The reveal – Update # 44

The reveal plans were coming together beautifully when we received unexpected news – a tropical cyclone was on course to hit New Zealand on Sunday 12th February 2023.

The Preparations

With the Texaco tanker reveal confirmed to take place at the Ellerslie Car Show & Concours D’Elegance, we were mindful that the general public wouldn’t know anything about the story of the Diamond T truck. So Mitch suggested creating a self-supporting sign of some description containing some brief history and restoration images.

He designed a freestanding, triangular sign which he and his team at Total Sign Solutions printed for us.


The challenge when compiling these sign boards was the need to condense this entire blog into 3 sheets!

Steve had Manukau Sheetmetals fold up some aluminium to complement the edges and the sign was then constructed in readiness for the day.

Prior to unveiling the truck, we planned to gather together the people who had either worked on the project or had contributed or supported us through the restoration. We wanted to put on breakfast for everyone, so we asked our niece, Amanda, to help with the catering as she works in the industry. Amanda happily agreed to help…..we then shared the news that there would be 120+ people and no kitchen facilities available! Amanda took the “post agreement” information in her stride and set about creating a menu that would suit the occasion and situation.

Cyclone Gabrielle

The Ellerslie Car Show & Concours D’Elegance goes ahead every year, rain or shine. But as the date drew closer, reports began to emerge of a monster cyclone heading towards New Zealand.

We continued with our plans and kept an eye on the weather forecast models that were available. Steve had a few “Tour With Texaco” shirts embroidered for the occasion and Mitch printed a pull-up banner to thank everyone involved. Mitch also created some circular Texaco star decals to place on some drink bottles.

All the people who were joining us had received invites and instructions on where we were to meet on the Sunday. Amanda was working hard on the catering side of things and we felt everything was under control. But Mother Nature had other ideas and she sent the worst storm to hit NZ in living memory on a collision course with Auckland on the afternoon of Sunday 12th February!

At around midday on Friday, the Ellerslie Car Show Committee had no choice but to postpone the event. Anyone who has been involved in planning and running an event of this size will understand the enormity of the preparations and the utter disappointment at having to postpone.

We didn’t really dwell on the news for too long and decided to relocate the reveal function to our home on Sunday morning. The hope was we could get together, enjoy some refreshments, reveal the truck and get everyone home safely before the worst of the weather arrived.

Steve and I spent Friday afternoon phoning, texting and emailing everyone to advise them of the change of plans. Amanda received a quick message that we were having to relocate, but the good news was she would now have use of an oven!

A few friends came over on Saturday to help with preparations and as we went to bed that night, the rain and wind started to set in.

Sunday 12th February 2023

We awoke on Sunday to constant rain and stronger wind as the forecasts had predicted. Several people flew up from Wellington for the day but all had return flights early enough to get home before Cyclone Gabrielle was expected to cause any severe problems. Amanda, along with her mum, Robyn, arrived first thing to start preparing and plating the food. Friends also turned up early to assist with the food, park the cars and anything else that we needed help with. These friends are truly like family to us and are always there to give a helping hand.

The information sign was a perfect medium to briefly outline the truck and restoration story.

The pull-up banner acknowledged and thanked everyone who had been involved in some way during the project. The full list has been added at the end of this update.

Mitch’s Texaco star decals added a fabulous touch to the Texaco theme.

We were surprised and delighted to receive a beautiful “Texaco” cake from one of Steve’s oldest friends. Our thanks and appreciation to Alan and Wei-Ling for their thoughtful contribution to the day.

Lani and Carson dressed for the occasion. Our little man was extremely happy and proud to wear one of his Poppa’s Texaco shirts!

Mitch kindly made a special tabletop sign for everyone to remember Rich and his invaluable input.

The Pre-Reveal Get Together

The moment we had dreamed of since 1st March 2018 was finally here. Due to the potential wind gusts and rain, the tanker was left in the shed while we gathered inside to celebrate the big day. We were also thrilled to have some of the Ellerslie Car Show Committee come over and join us for the morning.

Amanda’s menu, and the delicious food that was passed around on platters, was a huge hit and thoroughly enjoyed and complimented by everyone present. When breakfast was over, Steve said a few words and then began introducing the people associated with the project who we had asked to speak.

The following is a brief overview of the speeches in the order they were made:

  • Our brother-in-law, Tony Pelham, spoke about the history of Texaco and Diamond T as well as covering the origins of the tanker in South Carolina.
  • Pete Phillips, who owned the truck before us, detailed the chain of ‘caretakers’ of the truck from South Carolina to California to New Zealand. He also shared a funny story about Duane Jones during the transportation of the streamlined tanker to California. I have added Pete’s account of Duane’s experience below.
  • Tom Andrews spoke of his involvement throughout the entire project, including the hot riveting of the fish plates. Behind the scenes, Tom has been working very hard on a closed-in transporter that can carry the tanker to different events.
  • Mark Wilkin of Tanker Solutions Ltd in Wellington is the Heil distributor in New Zealand. He, and his wife Robyn, had kindly flown up for the day to participate in the unveiling. Mark shared with us the history of Heil and his company’s involvement in the tanker industry here in NZ.
  • Simon Tippins detailed the challenges of the body work repairs that he and Craig had carried out at Creative Metal Works.
  • Rowan Glass spoke of the magnitude of finishing the body work and painting the Texaco tanker.
  • Michael Smith of Car Colors North Shore finished the speeches with a background of the paint and colour.

We are very grateful to everyone that stood up and spoke. I know a couple of people were outside their comfort zones to do this, so we really appreciate their contribution to the morning.

Duane and the Tree

I have heard several stories over the past few years about the tanker and a tree, so I contacted Duane Jones to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

As Pete Phillips was going to detail the movement of the tanker from South Carolina to New Zealand, I asked if he would share the story with everyone. Here are Pete’s words from Sunday.

“Hamish Stroud contacted Duane Jones who a number of you will know as the owner of the California Roadster Company in Bakersfield and asked him to assist with the transportation of the Diamond T from South Carolina to Duane’s yard.

Duane was later notified that the Diamond T was coming to his yard from South Carolina on a big rig. What the transport company failed to tell Duane, however, was that the truck had flat tyres and seized brake drums all round. It had been loaded back east with a huge skid steer forklift and the transporter driver just assumed that Duane would have the same equipment available to unload the truck. How wrong the driver was! It quickly became apparent that Duane had nothing of the sort and the driver was not the least bit interested in helping to get it off.  After much head scratching, Duane suggested the driver reverse the rig up to the only unloading equipment Duane had…..a tree!

Duane felt if he could secure heavy chains to the tanker and wrap them around the tree, the transporter would inch forward and use the winch to stop it if it started to roll. Unfortunately, that was wishful thinking as the Diamond T’s brake drums were seized up, and it was never going to roll anywhere.

Not to be deterred, Duane hatched a new plan and poured WD40 all over the tyres to make them slippery enough to slide off the transporter. That idea didn’t work well either.

Now Duane is a true Kiwi bloke with that ‘number 8 wire’ mentality. In a bad situation with an impatient driver wanting to leave, Duane improvised and decided there was only one thing to do. He got out the Palmolive dishwashing liquid and the garden hose and lathered up the entire deck of the transporter. His ingenuity and resourcefulness worked, and the truck was slowly able to be dragged off safely to the ground.

The sad part of this story is that the poor tree was ring barked during this exercise and didn’t survive, so it ended up being firewood!”

Our thanks to Duane for not only sharing the story, but for also sending a photo of the actual tree prior to its demise!

The Reveal

At the end of the formalities, we had everyone wait inside while Steve drove the truck around to the house and the cover was placed in position over the truck.

Earlier this year, we asked Lani if she could sew up a cover for the unveiling. It proved to be a mammoth job with the cover measuring 11 metres (36 feet) long! We understand Lani did a little negotiating with her mum, Christine, to finish hemming the fabric beast. We are very grateful to them both for creating such a perfect concealment.

As the truck was parked in position, something extraordinary happened. The rain stopped and the wind dropped to hardly anything. We couldn’t help but think there were people looking over us, in particular both of our dads, and Rich, Bryan and Jim.

Mitch and Steve shared a joke and looked very relaxed prior to the reveal.

Everyone was ushered outside and it was finally time to roll back the cover and reveal the truck in its entirety…..

Reveal Photos: Simon Crispe

Although the reveal was over in seconds, it was a very special and emotional moment for many of us. Steve and I were surrounded by the craftsmen involved, contributors to the project, people who had helped in so many ways over the length of the restoration, and family and friends. We couldn’t have asked or wished for more.

There were, of course, very special people who couldn’t be with us due to distance and weather. They were all in our thoughts during the reveal and will hopefully all get to see the Diamond T sometime in the future. And Rich Harner was close to our hearts as we unveiled the truck he absolutely loved.

Our first Keys family photo in front of the Texaco tanker – Lani, Mitch, Carson, Sue & Steve

Photo: Simon Crispe

Photo: Alastair Ritchie

Some of the team behind the restoration. From left: Mark Wilkin (Tanker Solutions Limited and Heil distributor in NZ), Michael Smith (Sales Manager, Car Colors North Shore), Pete Phillips (previous owner of the truck), Tom Andrews (Classics Museum), Steve, Rowan Glass, Greg McDell (Classics Museum), Simon Tippins (Creative Metal Works Ltd) and Craig Garland.

These promotional poster cards were created as a surprise and handed out to everyone by Mothers NZ as a memento of the day.

The day of the reveal was a team effort and a lot of fun! I can’t begin to name everyone who gave a helping hand, parked cars, brought extra food, helped in the kitchen, carried around platters, carried chairs, helped to move and reveal the truck…..the list goes on. There were also people from out of town who made the trip to attend the unveiling, including folk from Wellington, Napier, Atiamuri and Waikato.

Our love and thanks to you all for helping to make the day so enjoyable and successful.

And our thanks to everyone who captured special moments throughout the day and has shared photos with us since. A special thank you to Mitch, Justin Hansen, Rowan Glass, Simon Crispe and Alastair Ritchie for enabling us to include these shots in this post.

A Look Behind The Scenes

In readiness for the reveal, Steve had placed the cover across the top of the truck to speed up the process when it was to be moved. Justin Hansen has kindly shared a special clip with us, taken as Steve drove the truck out of the shed on Sunday morning……..

And Simon Crispe shared another clip with us yesterday of the moment the truck was revealed. Our two dogs, Bella and Molly, decided to add their voices to the soundtrack……

We very much appreciate Justin and Simon capturing these moments. Our thanks to them both.

Special Acknowledgements

Steve and I would like to acknowledge two companies that came on board the project with an enormous amount of enthusiasm and support.

Ken Smith and Barry Wadham from Car Colors North Shore became involved in the project during the body preparation stage. They were exceptionally obliging and delivered materials in person on occasion. As well as giving advice, they were extremely generous in contributing products throughout the entire painting process. We can’t say enough about their expertise, professionalism and customer service, and very much appreciate their involvement and major contribution.

To complement the paint work and enhance all the stainless and chrome pieces on the truck, the team at Mothers NZ visited us on several occasions and provided us with all the relevant Mothers products. In the days leading up to the reveal, John came over to do a final detail on the Diamond T in readiness for the unveiling. Mothers NZ not only produced the poster cards shown above but they also gave us some other fabulous promotional products that we are very grateful for.

Our sincerest thanks and appreciation to Ken, Barry and Michael at Car Colors North Shore and to Ray, John, Peter and the team at Mothers NZ for everything.

The Reality of Cyclone Gabrielle

The reveal last weekend was a very happy, special occasion. But although we were lucky enough to get through the bad weather unscathed, Cyclone Gabrielle has absolutely decimated parts of the North Island. In Auckland, two volunteer firemen lost their lives helping people in a coastal town to the west of the city. Northland and the Coromandel districts were cut off from the main highways and have both suffered power cuts and extensive damage from the flooding.

But our beautiful Hawkes Bay region on the East Coast is unrecognisable. The death toll continues to rise and, as this post is published, there are many unaccounted for and over 4500 people who have not been able to make contact with family. Power, internet and mobile services have been down across the region for most of this week and the water supply has run out in a few areas. There are communities that are still unreachable and totally isolated from the rest of Hawkes Bay. It is a tragic and dire situation for many New Zealanders, and one that will never be forgotten. It is such an extreme contrast to the weekend that we all enjoyed so much.

Our thoughts, and those of everyone around the country, are with everyone affected.

The 1938 Diamond T Texaco Tanker

Photos: Alastair Ritchie

A Few Last Words

Steve and I have been very humbled by the support and encouragement that this blog has generated. Your comments and kind words have meant such a lot to us over the past 4 1/2 years. We are grateful to everyone who has followed the project or visited this site from time to time, and feel very lucky to have a Texaco tanker family spread across the globe. A very heartfelt ‘thank you’ to you all.

Although I have tried to acknowledge and thank everyone involved with the project in each update, Steve and I would like to extend our thanks and appreciation once again to all the wonderful craftsmen, businesses and friends who all stepped up to the challenge and helped to bring this beautiful piece of automotive history back to life.

And finally, we have a little announcement to make. This may feel like the last post ever to be published at, but it’s not.

We, together with Tom and the team at the Classics Museum, are about to embark on another very special project which I can’t wait to share! More to follow shortly…..

Thank you

The nut and bolt restoration is the culmination of a team effort across New Zealand and beyond. Our sincerest thanks to all those involved:

Tom Andrews – Classics Museum
Ken Smith & Barry Wadham – Car Colors of North Shore Ltd
John, Ray & Peter – Mothers New Zealand
Simon Tippins & Craig Garland
Rowan Glass & Nick Saunderson
Steve Rutledge
Rich Harner (RIP)
Chris & Linda Malcolm
Classic Cover Ellerslie Car Show
Alan Hulse
Bob Ballantyne
Kelly O’Donnell – Kellys Upholstery
Phil Game – PG Hydraulics Ltd

Adrian Curley
Alan Macy & Alan Stewart – Manukau Sheetmetals
American Truck Historical Society
Andy Gate
APTS Sheetmetal Engineering Specialists
Archer Auto Springs
Atomic Stripping Ltd
Automotive Blasting Services
Billy Ackerman – SC, USA
Brian Matthews
Bricon Engineering
Bruce Chaytor – Instrument Repairs
Bryan Belcher (RIP)
Callum Withers – Classic Autobody Panel & Paint Ltd
Chevron Corporate Archive
Chris Walton
Classic Autobody Panel & Paint Ltd
Co-Mac (PN) Limited
Craig Brassey
Craig Stare
Duane Jones – CA, USA
Dylan Orpwood
Ernest Shealy – Newberry, South Carolina Historical Society
G R Engineering
Garry Carter – Carter’s Tyre Service
Gary Watson
Gasket Specialties
Graeme McNeill – Macs Speed Shop
Graham Rollo
Grant Davis – Procote Industries Limited
Greg – Classics Museum
Hi-Tech Metals
Howard Bond
Howard Scott
Ian (Kermit) Armstrong
Ian Neary
James King – Merlin Auto Refinishers Ltd
Jay Sukha – JJ’s Painters Ltd
Jeffrey Edwards – Heil Trailer Asia Ltd
Jim Clamp – Newberry, South Carolina Historical Society
John Snodgrass – Heil Trailer International
John Woodyear-Smith – Ascent Print
Just Brakes
Keith Hunter
Keith Taylor – Emco Wheaton, UK
Kerry Earl
Lamberts Brake & Clutch
Lance Pelham
Lee Boozer – SC, USA
LwD Parts – Netherlands
Manukau Metal Polishers
Mark Whiter – Marlin Tooling
Mark Wilkin – Tanker Solutions Ltd
Metal Repair Services
Metal Spinners 2012 Ltd
Michelle Dasler – Procote Industries Ltd
Mikaere and Terry – Kidd Contracting Ltd
Mitchell & Allanah Keys
Neville Dasler – Procote Industries Ltd
Nollie Neill, USA
Otahuhu Chromeplaters Ltd
Papatoetoe Glass
Peter & Yvonne Phillips
Pro Coat
Reece Burnett
Richard & Keiron Adlington
River Road Blast & Paint
Robinson Instruments
Rubbermark Industries Ltd
Rush Workman – SC, USA
Sanders Abstracting – SC, USA
South Auckland Radiators
South City Auto Painters
Steele Rubber Products, USA
Steelmasters Auckland Ltd
Steve Curle – CA, USA
Tom Warren – Diamond T Rubber Company, TX, USA
Tony Devereux
Tube Bending Ltd


The countdown has begun – Update #43


A new project – Update # 45


  1. Dorothy Belcher

    That was a fabulous Unveiling and History of The Texaco Tanker and Bryan would have loved it if he had been able to make it. Thank you so much for inviting me and I thoroughly enjoyed everything plus the Breakfast, and meeting up with old friends.

    • Sue Keys

      It was special having you there with us Dorothy, and Bryan was in our thoughts throughout the morning. Thanks for joining us.

  2. Steve Medley

    It looks perfect. Congratulations.
    Another project?

    • Sue Keys

      Yes, we do have another project that is being started shortly. We’ll explain more in the coming week or so. Thanks Steve.

  3. Fred Hammerle

    Congratulations to all of the talented craftsmen and others who brought this huge project to completion. You could not have done a better or more historically perfect restoration of this art deco masterpiece. I salute you!

    Fred Hammerle
    Boston, Massachusetts USA

  4. Tony Devereux

    Hi Steve & Sue
    The recovery from the Ellerslie cancellation matches the top class shown throughout this incredible project.
    Congratulations seems a bit lame.
    All the best from the deep South.

  5. John King

    Congratulations on the completion of this tanker! Thanks for keeping us informed with the progress during the entire 4.5 years. It has been fun following the process from Minnesota, USA. The truck looks AMAZING! What will become of the truck now that it is finished? I’m looking forward to following your next project!

    • Brook Cunningham

      I have restored Antiques for nearly 30 years and I must say you truly blew new life into an old relic. You should be so proud of yourself.

    • Sue Keys

      The truck is about to be moved to Hamilton which is approx 65 miles south from us. It will be on display at the Classics Museum owned by Tom Andrews for the foreseeable future. Thank you John!

  6. Hi Steve and Sue,
    Your attention to every detail with the restoration of the Texaco Heil Tanker was truly amazing.
    Together with top New Zealand craftsman you have produced the very best Art Deco tanker we will ever see.
    Congratulations and very well done.

    • Sue Keys

      Thanks so much Peter and Jeanette. Your ‘behind the scenes’ support and interest has been greatly appreciated.

  7. tony kurylo

    Thank you for documenting a very detailed restoration of a unique vehicle. I have followed this project from the beginning. I was always impressed with the hand fabrication of so many parts as well as dedication of you and the various craftsmen to get things correct to the original spec. Hard work, beautiful result.

  8. Craig &Rhonda Houston

    Congratulations on a superb job guys and gals. I saw this when it arrived at Pete and Yvonnes and saw what a huge task it was going to be but you have nailed it plus. Well done……

  9. Christopher Green

    Awesome is so overused, but words are superfluous when describing and seeing the restoration of the tanker. It is amazing to see the transformation of the truck from derelict to gem. Thanks for sharing this journey. I will watch for more!

  10. Kent Rhyne

    The Diamond T Texaco tanker is an absolutely gorgeous truck and your restoration efforts and attention to detail have made it even better than new. I have been inspired by all of your extensive problem solving to replicate and restore components for which no templates, plans or examples exist. Congratulations at the spectacular end of your 4-1/2 year project!

  11. Mark Skelly

    A R T

    W 0 W

  12. Steve Brettell

    I have truely enjoyed the the restoration of the Texaco through your emails/blogs and especially the reveal,
    Congrats to all involved.
    Maybe I will see it in the “flesh” one-day.
    A trip to Southward Car Muesum for us Kapiti/Wellington people ? hint.

    • Sue Keys

      Thanks Steve. We’d love to bring the truck back to my home town at some stage. Hint taken!

  13. David Thomson

    I was fortunate enough to see the Diamond T unrestored in Pete Phillips shed while he still owned it .
    I am astounded at how well the truck has been restored and cannot wait to see it in the flesh.
    I have loved following the restoration project, congratulations to all involved on a mammoth job extremely well done.

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