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My T Bucket History (Part 1)

:)Todds T Bucket History

Having owned seven of these fine cars over the last 30 or so years, heres my history.

First saw a New Zealand Hot Rod magazine in February 1974, just at the start of Project T and followed that build thru. Project T was the magazines attempt to build a bucket for less than $1000. They achieved it, much to the surprise of many.

Was a schoolboy at the time and had no skill, no money and no idea what was involved. But I was hooked. Used to go up and see the T buckets that came to the local labour weekend rod runs and I was one of the kids in the crowd at the streetkanas.

Got my first job at the end of 1976 and found my first bucket for $250. Was owned by a young guy who figured it was a bad idea. Got a bare chassis, a body, a chev diff and two stuffed tyres. Set it up in the shed and looked at it for 6 months and then parted it out as I had no idea what to do next. Took up drinking as my preferred sport, and had a drunk crash. Wasnt any good at that either.

Had a Holden Ute with a 161 and blew the motor. Wanted a V8 so while looking for an engine, saw a T bucket project for sale in Auckland with a fully rebuilt 283 for $1000. It was on wheels so it looked like progress to me. Tried to A frame it home & cut out two sets of front tyres. Removed motor from bucket, fitted it to the Holden & stored the bucket. Ran out of money again so sold bucket to a mate and he parted it out.

Sold the Holden & went to University. Heard that a well known local A bucket was at a mates paint shop and was for sale. Did a deal & paid it off.

Took the A bucket back to Palmerston North and had the engine rebuilt (got ripped off big time) and met the Kimmins brothers in Shannon who rebuilt the body for me. They were amazing & shortly after finishing it, went to the USA to restore original Cobras. I ran out of money again, so progress stopped.

Stored bucket in Auckland for a year and then got it brought back to New Plymouth by some guys coming thru to a NSRA run. Arrived without the holley carbs but they told me they werent with the car when they collected it.

Another mate helped me with the bucket, and told me the engine needed help. The oil smoke was the clue. Had no money so sold the bucket to the son of a senior policeman who had just been transferred to New Plymouth. He had no money either and we did some fancy footwork to get him the loan. He went back to Auckland one weekend to tell his mates about his new hot rod and got pressured by one of his Auckland mates to settle a debt he had left town without paying. So he rocked down to the local post office in Avondale and robbed it of about $1800. Went back to the pub, repaid his debts and bought everyone a drink. Got arrested the next day. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

The bucket went from him to a guy in a small town about 2 hours north of where I was living, but I lost contact with him and never saw the car again.

Finished the study and took on the world, armed with an accounting degree. Still had no money, but had a wife & an ever increasing brood of kids. Shifted to Gisborne around the birth of the third son and had done about 6 years without an unfinished T bucket project in the shed.

Found a bucket project for $500 about 3 hours south of where we now lived, so bought it and went down to collect it. Great people, even gave me an ice cream container full of home made muffins for the trip home. Bucket sat in the shed & I bought a 392 Hemi and a blower manifold.

Eventually decided I needed a more complete bucket & sold it to another Gisborne guy who also had no skills and no money. He got a new chassis built for it and then sold the lot to the chassis builder, Wayne Holmberg. The car went on to become Kookie Tee 2 and did very well in shows and the like, and is still in Waynes shed. The car even made a few Australian and American magazines.

Then I heard of a bucket an hour up the coast from Gisborne, for only $2000, with rego and a munted transmission. Again, it was a project T type bucket with a 283. Bought it and carted it home.

As it needed the trans doing anyway, I decided it really needed a Mopar engine & bought a Valiant with a 318 for $300. Swapped the 283 and auto for a paintjob. Found the 318 had a huge solinoid on the startermotor so I bought a flashy ministarter that cost more than the whole Valiant. The chassis still had to be cut to fit the starter motor in tho. Then I saw a Pop with big hoosiers for sale in Taupo so got all excited and bought that too. Removed the wheels and swapped the rest of the pop for a little bit of money and 12 months of lawnmowing. We had a very big lawn at the time. Put the hoosiers on the bucket and then the cert guy said no way Jose that a Val diff could carry those rims. So Bought a 9 inch diff that was only 40 inches wide and got the chassis modified to fit. Then the pickup bed wouldnt fit so that got narrowed, so then the gas tank wouldnt fit in the pickup bed so I bought a new one of those too. Spending was out of control again. Big dreams and no skills cost.

Eventually the car got finished, and I finally had a finished t bucket to cruise around in. Then I wanted to go drag racing, so replaced the 318 with a 360 and the car went much better. Got a rebuild kit in from the USA full of good bits so I could have another engine built that would be competitive on the dragstrip.

Pulled the car apart again (without telling my wife) and sent the trans off for a competition upgrade and got a mate to build me a rollcage for the car. A few thousand dollars later my bulletproof trans came back and we found that there wasnt enough room for both me and the rollcage in the car. So I couldnt go racing after all. But put the trans in anyway.

Then the trans died. Went back to the Mopar expert & he said it was all my fault. And gave me another bill for $1500 for repairing it. The Mopar love affair was over.
That CAN'T be it!!? What's the rest of the story!? After all that..... there just HAS to be a happy ending!
Sorry about that guys, I did part 2 separately but its gone off to ModertorLand for a checkup. Then I figured I should have just put it in the same posting as a separate bit. Im still learning stuff. So heres the rest below. Cheers Todd

By now, I was living in Gisborne & coming to New Plymouth each month to do business stuff. Our maintenance guy here in New Plymouth knew that the dude who did our fire security was into hot rods & put him onto me. Next came an invite to Arthur & Low (local hot rod hangout) and the sad tale of the Mopar bucket came out.

Naturally, they suggested I buy another one, with the large body, a rollcage already fitted, and then fit a big block Chev to it. Amazingly, there was one for sale just down the road. Took Raz bucket for a drive and bought it less motor & box. Simple plan was to fit a very mild 454 and blower and go cruising. But the chassis needed some work and soon a full rebuild was underway. Some time later, I told my wife Rowena I was ready to sell my Mopar bucket. When she asked why, given that I had always planned to keep it till I was 50, I owned up to owning another one already.

A few shiney bits got added to the car and soon I was out of control again.

Took nearly 2 years to get it all done, but this bucket is everything I wanted. I had a go at drag racing, and was amazed how slow I was, and how hard racing was.

Then I thought I might need a C Cab and so advertised for another bucket and found one. Bought that and hinted to Rowena that I might get another bucket oneday and got shot down big time. Quickly sold the bucket to another mate and got out of jail free.

I persisted with racing the bucket and finally the car has started to run some good times. 10.215 at 132mph is pretty cool for a street legal car, but now I think a 9 second street car would be even cooler. The car was the quickest on the day at the NZ Hot Rod Magazine club champs" this year, with the guy who rebuilt the car for me being the second quickest in his 55 Chev sports coupe at 10.3 .I have found that racing with a bunch of mates is way addictive, and the travelling and camping together are great times.

I have been told that a bucket is a beginners hot rod, so after seven of them, Im a beginner with lots of experience.

Hot Rod Todd

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