Is the 1926/27 T a T-Bucket? Let's settle that and cover a few more things. -

Is the 1926/27 T a T-Bucket? Let’s settle that and cover a few more things.

From time to time, I hear people say “You can’t really call a 1926/27 T a T-Bucket.” But I say you can. And here’s why.

1926/27 T a T-Bucket Stan Johnson

Stan Johnson’s beautiful 1926/27 “T-Bucket”

Somebody will see a 1926 or 1927 T roadster like Stan Johnson’s beauty I had the pleasure of seeing again in Wisconsin this weekend and say, “That’s a T modified or a Lakes Modified. It’s not really a T-Bucket.” (We’ll have more pics of Stan’s T in a future story.)

1927 T Roadster Charles Tunnell

Charles and Lavelle Tunnell’s 1927 T-Bucket roadster

Or someone else will be admiring Charles and Lavelle Tunnell’s 1927 T and mention that it’s a really sweet T roadster, but not one of those T-Buckets. Hey, I’ll do it myself sometimes because I might think the T owner would feel I wasn’t giving the car proper respect calling it a T-Bucket.

T roadster, modified, lakes modified are all proper terms when referring to a particular type of 1926/27 T roadster. And so is T-Bucket. Here’s why.

Why it’s also correct to call a 1926/27 T a T-Bucket

Let’s start with some fun Model T and T-Bucket hot rod history.

1924 Ford Model T Runabout Advertisement

1924 Ford Model T Runabout Advertisement

The term T-Bucket refers to a Ford Model T two-passenger body, known back in the day as a “runabout” as shown in the above ad. (Yeah, that’s a crazy price for a new car. But, in 1924 the average annual income was $2196, a new house cost $7720 and gas was 11 cents a gallon. Before you get too excited: a Victrola record player was $150 and life expectancy was 54.1 years!)

T-Bucket Body Drawing

More specifically, T-Bucket refers to the passenger compartment of a Model T runabout body, which does look somewhat like a big bucket when viewed by itself. Once it’s built up as a hot rod it doesn’t make any difference whether it has a turtle deck, pickup bed or nothing else behind the “bucket” it’s known as a T-Bucket.

Norm Grabowski Kookie Car T-Bucket Life Magazine April 29 1957

While I don’t know when the term T-Bucket originated its use became much more popular after Norm Grabowski’s radical T roadster appeared in LIFE magazine in 1957, and a year later on the television series 77 Sunset Strip.

It’s ironic that what’s undoubtedly the most widely known T-Bucket really isn’t based on a Model T runabout. Say what?

Norm Grabowski T-Bucket Blackie Gejeian Influence

Young Norm Grabowski in his 1922 T roadster.

In 1952 when Norm Grabowski set out to build a hot rod he bought a Model A for $100, kept the chassis and ditched the Model A body in favor of a smaller, lighter Model T body. But availability and budget didn’t match up in terms of a desired Model T runabout body. Instead, some creativity was applied to the more mundane Model T touring car.

Model T touring body

What Norm used for his T-Bucket was just the forward portion of the touring body, with the rear passenger section left for the scrap pile.

1915-1925 Model T touring body front half

The photo above shows what Norm basically used for his body.

Kookie Kar T-Bucket

The telltale sign of the use of a shortened 1922 Model T touring body as a replacement for a runabout is the horizontal body reveal line that runs straight to the rear of the body rather than sweeping up with the back as on a runabout. Shown by the yellow arrow above.

Ivo T-Bucket

In 1956 Tommy Ivo would also have to resort to a 1925 Model T touring body rescued from the desert to build his legendary T-Bucket. Note the horizontal reveal above the yellow arrow.

Worth stopping here to think about two very interesting points:

  • The two most famous T-Buckets of all time were not built using the Model T runabout body that is considered by most as the standard for a T-Bucket.
  • Over 60 years ago, even in the semi-arid to desert climate of Southern California, which tends to preserve automotive sheet metal many decades longer than in the Midwest and Northeast, it was extremely hard to find a usable Model T runabout body. And those Model T’s were just a bit over 30 years old at the time.

What makes the 1926/27 T a T-Bucket, too

After understanding what makes the 1915 to 1925 Model T runabout and shortened touring a T-Bucket body, let’s look at the 1926/27 T.

1926/27 T a T-Bucket

Ad for the 1926 Ford Model T Runabout

The runabout body was still being offered in the Model T line after its first big body style change since 1915. Ken observers will note the new model is $5 cheaper than the 1924 model.

Cal Automotive Fiberglass Glass-Tee 27 T-Bucket and Austin Bantam

My one man’s opinion on why many are reluctant to refer to 1926/27 T’s as T-Buckets is because since the 1960s most all of the fiberglass 1926/27 T roadster bodies have been produced as a one-piece unit, with the turtle deck integral to the body. However, that was done more as a convenience and from an aesthetic standpoint by people like Curt Hamilton and Bud Lang at Cal Automotive.

1926/27 T a T-Bucket

As the image above notes, the turtle deck is a separate component on the 1926/27 Model T’s just as it was on the 1915-1925 Model T runabouts.

1926 Ford Model T Runabout turtle deck

You don’t see them very often by themselves, but the photo above shows a turtle deck for a 1926/27 T runabout.

1926/27 T a T-Bucket

In fact, in 1926 Ford offered the runabout roadster with a 56-inch long pickup bed in place of the turtle deck.

1927 T Roadster Charles Tunnell

It’s interesting to note that Charles Tunnell’s T roadster shown as the second picture in this story started out as a 1927 runabout bucket with an abbreviated pickup bed. Only much later was the bed replaced with a turtle deck.

1926/27 T a T-Bucket

Over the years, just a few companies offered the 1926/27 T-Bucket body by itself. From a practical standpoint, they’re a tad roomier than a ’23 T-Bucket body. But from the standpoint of looks they’re pretty boxy looking and the cowl looks kind of crude compared to the nicely tapered cowls of 1915-23 T-Bucket bodies. That’s why I don’t believe they’ve been very popular in the fiberglass body world.

So now you know that whether it’s a 1915, 1923 or 1926 T roadster you can call it a T-Bucket without hesitation. But, hey, it’s just a label and this is a sport open to creativity and an “anything goes” attitude. The point being, you can call them whatever you feel comfortable calling them as long as you’re encouraging and supporting the T-Bucket hobby.

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John Morehead

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T-Bucket fanatic since 1957 when my 8 year old eyes became glued to a full page LIFE magazine photo of Norm Grabowski in the wildest hot rod I had ever seen! I later discovered the fascinating T-Buckets of TV Tommy Ivo, Marty Hollmann, Bob Johnston and Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s T-Bucket inspired Outlaw. I was hooked for life on T-Bucket hot rods! originated in 2005 as a personal blog extolling the virtues of T-Buckets. In 2009 I blogged about Chester Greenhalgh, the "how to" genius who wrote the legendary, out-of-print “How to Build a T-Bucket Roadster for Under $3000”. That led to a friendship with Chester and our partnership in marketing the updated eBook version of his T-Bucket building bible. The T-Bucket fire burns stronger and stronger.
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