Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Seasons Greetings from Chester Greenhalgh

A cute video message from Chester Greenhalgh, author of the legendary "How to Build a T-Bucket Roadster for Under $3000", now available as a 250+ page eBook at TBucketPlans.com.

Monday, November 23, 2009

How to Build a T-Bucket Roadster for Under $3000, by Chester Greenhalgh

I'm very happy to see that Chester Greenhalgh's T-Bucket bible, "How to Build a T-Bucket Roadster for Under $3000", is now available in an eBook version -- for just $9.99! Talk about a deal -- I saw a post three years ago on the HAMB that it was selling on Amazon for anywhere from $184 to $393 for Amazon in Canada! The new, fully authorized edition features several pages of bonus content and is available from http://www.tbucketplans.com/.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Primered Turtle Deck T at Turning Back Time

A nice turtle deck t-bucket I saw at the Sycamore Turning Back Time car show. Really tall front spring perch to accomodate the traditional spring-over beam axle.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Track Nose T-Bucket

Kinda nice track nose T-bucket from the Turning Back Time show, with knee action shocks, a coupla' two barrels, and other nice features.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sycamore, IL Turning Back Time 2009 Car Show

Since I've posted a slide show of the 2008 show, here's a movie created from still pics taken at the 2009 show today. Will post a few videos as well.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Where Did the Term "Fad T" Come From?

To start, here's the definition from no less an authority than the "Ultimate Hot Rod Dictionary: A-Bombs to Zoomies" by Jeff Breitenstein:

fad-T (also fad car) n. Any T-bucket roadster constructed entirely from new, prefabricated components, including a reproduction fiberglass body. The first aftermarket fiberglass roadster bodies featured in hot rodding and street rodding applications were introduced (notably by Cal Automotive) in the late 1950s. From the early to mid-1960s, T-bucket roadster kits gained in sophistication and completeness; the resulting fad-T trend peaked in popularity in the late 1960s and has maintained moderate favor to the present. Fad-Ts offer the advantages of simpler construction and lower initial cost when compared with other street rod types, but are sometimes discounted by rodders who prefer genuine vintage tin bodies and components.

I'll put a stake in the ground and say that the term fad-T was first used in print by the legendary hot rod writer and builder LeRoi "Tex" Smith in the July 1964 edition of Rod & Custom magazine. Fresh from building the innovative XR6, which was crowned America's Most Beautiful Roadster at the 1963 Oakland Roadster Show, perhaps no other person at the time was better qualified to write a story on "Trends in Roadster Styling". In comparing "traditional" roadsters and modern roadsters, Tex noted that:

"(The modern) category also takes into account the 'fad' cars, as they have come to be known. These are the 'kookie' cars that have become the rage in various sections of the country. In the early days of hot rodding they were called modifieds. They consist of an engine, frame, four wheels and a body. And not much else. They are generally of the bobtailed version, using a '23 glass Model T body set at a rakish angle on channel iron frame rails. The engine is very much out of doors, with outside drag headers modified (usually plugged) to feed the exhaust through stock mufflers under the body. Stock height windshields and tops add to the strange illusion of great height of these styles.

Although the kookie cars are never identical in every respect, they do look the same. Thus the tab of 'fad' cars by the more traditional builders.

These cars are really quite easy to build, especially since they have become so popular. There are several major speed companies now offering complete kits for building such a car, which makes them even more reasonable. They also make ideal show machines, as they catch the fancy of the general public. However, unlike the other categories, they are not the greatest for highway cruising. Much fun around town, though. Many West Coast builders are now even chauffering two cars, a kookie machine and one of the other approaches."

(Tex really knew what he was talking about. In later describing how the XR6 was conceived, he said, "I had been using a lot of drawings from artist Steve Swaja, a student at the time at the nearby Art Center. One day I asked if he could design a roadster project for me, using a combination '23/'27 Model T body and a race car nose. This was the drawing that we used as the project was introduced in Hot Rod. Curt Hamilton and Bud Lang had recently begun producing the first fiberglass replicas of the Model T bodies, mostly for drag cars. Their company was called Cal Automotive. Curt made me up a '27 cowl mated to an upswept '23 rear portion." However, this design concept swiftly changed when Tex received a phone call that a major model car company was willing to pay for the whole project if it was really far out. The rest is hot rod history.)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Big Bore V-8s by Roger Huntington

One of the articles that I believe may have contributed to the Y-block's "Rodney Dangerfield" image. From Selecting & Building Hot Rod Engines by the editors of Hot Rod Magazine, 1964 :

In the last chapter we analyzed the compact lightweight V8's in the American hot rod picture. Now we're going to talk about the big boys. We arbitrarily define this group as those basic engines weighing more than 600 pounds with accessories (but no flywheel or clutch). FORD 239-312: This is the modern ohv V8 engine that Ford brought out in their 1954 cars. It was used in displacements all the way from 239 to 312 cubic inches and finally settled at 292 cubic inches as the standard V8 engine option for the '58-'62 models. In '63 it was replaced by the new Fairlane cast iron V8 (221-289 cubic inches). The engine is still being produced for commercial applications, but is no longer used in passenger cars. Actually this is a relatively small, light engine that is very handy for swaps. External dimensions compare with the small Chev V8 (a little larger), and weight is only a bit over 600 pounds with accessories (say 605). Transmission adaptors and motor mount kits are widely available. You can get all kinds of factory and special speed equipment. The things are plentiful and cheap in the junkyards. Factory parts over the counter are reasonable. It has everything ... Or everything except performance. The basic engine was never strong on power and torque. The '57 312-cubic-inch Thunderbird engines were the best of the bunch. They had pretty big valves and ports, and breathed fairly well. And this was the year Ford supplied the McCulloch supercharger kit for this engine. Holman & Moody pulled 340 hp at 5300 rpm from their 312 NASCAR engines with the blower. They could easily blow off the '57 fuel injection Chevys on the NASCAR tracks in the early part of the season. Then NASCAR officials banned blowers and f.i. A few weeks later, Detroit pulled out of racing and the 312 racing engines were dropped. In 1959 Ford went back to 292 cubic inches and small-port heads, and made an economy engine out of this. If you ever expect to perform with this basic engine you will definitely need a set of the '57 312 heads. Even then there were problems of valve shrouding by the close combustion chamber walls. You have to do a lot of grinding in the heads to get 'em to breathe right. Another limitation here is cubic inches. The 312 block can only be bored .075 inch and stroked 1/4. There's no more room -- and this gives only 348 cubic inches. That isn't very big these days. So I see the small Ford engine mostly for the boy on a shoestring who must pick up an engine cheap for a swap or something. It'll do the job here ... but don't count on it for all-out applications.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Weslake Ford Y-Block Engine

Much attention has been focused in the Y-Block community on the rare Argentina-built Y-block engines. Perhaps the most rare connection to that is the famed Weslake Ford Y-block engine built by Harry Weslake's famous British racing and aircraft engine company. According to "Speedy" Bill Smith of Speedway Motors (who has one of the few known in existence on display in his museum), the engine features aluminum heads with "Industria Argentina" cast onto them. With the fuel injection and aluminum accessories it can be only speculated that this was an engine development intended for Formula One racing which, unfortunately, never made it. However, Smith doesn't even know much about this motor, which is very similar in appearance to the famed Gurney Weslake engines based on the Ford 289, and which began development around 1965. In 1967, it was reported by Jim McFarland in Hot Rod magazine that a problem with the 289 was "cracks developed in the main webs ... but until such time when the current block design is made obsolete by the new patterns, the problem will probably continue to exist." Could it be that someone at Weslake decided to experiment with foregoing the new 289 for the inherently more rugged bottom-end design of the then obsolete in the U.S. Y-block? The ribbed aluminum oil pan and injectors would seem to indicate that the Y-block Weslake head development came after the Gurney Weslake 289 head development. That's my theory at least. More>

Friday, January 9, 2009

Total Performance Inc. - R.I.P.

Just learned today that Total Performance, Inc. of Wallingford, CT is no more. The early word is that most of the T-bucket product line has been acquired by Speedway Motors (shades of Mr. Roadster). Total Performance was founded in 1971 by Mickey Lauria and focused quite heavily on T-bucket components, kits and complete cars. Total claims to have sold over 3000 street rods, most of which were probably T-buckets. I'd guess that as many or more T-buckets were built using Total chassis, suspension and body components or using their very detailed T-bucket assembly manual as a guide.
Associated Press - January 21, 2009 6:25 AM ET
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A Lincoln-based manufacturer and retailer of racing products has announced that it's buying the street rod-related assets of Wallingford, Conn.-based
Total Performance, Inc.
Speedway Motors
said Tuesday that Total Performance has a line of more than 3,500 products and is best known for making fiberglass T-bucket bodies, frames and kits. A T-bucket is a hot rod based on a Ford Model T design.
Total Performance's operations will be consolidated into Speedway Motors' facilities in Lincoln.
Terms of the deal were not announced.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Brief History of the Fiberglass T-Bucket Body

We take the fiberglass T-Bucket body for granted. It seems like they've always been around, in abundance and economically priced: the ideal starting point for an exciting, budget hot rod.

The first published reference to a fiberglass T-Bucket body was in the 1957 issue of Hot Rod magazine in the form of an ad run by the Diablo Speed Shop.

Along came Bud Lang and Curt Hamilton, the founders of Cal Automotive, which became the first volume producer of T-Bucket and other fiberglass bodies.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

NTBA 2006 T-Bucket Nationals

Thought I had lost my pics from the 2006 National T-Bucket Alliance Nationals, which returned to lovely Mountain Home, AR. Fortunately, I recently found them. I've already posted my 2005 T-Bucket Nationals and 2008 T-Bucket Nationals pics. The 2007 T-Bucket event was held in Arizona and I was unable to attend, so no pics. The number of T-Buckets at the 2006 Mountain Home event was down from '05, but there were still plenty of nice ones, so enjoy the show.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ted McMullen and the U.S. Speed Sport "Instant T"

Hot rodder Ted McMullen made his pioneering imprint on the T-bucket world in a short time span. Prior to 1963, T-buckets were individually designed and constructed vehicles. Starting with Grabowski and Ivo in the 50s, they were constructed from steel T-bucket bodies. Fiberglass T-buckets, although introduced in 1957, were only starting to take off in the early 60s. T-bucket frame technology ran the gamut from flimsy Model-T frames, to Model-A frames and even deuce frames, as in the case of the Johnston/Roth Tweedy Pie. Purely home brewed frames came in steel channel, round or rectangular tube variations and almost no two were the same.

That all changed with Ted McMullen's vision of a rudimentary "production" T-bucket where jig-built frames would be offered as a package with fiberglass bodies. The purchaser could either purchase standard suspension elements or add his own and the engine choice was wide open. Ted established U.S. Speed Sport in Santa Fe Springs, CA in 1963 and by August the barely one year old Popular Hot Rodding magazine covered Ted's new concept and called it an "Instant Hot Rod" a moniker that evolved into the "Instant T" name.

The Instant-T generated tremendous interest and U.S. Speed Sport sold everything from kits to complete T-buckets, but owing to that old nemesis of bad business partner situations Ted had sold and left the business by 1965 and it closed not too long afterward. You can learn more about all the details at a very nice web site set up by family members to honor Ted's accomplishments, http://www.usspeedsport.com/.

Ted McMullen left a tremendous T-bucket legacy. Ted was very happy to discuss and share the details of his well-engineered T-buckets and it was Ted's contribution that formed the basis for a very significant 8-part series on "How to Build a Hot Rod" by Ray Sisemore that debuted in Car Craft magazine in November, 1964 (and concluded with the July, 1965 wrap-up story, "$1399.88 Rod"). Never before, had the construction of any hot rod been covered in such detail and this series is undoubtedly responsible in large measure for the T-bucket boom that occurred in the 1960s.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ted Brown: T-Bucket Chassis Designer Extraordinaire

Ted Brown was a young hot rodder from Minnesota who heeded the advice to "go west young man" to seek fame and fortune. Man, was he ever successful!

After arriving in Southern California, Ted had the opportunity to see Norm Grabowski's "Kookie" T-bucket at the famous Bob's Big Boy in Toluca Lake and "was totally blown away". "That car is what got me wanting to build those types of rods," Ted said recently. But first Ted went into partnership with another legendary chassis builder, Chuck Finders, and contributed to the success of many of the nationally successful A/Gas Supercharged cars of the day, including Stone Woods & Cook, K.S. Pittman, Jr. Thompson, Hamberis & Mitchell and, my personal favorite, the MGM-C & O Hydro AG/S Austin pickup.

About 10 years ago, I bought a set of the California Custom Roadsters (CCR) T-bucket chassis plans and blogged about them last year. I was particularly taken with the CCR logo image with its rakish lines and sleek top.

Not too long ago, I was looking at an old Rod & Custom from the early 70s and noticed an uncanny resemblence to the CCR image in a Ted Brown Chassis ad.

After researching my old magazines a bit more, I then made the connection. The first ads for the CCR plans, which ran in 1973, referred to "Plans & Data for building the famous Ted Brown/Bill Keifer Chassis." I then learned that Ted established CCR in 1971 with Bill Keifer as his partner; the CCR plans were Ted's unique, original design; and Ted was eventually eased out and no longer given credit for his unique frame design which was built by CCR into thousands of T-buckets and by plan set purchasers into many more thousands (estimated at 4000 T-buckets in 1977). Net result, Ted Brown is perhaps the most influential, yet totally unrecognized, T-bucket chassis designer of all time.

Today, Ted is "retired" in Bakersfield, CA and still driving his T-bucket which has racked up over 200,000 miles and has been home to a variety of engines, including Buick nailhead as well as big block and small block Chevys.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Chester Greenhalgh: T-Bucket Genius!?!

A lot of disparaging remarks have been made about Chester Greenhalgh's out-of-print T-bucket bible, but they don't hold water. It takes a true mechanical and scrounging genius to convert raw materials like old truck front axles, steel bed rails, iron water pipe, cast-off house trailer springs, furnace louvers and glass doorknobs into a safe, fun creation of beauty like a T-bucket -- and on a budget anybody can afford! Just take a look at one of his creations on the book cover above. Chet can take a $500 rolling wreck Chevy passenger car and, like the food processing industry does with a pig, use everything but the squeal.

While the California Custom Roadster plan set introduced in the early 70's was instrumental in terms of useful T-bucket build information, it was limited in that it was just a plan set. CCR's plans covered building a frame, the associated brackets and suspension elements. However, a huge information void was still left. The guy living in Podunk who'd only seen T-buckets in magazines or maybe flashing by on the highway didn't have a clue about how to run the brakes; reinforce and mount the body, bed and windshield; wire it; find a suitable radiator, driveshaft, shifter, lights and dozens of other things. And if he was able to somehow learn how to do this or farm it out it was likely to cost big bucks!

Most people had nowhere to turn for this vital T-bucket build information. Fortunately, the unassuming, ingenious, budget conscious owner of Chet's Car Craft in Naples, FL decided to employ some of those same skills he'd used to successfully build T-buckets for his family and customers and self-published the legendary "How to Build a T-Bucket Roadster for Under $3000" in 1986. The first ad I saw for this spiral-bound book was in the February, 1987 issue of "Rod Action" magazine, with the bargain introductory price of $11.95. By September, 1987 the price in the ad had risen to $14.95 and in 1988 it was up to $19.95.

Around that time, the folks at Motorbooks International struck a deal with Chet to produce a perfect bound softcover version of his work that was introduced in 1990 with a price of $14.95. Somebody in Motorbooks' marketing department decided that the appropriate cover photo for this "how to" book about building a T-bucket on the cheap would be a high dollar, Total Performance T-bucket laden with chrome and a blown Chrysler hemi -- budget, indeed!

I mention this price history because Chester's book has been long out of print. Currently, used copies available on Amazon.com range from $169 to $198!