Build A T-Bucket
T-buckets can be bought and built in various ways. You can buy one as a kit car, or find and finish an abandoned project. If money was not an issue, you could buy a complete rolling chassis, ready to drop in your engine/tranny combo.
If you have the time and skills, you can fabricate most of the car yourself.
Types Of Tee's
T-buckets can be built many styles, including Nostalgia T, (old school), Fad T, and Modern T (new school). Most, if not all, are based on 1923-1927 Ford bodys; roadster, racer, pickup, phaeton, or C-Cab.
Old School Tee
Early T-buckets were hand-built by talented craftsmen such as Norm Grabowski (pictured), Tommy Ivo, and Dean Jeffries. Their visions of what a hot rod should be are still valid to this day.
Back then, building a hot rod took a lot of skill and a lot of creativity. Major and minor components were scavenged from other cars. It was then up to the builder to fit them all together in a tasteful and functional way.
The T-buckets that were popular in the 70s and 80s were adorned with brass lantern headlights, ultra-wide wheels in the rear, and skinny spoke wheels up front. Fad Tee's had tall, angled tops, and were usually over-powered by an over-chromed small-block Chevy.
Caution: Building a Fad-Tee will challenge the builder to stay within the confines of good taste.
The 1990's saw a resurgence of interest in hot rods, as well as kit cars in general. Components like precision TIG welded frames, late-model disc brakes, and digital gauges brought old school and new school together.
Under $5,000 Build
Can you build a T-bucket for under $5,000 ? Yes you can, if you keep the build as basic as possible, and fabricate most if not the whole car yourself. This is the least expensive way but most time consuming.
Free T-Bucket plans are offered online at Free T-Bucket Plans.
If you weld, you would make your own frame, but to save time and space, consider buying one from a reputable company like Speedway. Pictured is their "Nostalgia Deluxe" frame which sells for about $500 plus shipping.
A fiberglass body can be bought new for as little as $800, but it will take a lot of work (woodwork, wiring, upholstery) before it's ready. Motor, transmission, and rear axle usually from grafted from a donor car. From there, it's gathering up other needed parts, one thing here, another there.
In the world of hot rods, stance is very important. Often times, a T-Bucket project will start with wheels and tires.
Kit cars have a high turn-over rate. If you're looking for a cost-effective T-bucket build, look for an abandoned project. Check the classified's often; some guys will start on a project then lose interest, or just want to get rid of it.
Most likely a purchase like this will include boxes of parts, which can often be gone through and unwanted parts sold. This will help bring the total project cost down.
Over $10,000 Build
If you have the money, a T-bucket kit gives you a great head-start. Companies like Speedway have been offering these for years now.
T-Buckets aren't the most comfortable ride, but remember that hot rodding is about speed and style, not comfort.
If you're a full-sized adult, say, six feet tall, 200+ pounds, a T-Bucket will be a tight squeeze. Most fiberglass buckets don't have doors, so getting in and out of one can be challenging, to say the least. If you've never sat in one, I'd suggest going to a local car show and finding one. Explain to the owner that you're thinking of building a T-Bucket and ask if you could sit in theirs. He'll probably say yes.
Project Car Help
My E-book "Finish Your Project Car" offers practical tips to help you get on track - and keep you on track with your project car or truck. Topics include planning, ordering parts, overcoming obstacles, and staying motivated.