This T-Bucket was built for less than $1500!
You can do it, too!
When I first saw a photo of Arly Hayden’s T-Bucket I liked it; but when I read Tara Lubiato’s description of it I was blown away! Here’s what Tara had to say:
“This is our T-Bucket built from spare parts and $1300, 350 motor, 350 tranny , headers are upside down Corvette side pipes, and spray can paint!!!!
The T-Bucket was built in our two car garage by my boyfriend Arly Hayden. I found the book online by Chester Greenhalgh and being the pack rat he is , Arly started going through the parts list and he had this and that…. He started the build around Christmas 2010 but it had to be put on the back burner from February – October 2011 due to other peoples projects. He picked back up the build and had it to a car show by spring 2012. Everything was done by Arly, every bit of fabrication and assembly, we took it to car shows all summer long and brought home numerous trophies, what tickled me most was he beat out some really nice, really expensive cars, a nice reward for all his hard work and creativity!!! The total price of the build was about $1300 give or take $50, lol.”
You see, with Internet accessible parts sources like eBay, craigslist, Speedway Motors, Harbor Freight, etc. you can still build a T-Bucket on a budget for about the same as you could almost 30 years ago. But to do it for less than half of $3000, I wanted to learn more so that we could share that with you.
I learned that Arly followed Chesters plans for the frame, front axle, body reinforcement, motor mounts, battery mount, radiator, windshield frame, shifter, brake system and most everything else with a few of his own tweaks.
Starting with Chester’s recommended frame plan, Tara said “the square tubing for the frame was a freebie, (we) had laying around” and it’s not that hard to find if you know what you’re looking for. In this view, you can also see the motor mounts and front axle batwings that were made following designs and templates in Chester’s eBook.
She said they had “about $150 into the frame for rod ends and springs, also 3/4 inch pipe” for Chester’s recommended radius rods. You’ll also note some Arly creativity here with the front crossmember that’s mounted at a nice angle to the side frame rails.
The T-Bucket body is from Speedway and it’s shown here positioned on the frame before being notched and channeled over the frame.
With the body notched and sitting nicely on the frame rails, it looks like Arly’s checking out what the future view will be from the driver’s seat.
On the rear suspension, Arly went with his own coil spring design rather than a transverse leaf spring, probably because the coils were readily available and when done right offer a smoother ride.
When you purchase an economic fiberglass T-Bucket body, it will need to be reinforced with wood to not only make it more rigid, but also provide attachment points for the windshield brackets and upholstery. To a lot of people, it seems like a big deal but Chester lays it our very simply in his book and it looks like Arly has followed Chester’s wooding templates to a T (pun intended).
One of the primary reasons for wooding the body is to put the floor in place and you don’t want to do that until your frame is built so that you can be sure everything fits. That’s why most bodies don’t come with a floor. In this view, you’ll see the nice construction Chester outlines for supporting the rear of the body and also the seat support.
Of course you want to have a cool long-handled floor shifter. But unless you want to spend several hundred dollars just for that, you can follow Chester’s easy plan for a do-it-yourself shifter like Arly has done here.
This is a really rugged shifter design and just one of the many things you’ll find in Chester’s eBook that will save you truly big bucks in your own budget T-Bucket build.
Here’s Arly’s Chevy small block positioned in the frame. According to Tara, he “did a motor swap for a ’75 Corvette, a 350 for a 402, and was given the 350 motor and tranny.” What’s important about a budget build is that in the book Chester recommends picking up a $500 “donor” car, where you’ll get your engine, transmission, rear end, and a host of other parts. Of course, if you’ve already got them laying around, so much the better.
Tara also noted that those unique looking “Corvette side pipe headers were saved from being scrapped.” You’ll find similar small block header deals at every swap meet you go to.
A bobtail T, which is one without a turtle deck or pickup bed, not only looks cool but is an economic way to go. As Tara noted, the “gas tank is an old beer keg that was in the shed for about 20 years.” They regularly turn up at swap meets, along with used spun aluminum or even vinyl tanks at bargain prices.
One of Chester’s recommendations that makes a nice visual impact is the rear shock absorbers that Tara noted are “shocks off of old motorcycles that had been laying around.”
According to Tara, that unique woven look interior paneling “is an old folding closet door found on the side of the road and upholstery is a spare bench seat cover”.
Here’s where Arly saved big time. He decided to paint it the inexpensive, do-it-yourself way with spray cans but chose the Dupli-Color® Mirage® Color System, which is a unique color shifting aerosol paint formulated to create multi-colored effects from all angles.
Plus, it’s easy to apply using a three-step process that consists of base coat, mid-coat color and top coat.
A great looking T was produced using just five $20 spray can kits and that includes the frame and suspension.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen connecting rods used as shock mounts before. They add some nice individuality to the build, while serving an important functional purpose. Also visible here is the attractive front spring perch cover of the style Chester shows how to build for next to nothing in his “How to Build a T-Bucket” eBook.
You gotta love how Arly’s grille shell ornament adds some personality to the T.
The grille shell insert is yet another extremely low-buck, functional and attractive T-Bucket component that Chester shows how to build in the book.
” Tail lights $30 from E-bay,” notes Tara in documenting their budget build of this T-Bucket. The accessory chrome cover for the GM rear end also adds to the overall sparkle.
By the way, “the rear end is out of a 1980 Camaro that came out of a car we built for Arlys brother,” said Tara. It’s one of the elements you’d pull from your $500 donor car, along with the engine and tranny, in Chester’s plan.
Tara said, “brake lines are a $20 Kit from Eastwood.”
It looks impressive, but Tara tallies it up as, “Air cleaner $30 from a swap meet.”
A nice detail view of the inexpensive iron pipe rear radius rods Chester shows how to build in his eBook.
Tara said that the “Corvair steering box (was) won on an E-Bay auction for $105” and Arly applied his creativity to the “steering column (that) is homemade from PVC pipe.”
If you look closely, you’ll see that Arly has made another innovative use for discarded connecting rods: anchor brackets for the fuel tank retaining chains.
The wiring was from scrap.
Tara pointed out that the “1961 Ford Econoline front axle and radiator shell was picked up for $75 from a fellow car guy.” This is one of the T-Bucket building elements that Chester covers in detail that will also save you untold hundreds of dollars in your build.
” The front and rear tires were freebies.” And those stylish Buick front wheels can often be picked up at a bargain price.
As for custom steering wheels, it looks like Arly has followed Chester’s tip on picking them up cheap at swap meets and such.
In his book, Chester recommends a variety of cool looking junkyard speedometers and Tara said, “The speedometer is a spare from our 53 Chevy.”
Taking shape nicely in the garage and ready for Arly to finish building the windshield frame according to Chester’s plan
Another nice touch is the front disc brakes. Chester provides full-size templates to adapt cheap, readily junkyard available GM disc brakes to the Ford Econoline spindle.
In his eBook, Chester also covers fabrication of the steering arm and tie rod as used on Arly’s T.
That’s cast-off chain used to securely fasten the beer keg fuel tank.
The headlights are from Speedway Motors and the turn signals are actually converted Maglite flashlights.
The windshield brackets are from Speedway Motors and the windshield frame was made from Chester’s plans to save several hundred dollars.
Here’s but one example of the kind of trophy taken home with this built-it-myself-on-a-beer-budget T-Bucket.
Trailer queen? No way, man. This one pulls a trailer!
And when it gets close to freezing, Arly just bundles up and uses his special face protection. This just shows that not only can a budget T-Bucket be a joy to drive, but can also win admiring glances, as well as show trophies, while still being able to haul a trailer to get things done. Show me anything else that can provide even a fraction of that fun for less than $1500!
Now this is what’s so sweet about Arly and Tara’s budget T. By their nature, with all the exposed mechanicals, T-Buckets consistently draw more crowd attention than the big-buck entries at car shows. In the show pic above, take a look at the little hand-printed sign propped against the front tire. It tell’s the T’s fascinating story in a few words.
Here’s a pic of that little sign and below is just what it says:
- Engine – 350 out of a ’75 Vette
- Transmission – 350 Turbo
- Rear End – 1980 Camaro
18 months ago I found a book online
“How to Build a T-Bucket for Under $3000”.
Upon going through the parts list I found that I had this and that, so the majority of parts for this car I just had lying around, the frame was hand built, the headlights and parking lights are held by piston rods, the parking lights are Maglights, the interior is folding closet doors, the speedometer is our of a ’53 Chevy, motorcycle shocks and upside down and reversed Corvette headers just to name a few! And let’s not forget the paint — SPRAY CANS — The body is Dupli-Color Mirage – silver to Green, the frame is Dupli-Color Mirage – gold to magenta and the copper accents are VHT engine metallic – burnt copper!!
Cost to Build $1300!!
Arly and Tara’s T is proof-positive that you can still build a T-Bucket for under $3000 — and a nice one at that. While Arly already had the engine trans and rear end, as noted that’s included in your $500 donor car budget. Even throwing in some of the other parts Arly had laying around, you can still do it for $3000 — or less! Don’t believe it runs? Check out the video!
There’s nothing stopping you. It’s easy to start with a few parts and go from there as your budget allows. All it takes is the right knowledge to be able to do it the right way on a budget and that’s where Chester Greenhalgh and his legendary, “How to Build a T-Bucket Hot Rod Roadster for Under $3000: kickin’ it old skool” come into the picture. If you don’t already have your copy of this encyclopedia of T-Bucket building information, now’s the time. Click here to learn more and get yours today>
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17 thoughts on “Today, You Can Build a T-Bucket for WAY UNDER $3000”
I wonder if there is a modification to Chester Greenhalgh plans that uses coil over springs verses a leaf spring?
Thanks for asking Steve> I would recommend the California Custom Roadsters T-Bucket Chassis Plans because they have drawings, templates and information on building a T-Bucket chassis with a coil over shock rear suspension as an alternative to the leaf spring.
i am intrested in building a t bucket my self how do i get a copy of your plan>
Glad to hear it, James. It’s easy to get a copy of our plans. Just go here: https://www.tbucketplans.com/product/build-a-t-bucket/
Then click on “Add to Cart”, checkout and download them right away. All the best with your build, John
I have an original copy of Chesters book. Still flip through it from time to time.
Yes, Mitch, Chester’s original hard copies have become rather valuable. The original spiral-bound ones that Chester put together himself are very rare and when sold go for well over $200. The paperback versions published by Motorbooks still sell on eBay for over $100, but they don’t have all the info and pics that were in Chester’s original. Fortunately, our eBook version today has all of the original material plus more that Chester has provided. All for just $19.99 and Chester gets most of that which is a good thing. Thanks for letting us know.
John, I am writing because my laptop crashed. I bought the pdf e book back when about may 2015. I bought today a new sanyo dvd player but it wont play ??????? Sanyo said the disk has to be a ” 1 or ALL disk ? I have no idea what that is ! Al l I know I am screwed. I used a HP dvd-r disk back then. Thats what dont work. Im not computer minded ! Im 65 and hate this modern crap. Can you help me ? Can you resend to me this file thing ? I use the computers at my local library now. John, can you call me ? Im at 740-232-8053. Can you send me your phone number ? Im between a rock and a hard place and i need your help. PLEASE REPLY SOON OR CALL ME !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
No need to worry, James. We know that people have computer crashes and such, so we’re always glad to provide free replacement copies to customers. Separately, I’ve sent you two emails with the download links to the two sets of plans you previously purchased. Thanks for your continued support,
I have an old 84 F150 Chassis with bare cab. It is reg cab short bed frame. When it was a complete truck I swapped in a 4.6 mod motor from a 95 t-bird complete with 4 spd auto overdrive. I sold a bunch of parts from it and that is why it is just a cab and frame right now. It could be made to run and drive pretty easy, just needs some wiring done. I think I might just try to adapt a t bucket body onto this chassis. Thoughts anyone??
This is an eye-opener. I was casting around for ideas for a live-axle trike rear end, and yours is perfect. Thanks.
The amount of legislative hassle and expense I’d have to go through here to build an actual T-Bucket and get it on the road is impractical, but at least I can use some of it 🙂
Thanks Dave. Glad to hear we’re of help. Actually, licensing a scratch-built T-Bucket is probably easier from a practical, rather than a theoretical standpoint. All you need to do is look around where you are and see how many are on the road. While legislation varies widely from state to state, and seems to be handled differently depending on which particular DMV office you plan to visit, on what day, at what time, and who you talk to, it can be done. Best to find a local who’s done it and get their advice.
do you sell the actual book instead of cd
Thanks for asking, James, but we do not sell hard copies since the digital download is so much faster and cheaper. It’s a simple PDF file you can read on any computer and print out and put in a binder if you wish. Hard copies of Chester’s original book are sometimes available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/How-Build-T-Bucket-Roadster-Budget/dp/087938395X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431368276&sr=1-1&keywords=t-bucket but $18.99 is one-tenth the price people are asking, plus you get lots of Chester’s updates and info that were not in the hard copy.
I built one and it cost me 1600.00 if I would of got the plain headers I would of saved myself about 350.00 so I know it can be done . you can see pictures on my facebook page (davidjones )
enjoyed your history of the build … i’m just finishing my t-bucket after an 8 year … yes … 8 year build … but that was the idea … mess with it when i had the urge … i used chester’s book as well … i had a 350 and trans sitting around but had to scrounge everything else … i have $7000 in the project ($1000 of that was mistaken parts) … for instance my ford econline axle cost me $250 at a scrap yard … i bought a whole ’83 buick for $400 just to get the rear, rims, seats and steering parts … i really think it’s misleading to say you can build one for $3000 … you would really need to have access to a lot of spare parts and a lot of friends with spare parts … oh, and by the way, i built my own body! … fiberglass over a luan frame … i’m at the finish line now … am constructing a windshield frame by sectioning an old Jeep CJ3B windshield frame i had in my pile ..again enjoyed your article … and i might add … $7000 … $3000 … $10,000 … who cares … i’ve had 8 years woth of fun and it will be at the car crises this summer .. chuck
i like that tbucket i like the idea i am looking to build one my self useing a 5.9 dodge moter