Welcome to my T-Bucket Restoration Story

Back Story:  I purchased this car in in 1989 while living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  It is a kit car with a custom chassis and fiberglass body.  The entire car was likely purchased out of a Speedway Motors Catalog.  Speedway is still very much in business and I recognize most all of the parts on this car when looking through their current catalog or web site.

According to the title, it was originally built in 1978 and titled in Tennessee.  I have no idea how many owners it has, but it was titled in North Carolina in 1988.  It is styled after a 1927 Ford Model A body, but that is strictly cosmetic and nothing about the car is old.  The oldest component I have found is the steering box that is out of a 1960 to 1963 Corvair.  The engine, transmission, transmission shifter and dashboard gauges appear to be from a 1969 or thereabouts Mustang.

About 1993 I decided to rebuild the engine and install some new gaskets as it was leaking some oil.  It was not a serious leak, but bad enough that keeping the undercarriage and other components clean for going to car shows and cruise-in’s was a real chore.

As with many things I undertake, one thing led to another and all those “while I have it apart, I might as well go ahead and fix …….”, and before I knew it I had boxes of parts and all these little zip-lock bags marked with descriptions of what was inside them.

In 1994 I was let go from my then current job in a reorganization and did not have the money to continue with what I had started.  In 1998 we moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, to continue my career working in corporate America. 

With a bit more financial security, In 1999 I purchase a 1970 Plymouth GTX that re-directed my attention away from the T-Bucket.  I did some major work including engine rebuild and re-painting the Plymouth.  It was a great car to drive and I was able to but it through its paces some at Rockingham Dragway (high12’s in the quarter mile) and went to many shows and cruis-in’s over the years.  But after 17 years and as I began driving it less and less, I sold it in 2017.

As time and money allowed over the years, I was able to get the T-Bucket’s body and chassis sanded down and put quite a bit of time into fixing the body as needed and getting it all in primer.  I also had the engine and transmission rebuilt and purchased numerous replacement components for the restoration I would be undertaking “this winter”.  The winters came and went, and I would purchase some more parts or do bits and pieces of things to it, but never made any real progress.

I must say that my wife has been very patient and understanding, even though it has always been her car that was excluded from the garage.  But now that I am retired and have some time to fuss with this project, I am intent on getting it put back together.

I do not plan on doing any major changes in the overall look of the T-Bucket.  To me it all fits together nicely and looks like a classic T-Bucket should.  That’s why I purchased it in the first place.  I do plan on upgrading all major components and try to pay attention to safety.  The paint color will be the big change.

The dates on the below narrative are the dates the pictures are taken.  I will do something on the project most every day, so each set of pictures show progress since the prior pictures.

Chuck

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These pictures were taken in 1989 shortly after I purchase it (note there is no license plate on it at this point, so it was right after I brought it home that these pictures were taken).

No the young’in in a couple of the pictures.  That is my youngest son, Timothy (“TJ”).  He was three years old in these pictures.  He is now 33 years old.

The seniors are my Mom and Dad who visited that summer.

January 12, 2020.

I started the beginning of January to clean up the garage and move things down to the shed to give me some room to work.  After several trips to the dump, I was able to get things organized and take “inventory” of what I had and begin to make some lists of what would be needed.

The stainless steel break lines, new master cylinder and break pedal assembly and the aluminum gas line has been installed for some time, probably 10 years.  The yellow metal cylinder on the chassis rail in front of the master cylinder mounting bracket is a roll control (“line lock”).

The dark blue bracket in front of the roll control is the mounting plate for the steering box.

There also is mounted towards the rear the brake proportioning valve as I plan on putting disc brakes (also already purchased) on the front in place of the drum brakes that were there, but keep the drum brakes on the rear.

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January 19, 2019

The new transmission floor shifter required some measuring with the engine and body in position, and it had some a long order time, so I bolted the engine, bell houseing and transmission together, dropped it in place, and then dropped the body in place.

The chrome alternator is new and and I still need to paint the top bracket.  I can’t find a chrome bracket, so will look at that later.  I don’t want to spend too much time on details now, otherwise I will not have anything to do on it next winter.

I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time standing around looking at things and planning in my head sequences of things that need to be done.  It seems that as soon as I plan on doing something, then I realize something else should really be done first.

I’m now on a first-name basis with the guys at Wilder’s Fasteners, a local company that sells every type of nut, bolt, and washer that you could ever need.  I’ve also renewed old acquaintances at the welding shop.

February 1, 2020

Been planning out the new radiator.  The old one was super small (13″ x 18″) and would overheat at stop lights.  I purchase a new Walker radiator about 7 or 8 years ago (17″ X 18 1/2″).  I also purchased an electric fan at that time, but have decided to not use it due to space requirements and instead to make a fan shroud from scratch.  I saw on You Tube a couple videos on how to do it, so now that I am an expert, I figured why not?  I have a new chrome frame (it is completely filled by the new radiator) and I’m waiting on a piece of stainless woven wire screen to arrive for the “grill” before I can do more on it.  I’ll have more pictures as this progresses.

The weather is supposed to be nice this week with several days in the low 70s, so I thought I would do some painting.  To get started, I worked on the drop front axle.  It is chrome, but the recessed parts are really rough and the guy that built this originally painted the insert black to hide all the imperfections and lack of polishing.  I masked off the nice areas and brush-painted some Rust-Oleum primer as filler, and then, after some sanding on it, will spray prime an epoxy primer, and then spray with blue finish paint.   We’ll see how that goes….

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February 14, 2020

Weatherman was calling for a couple days of nice weather in the 60s, so I worked on getting parts ready to re-prime.  I sprayed some parts with an epoxy primer about 8+ years ago when I was cleaning up some parts.  I needed to sand these parts and clean up to re-prime, and brought the sand blasting cabinet I had made up from the shed to work on some others that need more than a light sanding.  Made this out of scrap plywood about 15 years ago.  I remember purchasing the sand barrel, screen, gloves and incidental parts & supplies on my laptop while sitting in the airport in Las Vegas on a business trip.

The second shows a before and after comparison.  Sandblasting is the way to go on this type of project.

Got a lot of stuff primered and hung them up to dry.  The front axle pictured previously is now in primer.  I’m anxious to see if the top coat looks and how long it lasts with the Rust-Olem primer as a sub base coat.

An early picture showed my template for the support shelf I had fabricated for the battery tray.  Pictured is the unpainted shelf.  Really came out nice and solid.  There’s a couple more steps I need to take with this.

February 14, 2020 (continued)

The new transmission shifter came in a few days ago and I’ll need to make some modifications to the floor.  Not many car projects allow you to set the car body on its side to work on the undercarriage.  Makes things much easier.

The floor is 3/4″ plywood well coated with fiberglass matt & resin on both inside and undercarriage.  The opening behind the transmission hump in the floor was way too big for the new shifter, so I cut a spare piece of plywood to fit in the opening, and another to fit under it same as with the existing reinforcing piece.  Figure I’ll need that extra reinforcement for those hard shifts (even though its an automatic).  You can see the new piece fit inside the old opening, but the new overlay piece is not in yet.  Need to fiberglass both in at the same time.

In between projects and while waiting for parts to arrive there  is plenty of chrome and aluminum to be polished.  Finished two of the wheels.  Fronts are 15″ x 7.0″ and rears are 15″ x 8.5″ slotted aluminum mags.  These and the tires were on the car when I purchased it, and tires also likely go back to the original build in 1978.  Although they have good tread, since they are 42 years old, I will be replacing the rubber.  New Coker Pro-Tracs in the rear will be 11.3″ tread, and front tread will be about 5.5″.  I’ve ordered new hub covers with spinners to fill the center hole.

Note on the left side of the picture with the wheels is a 6″ x 6″ length of treated lumber with foam noodles attached.  This is what I lay the car body on when its up on the side.

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