The first thing I noticed about Cale Lohr’s truck when I met him at a small local meet a few years ago what that I had no idea what it was. He’d just put the final touches on his build, and like nearly everyone who sees it, that was the first thing I wanted to know. Happy to oblige me, he grinned and replied, “1947 Diamond T 404-H.” He then explained that Diamonds were the Cadillac of trucks in the heavy-duty truck market of that time, with variants including a pickup, cab and chassis, a one- and two-ton, and even a semi-truck. This Diamond is the one-ton variant.
Cale and his whole family have always had a deep passion for anything with a motor and wheels. He and his brother, Ryan, love attending car shows and meetups, which is where the story of this build begins. Cale went to a small meet at a local Sonic drive-in in Greensboro, NC, where a few rat rods showed up, and everybody in attendance was in awe of the sheer craftsmanship of each build. From that point forward, he knew he had to have one. Cale searched the internet feverishly, digging high and low to find the right vehicle. He came across pictures of a Diamond T with the factory chopped top and fell in love. At this point, the search intensified as he tried to find one in decent shape. Finally, Cale located a suitable donor vehicle across the country in South Dakota, and the seller was able to meet him in Ohio to transfer the car. It was a barn find with the parts and pieces strewn everywhere, but Cale, Ryan, and friend Mike Horne knew they still could use what they needed. Bodywise, though, virtually everything aside from the cab, hood, and fenders required reconstruction. It was no problem for these guys, though, as they are masters at their craft.
Cale knew he wanted it slammed on the ground, so the first thing that needed attention was the frame. A 1995 Chevy one-ton frame found its new home under the cab, and Cale fabbed up the mounts to mate the two pieces together. He then moved the GM 14-bolt heavy-duty axle back 12 inches to make way for his master plan and make the chassis fit the layout of the Diamond T’s body.
The cab, hood, fenders, and grille are all original down to the paint. Cale wanted that rat-rod vibe to flow throughout the truck with attitude, and the factory chopped top along with the faded red hue caught that emotion with ease. Part of the difficulty of building a project like this is the need to think a few steps ahead to ensure every detail fits appropriately along with the next one in the build sequence. One of the challenges they encountered was the process of installing an appropriate bed to the truck. For this, Cale used a bed from a 1978 Chevy long-bed step-side one-ton truck and wholly re-engineered it to match the appearance of the truck. He removed the fenders, dropped and narrowed it, and added 10 inches to the bottom, all before reskinning it. Finally, he color-matched the faded red paint. The result is a bed that looks like it belongs there.
“We tried to build the truck with modern amenities coupled with a retro, aged look. I can still stop at Advance Auto for needed parts but the rustic details speak for themselves,” he explains.
Another custom touch took shape in the form of the taillights, which are entirely hand-made and required hot-rodding ingenuity to create; these are constructed from old CO2 fire extinguishers that have had their tops removed and replaced with the glass from a 1940s school bus. The trim rings are also unique and completely custom; housed in the vintage glass are LED lights that light up with the word “STOP” when the brakes are applied.
To pay homage to his dad and our veterans, he hand-painted a mural in the rear of the cab. Topping off the artwork of the bed, he used a bumper from a 1952 Chevy pickup and installed a license plate that reads N3VR4GET. The cab sits mostly untouched down to the factory headlights. Cale finished it off with a visor from a 1968 Peterbilt 351 and a bumper from a 1935 Ford coupe, which gives the truck its menacing appearance.
The suspension also had to be planned out to go along with the slammed look. The rear suspension setup consists of a four-link built in-house that rides on Air Lift Performance airbags. Hanging from the 14-bolt axle sits disc brakes, housed inside dual 24.5-inch Accuride Sterling big truck wheels, wrapped in Toyo Tires low-profile rubber. Cale also designed the rear of the truck to accept a 12-gallon fuel cell. Up front, Air Lift bags combine with Belltech 2-inch drop spindles for that in the dirt look Cale wanted.
Underhood, you’d expect to see a powerplant from a diesel-powered heavy-duty pick up to go along with the big truck theme. But Cale, being the visionary that he is, decided to blow people’s minds. Instead, he chose to drop in a turbocharged 2006 LQ4 6.0-liter sourced from a Chevy truck. Peter Harrell of Harrell Engine & Dyno in Mooresville prepared the block for its forged rotating assembly. Peter also worked his magic on a pair of LS3 aluminum heads. Cale’s friend Jared Gall completed the final inspection and assembly before the engine received a Buick-green paint job. He also crafted some Oldsmobile covers to sit atop the factory LS valve covers for that added appearance improvement—and to give onlookers a puzzle to solve.
The custom turbo kit, built around a BorgWarner S475 snail, was built in-house before by Eric Yost of Customs By Bigun completed the cooling system and intercooler set up. With 14 pounds of boost on tap, the Diamond T puts down an impressive 605 wheel horsepower and 578 lb-ft of torque to go with it, which is more than enough for cruising duties and turning heads at shows. A GM 4L80E transmission was selected for its durability; Cale and Ryan built it themselves using a billet kit from Jake’s Performance.
If walking around the Diamond T wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, taking a seat behind the wheel tops the cake. There’s so much detail to observe. At first, I sat in Rotten Leonard’s Jalopy Shop Bomber Style seats, which are a real post-World War II treat. The steering wheel is vintage, from a ‘40s Ford complete with the classic V8 emblem. The original red hue flows throughout the interior with bare metal goodness — complete with some surface rust — in places for the added rustic look. In the center rests a custom dash and console with AutoMeter gauges. A Lokar 23-inch double-bend shifter sits lonely in the small cab.
My favorite part of the T is what I put my feet on and looked at as soon as I sat down. They used pennies to cover the whole floor from the dash down. The detail didn’t stop there, though: the signature T emblem, placed in the center of the firewall with acid-washed pennies, was an unusual added feature that made the whole build even more unique. Roll up windows, roll out window panels, and no seat belts because, as Cale states, “We die like men.” These are all actual elements from the era. As an added big rig touch, a Hornblasters train horn found its way under the cab for good times. It’s incredible how many parts were sourced from donor vehicles, then broken down, reconstructed, and modified to present the seamless appearance of this wild creation.
Cale’s wife, Ashley, was just as anxious for the completion of the truck as Cale and Ryan were. The build process took many long nights and weekends over nearly four years to get the Diamond T roadworthy. On their first outing to the Run to the Sun show in Myrtle Beach, the T drew crowds and was the talk of the show. They ended up going home with a trophy for the Shop Pick, which validated their efforts and was a massive achievement for the brothers.
“We’ve had some really positive and humbling comments following the years of hard work and literal blood, sweat, and tears that went into this project. It’s been called “creative”, “well-engineered”, “the coolest thing I’ve ever seen”, and “a work of art.” One man even said, ‘It’s kids like you that restore my faith in humanity for the future,’ ” says Cale.
The family will never get tired of hearing all the compliments and comments made, especially those such as, “what is it?” “It’s an LS!” or “Man, what a well-crafted and engineered piece of machinery you’ve built; I love it!”
When asked if he would change anything about the Diamond, Cale instantly replied that he wouldn’t change a thing. He enjoyed every memory of the process to build it, from the great times to the frustrating ones.
“There have been a lot of those. Funny ones, frustrating ones, and those where we’re just having a plain ol’ good time. There was one time, not long after she was first running, that the water hose came off spraying hot antifreeze everywhere. My brother, one of those home-grown, country farm-sized boys, tackled me to the ground to keep me from getting sprayed but in turn, got doused himself,” he remembers.
All of those struggles were worth it to spend time with his family and to see people smile when he comes by with his badass machine.
Cale Lohr’s 1947 Diamond T 404-H Rat Rod
|ENGINE:||2006 Chevrolet LQ4 6.0-liter, stock crankshaft, Callies CompStar 6.125-inch connecting rods, Wiseco 9.5:1 forged pistons, custom Comp Cams camshaft by PCM of Mooresville, LS3 cylinder heads, Comp Cams rockers and springs, BorgWarner S475 turboocharger. Machined by Harrell Engine & Dyno, assembled by Jared Gall.|
|TRANSMISSION:||2006 4L80E, assembled in-house using Jake's Performance billet kit, ATI Performance triple-disc converter, 5-inch aluminum driveshaft|
|CHASSIS:||1995 Chevrolet one-ton cab & chassis, rear axle moved back 12 inches, custom bed and cab mounts, many other custom modifications|
|SUSPENSION:||Front: Chevy one-ton with Belltech 2-inch drop spindles, Air Lift Performance airbags, and Belltech sway bar|
Rear: Four-link with Air Lift air suspension and custom antiroll bar
|REAREND:||GM 14-bolt housing, Detroit Locker, 4.56:1 ring and pinion|
|WHEELS & TIRES:||Accuride Sterling big truck wheels, Toyo Proxes 4 tires, 255/30-24 (F) and 305/30-24 (R)|