Family's beloved Diamond T on show

FATHER AND SON: Chris (left) and Steve Wilkinson had their truck on display at the Upper Murray Historic Machinery Rally.
FATHER AND SON: Chris (left) and Steve Wilkinson had their truck on display at the Upper Murray Historic Machinery Rally. David Vile

BEHIND every old rig you come across at a truck show or rally there is always a good yarn to be told, and the story of the Diamond T belonging to the Wilkinson family of Corryong in Victoria's North-East has been 50 years in the making.

Father and son Steve and Chris Wilkinson had the truck on display at the recent Upper Murray Historic Machinery Rally, and told of its history.

Purchased in early 1966 by Steve's father, the late Alan Wilkinson, for 12,000 pounds, the Diamond T 921 was put to work out of Melbourne hauling fuel to the Riverina as a sub-contractor to Brambles.

Steve recalled how his father and the truck then took on a marathon run around Australia for a number of years running from Melbourne to Darwin, down the west coast to Perth and back across the Nullarbor.

"We wouldn't see him for three months, he would go with a mate in a cab-over Peterbilt and off they would go, both towing a single trailer and hooking the trucks together to push and pull each other across the river crossings and sand hills,” he said.

Powered by a 250 Cummins and stirred along by 15 speed Roadranger, the Diamond T was a one of only around 60 of the 921-DF model bought into Australia.

Initially a single drive, a pusher axle was fitted but the truck was somewhat primitive compared to today with no power steering, no shock absorbers and little driver comforts.

"It used to do an easy 72 miles an hour, Dad reckoned on the fuel job he could average a mile a minute to Wodonga from Melbourne once he got up over Pretty Sally,” said Steve.

On the longer run around Australia the Diamond T was worked hard with the 1960s mining boom in the north in full swing.

The Diamond T, back in the family 50 years on.
The Diamond T, back in the family 50 years on. Wilkinsons

"He had a 36-foot trailer and carted a lot of mining gear out of Darwin to Tom Price and Wittenoom, then machinery back to Perth and then load timber back to Melbourne,” continued Steve.

The Diamond T hauled turbine casings into the Upper Murray for the Snowy Mountains Scheme, prompting a move to Corryong by the Wilkinson family in the late 1960s, taking on log haulage and later contract timber harvesting around Mt Pinnibar.

When the truck was sold Steve lost track of where the truck was for a number of years before a phone call from a friend led to the truck being found in a shed in Blanchetown in South Australia, where it have been kept out of the elements.

Steve purchased the truck in 2016, which had been partially restored and the truck was once again in the family 50 years after its initial purchase.

"Unfortunately we lost Dad last year but he did get to see the Diamond T two weeks before he passed away,” said Steve.

The original Brambles red paint has been replaced over its life with a dark green colour scheme and somewhere along the line the engine has been turbocharged, now putting out around 290 horsepower.

The original Roadranger has been swapped for a 10-speed gearbox, but the remainder of the truck is largely intact.

Whilst the truck is not currently drivable, a lot of the componentry including the engine and diff are original, and the Wilkinson's plan to continue the restoration of the Diamond T.

A qualified diesel mechanic, Chris spent a couple of summers maintaining the machinery in Antarctica and today runs an International S-Line tipper as part of an earthmoving business in Corryong.

Having operated Macks and Whites on log haulage, Steve now runs a Cat D6 dozer, Komatsu excavator and skidder out in the bush on timber harvesting work in the same region the Diamond T operated out of all those years ago.

The Diamond T harks back to an era when trucks and roads where a lot more basic and Steve reckons the truck has stood the test of time, having featured in his early years and later in life.

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