the other side of the planet, and I drop whatever I’m doing when I see an update in my email, as each piece of work on this restoration has been as impressive as the last. For me, the craftsmanship has been the most fascinating thing, first in how it was built, then more so in what it has taken to bring it back to its former glory. As a hobbyist myself, I can appreciate the choices then the effort & skill required. It can be much harder to recreate something that was done well to begin with, than it would be to find a quicker and easier way. Huge respect to Steve and you and your craftspeople.
    Much respect to Steve for his perseverance given his changes. Ideally he is satisfied with the gorgeous outcome!

  13. Henry Leach

    Spectacular and inspiring. Thank you, from North Carolina!

  14. Steve Medley

    It’s great to see this amazing project coming to completion. I wish I could be at the unveiling but I live in the US. I’ve been following this project for a while now and it’s been great seeing this magnificent truck brought back the it’s former glory. Actually, better than new. Your attention to detail is even better then Diamond T’s was.
    Steve is an amazing man. Best of luck with your future.

    • Sue Keys

      Thank you Steve. We wish you could be there as well. Your ongoing support and contributions to the blog have been very much appreciated.

  15. Greg Stokes

    Hi guys,
    I would like to say first and foremost thank you for all you have done for me and with me over the years. The tribute to Steve is a perfect account for the man and the mindset. Although we havent been as close in recent years, I certainly look forward to being at the unveiling of this fantastic project. Well done!
    Best regards,

  16. Cam Lill

    Fantastic work Steve and wow it will be a real head turner. Have enjoyed the regular updates Sue – many thanks. I know how hard it can be tracking down the bits or skills needed to restore or put older vehicles back on the road having revived a few Trucks down here in Christchurch! All the best with the unveiling and will look forward to the photos! Regards Cam

  17. Christopher Green

    Awesome job! Awesome restoration! I cannot wait to see the tanker fully uncovered and in its glory! If you plan to publish a book on this project, I would love to purchase one! Thank you!

    • Sue Keys

      Thanks Christopher. A book sure would be another challenge…….we’ll see what we can do.

  18. Grant

    This is very exciting! Following the project from beginning to upcoming grand reveal has been a real privilege. This is a truly remarkable restoration crafted by very gifted people pulling together. A hearty congratulations to all involved!

  19. Such a phenomenal labour of love on Steve’s part, and a touching tribute from Sue! From the perspective of the bodybuilder, I’m sure that Julius Heil would be duly proud of your “resurrection” of this Heil petroleum tanker. While we have many contemporary Heil tanks and trailers on the road in NZ, courtesy of our long-time dealers, Tanker Solutions Ltd. of Wellington, your hard work will now put you alongside the Heil “Doodlebug” tanker at the Bill Richardson Transport World museum in Invercargill, as perhaps the finest example of restored Heil equipment in the Asia-Pacific region. Many thanks for bringing a piece of our storied history back to life!

  20. Tim Clark

    Outstanding tribute to Steve for all is hard work to make this amazing project happen. I would love to see it in person but way to many miles of ocean between SoCal and Auckland, at least for right now.

  21. Pam

    What a mammoth project and big congrats on the completion. I have followed with keen interest especially since I realised this was the tanker I had seen in it’s previous location. The dedication and perfection is amazing. Thanks for the updates, they’ve been great. All the best for your challenges ahead.

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