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 range from $169 to $198!


Chester said...

From Chester Greenhalgh; Now that my book is available once more on downloadable PDF for $9.99 those of you with the original, spiral bound version think it just dropped in value. Perhaps, just temporarily. But before you give it away, consider this. There were less than 800 of them ever made. Many have been lost, cut-up, or 'accidently' thrown in the garbage by a jealous, vengeful woman ("you love that car more than me") so the few that remain of this book, that was a legend in its day, and the subject of so many debates, may be destined to become real collectors items in hot rod history. It will never be copied and confused with the genuine antique because my fingerprints are on every page of every one of these books. I personally corelated, cropped, and bound EVERY one of these books myself. I'm 65 now and when I'm gone you just might have a Piccaso on your hands. Chester Greenhalgh

John said...

Hi Chester, It's great to hear from you and I hope all is well. Actually, not long ago I forked over the big bucks for a spiral-bound original copy of your book to go along with the Motorbooks edition that I considered the best $100+ purchase I ever made on eBay.

It's exciting to hear that your original "How to Build a T-Bucket Roadster for Under $3000" is now available as an eBook from