James “J.D.” Green is a heavy equipment operator for the Gerken Asphalt and Materials company, based in Napoleon, Ohio. He reached out a week ago looking for an old story in Overdrive whose publication date he wasn’t certain of, just that it featured a pristine blue and white Autocar with a gold stripe and overall paint design he’d come to know quite well in subsequent years. When he was a kid reading his grandfather Jim Frazier’s Overdrive copies, he brought this particular picture home to his father, owner-operator Harland “Harley” Green, who would end up in summer 1981 basing a new paint design for his own 1971 Autocar on that very truck. After a little digging through the Tuscaloosa office archives, my colleague Holley Young found the original story.
“That is most definitely the truck that gave us the inspiration for my dad’s 1971,” Green says. Owner-operator Frazier of Fremont, Ohio, had purchased the Autocar brand-new as a glider “from the White dealership in Fremont at the time.” Harley Green “wrenched for him” at the time, when James Green was a mere toddler. “They drilled all the holes in the frame and added Rockwell 4:11 rears.” The unit featured an 855 series Cummins, 350 horse, says Green, and a four-by-four two-stick transmission.
“She was plain jane, no power steering, no AC,” Green says. “Just a work truck. Dad bought it from my grandpa and had it for a few years” before making moves toward repainting the truck. Green was about 10 years old when he saw the story above.
There’s a story about yet another truck in the family, though, says Green, that conjured all of these memories in him to begin with.
Frazier, Green’s maternal grandfather, was “driving a small truck before he went to World War II,” Green says. “He served and came back and he and his dad, my great-grandfather, both had Diamond Ts in the 1950s and hauled steel together. When the union workers started striking and the steel factories closing, they went from steel to food products in reefers. They hauled meat and produce and so on.”
Frazier absolutely “loved Diamond Ts,” Green says. He “had them most of his entire career. In 1967 he bought his last one” just before Diamond T shuttered. “He ran that truck until 1973. In the meantime, Diamond Reo was put together from Diamond T and the Reo truck line and in 1973 he bought a brand-new Diamond Reo in Indianapolis.” Frazier would drive that truck through 1994, when he passed. The 1974-model Diamond Reo spent the next 25 years “in the garage” on his grandmother’s property, Green says. “Occasionally I’d start it, drive it around and keep everything moving on it. My grandma passed away in January of this year. My mom and her sister had to make some decisions on what to do with the property and the truck and the possessions.”
Along the way, the family “heard about the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum in Walcott,” Green says. The weekend after Easter, Green and family drove out to Iowa to pay the ’74 a visit in her new home. Pictures of the classic follow.
Thanks to Green for his memories, here, a window into a past that I’m sure will spark some of your own. If you’ve got a tip about where Harley Green’s 1971 Autocar is these days, too, send it this way.
James “J.D.” Green fondly recalls his childhood and notes that “Grandpa, Dad, and now Grandma Eileen are at rest and home with the Lord.” Green’s father, Harley, passed five years ago Easter. Here’s a couple more windows on that truck, shared from Marie’s (Harley’s wife’s) albums.