Editor’s Note: I’m proud to announce the first edition of The History of Diamond Reo Trucks by esteemed author. M.E. Folsom. In this monthly feature Mr. Folsom will guide us through the complex and often muddle history of Diamond Reo trucks. If you’re fan of the brand or just like old trucks you don’t want to miss the coming editions. Also, if you have photos of Reo, Diamond-T, or Diamond Reo trucks in any age, shape, or condition please feel free to share them for possible inclusion in future articles. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diamond Reo: The World’s Toughest Truck
By: M.E. Folsom
Please allow me to introduce myself; I’m a man of many truck and heavy equipment tastes. The Diamond Reo brand was around a long time ago which stole many a man’s passion and pain. Please to meet you hope like my page.
OK that’s enough of a blatant rip-off of The Rolling Stones already. (I couldn’t help myself, what I can say I’m a classic English rock music fan too.)
So let me properly introduce myself; I’m M. E. Folsom an old fan of Diamond Reo Trucks whose devotion to the brand stretches back almost forty seven years. (More about that in a bit). I’m also a co-author of several books regarding the history and designs of Northwest Engineering Company a noted builder of traditional cable and hydraulic excavators. This will be my first foray into the penning of the history and designs of a truck manufacturer so please bear with me as I sink my teeth so to speak into this new arena, but certainly a passionate one of mine. I’ve been invited by Mr. Sweet webmaster of Daily Diesel Dose to pen a monthly page dedicated to the mighty Diamond Reo brand of heavy trucks. I sincerely hope I can do this great brand justice in the coming months and years.
I like to recall a very old favorite memory of mine regarding my introduction to Diamond Reos. It all started on a rainy spring day way back in 1969 when I was between the ages of four and five. I was lucky to have many construction jobs happening around my neighborhood when I was growing up. The closest and one of the largest was an apartment complex being built behind my house on the tract of land that was my grandfather’s former farmstead. Our family home bordered the entrance roadway to this complex and this is where my memory kicks in. The basic roadbed for the complex had been cut in about a year earlier with use of a Caterpillar D-8 cable crawler dozer pulling a Cat No. 80 tow scraper (but that’s a whole other story). On this particular drizzling spring morning my older brother Mark and I were aroused by the sound of a lumbering diesel engine and the clanking and squeaking of crawler dozer tracks outside our home. We rushed to our bedroom window find a Caterpillar D-5 crawler with a hydraulic straight blade dozer shaping the subgrade to the double entrance way, its operator clad in yellow rain suit. Watching in awe as any four and eight year old boys would or could do; we camped for the next few hours or so in front of that window fixated at the site before us.
Now comes the good part for all us Diamond Reo devotees. As the dozer and its operator waited idle on the upper tier of the divided roadway bed a small fleet of five ten wheel dump trucks rounded the corner of the entrance way. One by one they passed by the two boys glued to the upper bedroom window. The trucks as my older brother pointed out were all Diamond Reos as he had seen the truck maker’s emblem on the top of the radiator housing and the side of the engine butterfly cowling. The most striking feature for this young boy was the paint scheme of four of the DR’s. Rounded gold cabs with butterfly engine cowls and extended chrome radiator housings and grills, with set- back fenders. The medium height dump beds with double stacked side-boards carried a silver paint scheme. I remember thinking that gold and silver dump trucks labeled with a diamond insignia must make these trucks something special. The other DR of the bunch was painted with a red cab and black dump box and was none the less impressive too with its chrome trimmings. (The model Diamond Reo I would later in life learn was a DC 101.) One by one they dumped their loads of bank run gravel as the Cat D-5 spread the material for a new road base. This scene was repeated over and over throughout the day as the road progressed down into the complex being built. The strange thing is that I remember the next day as being a sunny Saturday as the job continued with three or four Saunders’ owned green Mack B-61-Model ten wheel tractors hauling bottom dump trailers, gone were the Diamond Reos.
I never did lay my eyes on those gold and silver Diamond Reo dump trucks again. I did observe the lone red and black unit several times delivering loads of gravel though. Nor did I ever find out who owned those DR’s. Anyone reading this, if you recall such a company owning what I just described, please reply below. (i.e.) gold and silver Diamond Reo Model DC-101 10 wheel dump trucks working around the Syracuse N.Y. area in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
In the coming years I would become somewhat obsessed with seeking, finding and looking at Diamond Reos. On family road trips my father, older brother and I used to play games called “name that truck” or “count the trucks”. For the latter, each of us would take a few different brands and work towards a prize of my father’s determination. Being the Diamond Reo devotee that I was, you can guess what my first choice was all the time. Well that’s enough for now about my early exposure to DR’s. I’m sure in the coming months I’ll digress with a few more personal DR stories.
The Diamond Reo brand of trucks has a rich and varied history, this brand was really the culmination of two brands of heavy trucks under the umbrella of parent owner, the huge heavy truck conglomerate the White Motor Truck Corporation. Diamond-T and Reo Trucks began their lives as two wholly separately owned truck manufacturing entities but go back even further with the two companies starting their respective manufacturing lives building automobiles.
Two independent entrepreneurs striking out in the uncertain world of motorized vehicle building in the early part of the twentieth century. Both companies’ started roughly at the same time, C.A. Tilt and Ransom E. Olds two men living about 170 miles apart from each other knew that the coming of motorize transportation was at hand. Chicago, Illinois was the home base for C.A. Tilt and the Diamond T brand with beginnings dating to 1905. Lansing, Michigan was where Mr. Olds hailed from and where he would start the REO Motor Company in 1904.
Next time we will trace the development of Diamond-T.
Nice job on the new site Matt. I look forward to more installments.
Great article M.E., memories like yours help keep passions alive on older vehicles and machines.
Do you know the story behind why they were called the world’s toughest trucks?
Nice job M.E.
Does the name: Marmet Peirce mean anything to you?
A friend of mine says his grandfather was GM or C.E.O for Diamond T
Have you ever seen that name show up anywhere?
My dad worked at the Lansing Diamond Reo plant for many years until they went bankrupt in 1974. He worked as an arc welder there, but probably did as much tool and die as he did welding. Sadly he was left out of work at the age of sixty when they closed– and because of his age had a hard time finding another job that would hire him. He finally got hired on at GM (and made a lot more money there)– but he always talked about the beautiful Diamond Reo trucks he used to help build.