The 1971 Street Rod Nationals in Memphis, Tennessee followed the success of the inaugural event the year before. That experiment at bringing together East and West coast street rodders for the first time drew over 600 street rods to a city that wasn’t on anyone’s vacation destination list: Peoria, Illinois. Memphis, on the other hand, is a destination spot with Beale Street, blues and barbecue and that no doubt was a factor in Danny Eichstedt deciding to make that nearly 4,000 mile round trip in his Leg Show T-Bucket
But continuing on from Part 1 of our Leg Show T-Bucket story, let’s fill in some details about what happened with the Leg Show after its 1970 Oakland Grand National Roadster Show debut and legendary appearance on the January, 1971 cover of Rod & Custom magazine.
After showing the Leg Show at the Grand National Roadster Show in Oakland and a couple of other shows, Dan realized that you could earn additional points on the show car circuit if you made changes to your car; especially changes that were distinctive and unique. So Dan made the short trip from Downey over to Cerritos to have J&J Chassis install one of their new opposed coil front suspensions.
Many people today will refer to the opposed coil front suspension as a Dan Woods suspension. However, back then Danny’s fellow Early Times car club member Dan Woods worked at J&J Chassis where the opposed coil design originated. You could say that Dan Woods popularized the opposed coil design after leaving J&J and starting his own Contemporary Carriage Works.
According to Danny, it was already nicely chromed and J&J just chopped the old front crossmember off and replaced it with a new one and the opposed coil setup. Danny then repainted the frame in black Imron. Don’t forget that while the Leg Show may have had some great looking parts it was strictly a home garage built rod.
(If you look closely in the two pics above, in the back of Danny’s parent’s garage you’ll see the stage coach body that would be the basis for buddy Jack Keef‘s “Stage Fright” show rod.)
About the same time, Danny made a change on the intake side of things, too. While the Hilborn mechanical fuel injection looked great it was finicky on the street and Danny liked to drive the Leg Show as much as he could. But, with such a short wheelbase it didn’t take too much extra foot on the throttle to have the rear end come around on you in any kind of slick conditions.
To cure that, while still having a great looking intake, Danny turned to fellow Early Times member Jim Babb to work some more of his brass fabricating magic on a unique scoop that elegantly covered a reliable single four barrel carb.
So in early February, 1971, just a couple days after the Sylmar earthquake had shut down northern L.A. area freeways, Danny was part of a group of six Early Times members who ventured forth to Oakland for the Leg Show’s second entry in the Grand National Roadster Show.
Accompanying Danny on the journey was Dan Woods who was to premier his Ice Truck, Jim Babb and his It-T-Bits, Jim “Jake” Jacobs and his truck, hot rod builder Richard Graves and another member.
Off to the 1971 Street Rod Nationals
It’s important to remember at this point that innumerable people have said and continue to say that T-Bucket hot rods are unsuitable for a road trip of more than a hundred miles or so, given their ride quality, cramped quarters and exposure to the elements. And keep in mind that Danny’s Leg Show is possibly the most abbreviated T-Bucket that had ever been built up to that time.
After competing at Oakland in March and enjoying more cruising in the Leg Show, by August Danny was ready to hit the road to travel three-fourths of the way across country to the 1971 Street Rod Nationals in Memphis, Tennessee.
There’s not much room in a T-Bucket for luggage or anything else, so it was fortunate that Jim Babb was making the journey to the 1971 Street Rod Nationals along with Dan in his Ford AA Big Elmer hauling not only It-T-Bits, but also clothes and other necessities for Danny and others on the journey, as well as Babb’s own young family.
Funny thing was that Danny and the others couldn’t keep up with Babb and his Ford 390 FE-powered RV/transporter. With wind buffeting and just for reasonable comfort Dan took the trip at a leisurely 60-70 mph, while Babb was way ahead of the pack.
Keeping up wasn’t made any easier by the fact that Leg Show’s 10 gallon fuel tank and Chevy engine were good for 100 miles to the tank — not 101! Dan said he ran out six or seven times over the course of the journey.
Most nights on the road were spent in army surplus sleeping bags and every third night or so they’d check into a no-tell motel to get a shower. (In the photo above if you look closely you’ll see Babb’s It-T-Bits just inside the open rear door of Big Elmer).
The entire trip, coming and going, was almost two weeks on the road. More on that later.
Accompanying Danny on the journey in Leg Show was Butch Keef, brother of Jack Keef, who had helped build Leg Show. Also in the caravan was “a magazine guy” in a Nomad and another guy with a ’32 sedan.
Another T-Bucket making the journey to the 1971 Street Rod Nationals with Danny was owned by Pennsylvania hot rodder, Ted LeDane. Ted was a truck driver who put in long hours in the winter months when others in the North East didn’t want to drive. He was then able to save up money so he could spend his summers in sunny California so it was only natural for Ted to make the trek back East with Dan.
It’s not known whether or not Ted ever finished his T-Bucket, which also utilized an opposed coil front suspension.
Ted did some things for Dan Woods in return for work on his own T-Bucket. Ted went on to stints managing the over-the-road Zilla Tours of the ZZ Top cars and to work for The Pete Chapouris Group (PC3g) among others.
Aside from sunburn, bug bites, rain and other such inconveniences the trip was a pleasure for a group that was young, adventurous, without much money. I guess that after getting drenched and riding on wet mohair that the warm winds were some measure of relief to dry things out.
However, at 6’2″ and driving with his knees up near his chin the frequent gas stops were a welcome opportunity for Dan to do some needed stretching out.
Of course, some on-the-road improvising was necessary when the rains came and also for trips to the car wash.
One of the biggest problems getting to the 1971 Street Rod Nationals, though, was the dirt and grime that accumulated over the miles. According to Dan, people everywhere were very nice and interested in the cars.
Regular stops at the coin car wash were a necessity to avoid too much build up of muck (Ted LeDane doing the honors here).
All things considered, mechanical difficulties, fortunately, were few, but tools were in Babb’s truck if needed. However, Dan did experience a rear wheel bearing failure in rural Missouri but the very friendly locals were able to get him back on the road with some of their own ingenuity instead of more sophisticated tools.
The 1971 Street Rod Nationals was a big success for the second year of the event with close to 1300 cars in Memphis more than doubling the number that turned out for the 1970 inaugural in Peoria. This helped cement the tradition leading to the 46th annual Street Rod Nationals being held in Louisville, Kentucky in 2015.
With four days of activities like the streetkhana performance event, show & shines, cruises, fox hunt, turtle racing, greased pig chases, scores of manufacturer exhibits, barbecue feeds and hours of swapping tips and tales with other street rodders the 1971 Street Rod Nationals really set the bar for what such an event could and should be.
And, more importantly, it was an opportunity for street rodders from the most remote locations to get up close and personal with the cars they’d only seen in the magazines before like Danny Eichstedt’s Leg Show.
As noted before, Danny and his fellow Early Times members on the trip were young and adventurous. That’s why rather than making a beeline straight back west after the 1971 Street Rod Nationals they decided to head north and do some sightseeing on the way back home.
They ventured as far north as Wyoming and then tragedy struck. About 200 miles north of Las Vegas it was drizzling rain and when Danny went under a bridge Leg Show must have hydroplaned and came out doing 360’s and caught the guardrail.
The police officer who came along was obviously not a street rod fan and issued a single, lengthy ticket citing 26 violations of the state vehicle codes and Leg Show was towed in and impounded.
Not long after, Dan returned to the impound lot with a rented U-Haul trailer and the bare minimum of hand tools purchased at the local hardware store. Long story short: in the dark of night, Leg Show was disassembled piece-by-piece, put in the trailer and taken back home.
With the accident on the return trip from the 1971 Street Rod Nationals and the subsequent quick trip in the U-Haul the Larry Watson Candy Apple Red paint job was pretty well scratched and when it was time to do a repaint for the next show it was decided to make another change that might also rack up more show points.
At the time, pearl paints were still relatively new and a lot of experimentation was going on. One of the truly unique pearl developments was what was known as Murano Pearl.
Murano Pearl was a lead-based pearl that offered the prospect of flip-flop colors. How awesome was that?!
In theory, if Murano blue was painted over red then the car would look red until direct light hits it and it would then flip to blue.
This was applied by custom painter Ron Jones in his home garage in Bellflower, California. (Ron would later team up with Don Thelen).
After the Oakland Grand National Roadster Shows, the adventurous trip to the 1971 Street Rod Nationals, a complete reassembly and many miles of fun cruising, Danny decided it was time to move onto another hot rod project and the Leg Show was listed “for sale” in the August 1973 issue of Rod & Custom magazine. The $6500 price at the time was high as far as T-Buckets go, but this was by no stretch a conventional T-Bucket.
Danny ended up selling the Leg Show T-Bucket to a gas station owner from Illinois who flew from Chicago to Los Angeles with a friend to pick up the Leg Show and drive it back. As a strange testament to what Danny endured on his 4000+ mile 1971 Street Rod Nationals journey, the new buyer’s friend got out in Las Vegas and flew back home rather than endure any further heated contortions on the trip back home.
After that, Danny decided to move on to the next chapter in his hot rod adventures and the Leg Show trophies no longer needed to take up space. A few years later, for reasons I’ve yet to discover, the Midwestern owner of Leg Show parted it out, with some parts making their way back to California. But that’s a story for another day.
You’d think that after driving 4000+ miles with his knees near his chin on the 1971 Street Rod Nationals trip that Danny’s next hot rod would be a study in comfortable cruising. You would be wrong.
For his follow up to the Leg Show, Danny would be found in what was probably the lowest chopped and sectioned 1934 Ford sedan that had ever been seen before on the street.
I guess you could say that Danny had gotten used to limbering up and making various odd physical adjustments to enjoy cruising in his creations.
More recently, Dan built a ’57 Thunderbird motivated by Ford 5.0 power with a 5-speed, 4-wheel disc brakes and power rack and pinion which he happily drove from California to Springfield, Missouri for the 60th Anniversary Thunderbird celebration. While possessing creature comforts not found in his earlier rides, still not the most comfortable seating for a 6′ 2″ frame with 45 more years on it.
To me, Danny Eichstedt’s Leg Show T-Bucket is one of the most influential T-Buckets ever built. Its dramatic appearance was responsible for capturing the attention of untold thousands of yet-to-be hot rod builders back in the 1970s and setting them on the path to building and/or owning their own T-Buckets.