The single most enduring package of information relating to T-buckets and their ongoing popularity is the T-bucket plans of California Custom Roadsters (CCR).
We’re enthusiastically proud to have partnered with CCR to offer the newly expanded, revised digital edition of their plans for generations to come of T-Bucket lovers and builders.
According to Plan
Building a Fad T the California Custom Roadster Way, At Home for Pennies
By Joe Mayall, Editor
Rod Action magazine, September, 1977
I didn’t doubt Bill Keifer’s word, but I did find it hard to believe when he gave me the figure of 4,000 to the question of how many cars had been built using California Custom Roadster components. But, he went on to explain that many of that number were built from the plan sets he has to offer. These have been available since 1973, and Bill didn’t have an up-to-date count on the number sold. Bill agreed to let us look at the plans, and we were very impressed.
Having been a mechanical designer and draftsman for many years before becoming a professional journalist, I really appreciated the quality of the drawings, and the straightforward way everything is presented. The plans are not supplied in the form which one usually expects, like a set of house plans where everything is on one large sheet, but rather on several standard (typing) size sheets. Each set covers a certain part of the chassis for a T bucket, and where they are beneficial full size patterns are included.
There are five basic plan sets. Set number one is the frame and is seven pages long. By studying these carefully and following them to the letter, even a novice builder can construct a quality frame for a Fad-T. Page one includes a bill of materials so that the builder can purchase everything going in and when he starts to work he will have all of the material needed. There are some interesting tips on this page which will help the builder better understand what goes into a quality car, even with something as basic as welding up the frame. By carefully reading this page someone that has never constructed a car before will get good enough information to proceed with confidence. Not only do the plans help you to cut out the parts needed to build the frame, but illustrations on how to jig the pieces for welding are included. The plans take you through the step by step of tacking and measuring prior to final welding, and show how to finish welds for a clean appearance. When everything is completed on set 1, you will have a frame with front and rear crossmembers, the front spring perch, and the front and rear radius rod brackets. At this stage the frame is ready for set 2, which is the front end.
The front end plan set gives a detailed description of how to build a dropped tubular axle complete with all of the spring and radius rod brackets, the steering arms for the spindles, and the front radius rods themselves. When this step is completed the car will be ready for front wheels.
The bill of materials needed for this phase is included on page one, and even gives a very detailed explanation of which spring is right for the car, the number of leaves, and the dimensions. Like the other sets, everything needed is spelled out so you can make one trip to the steel and hardware stores for material.
Building a tube axle may seem like a big task to some, but the plans do such a good job of describing the process, a good welder will not hesitate to jump right in. The real critical part is getting the king pin bosses in at the right angle. The way the end of the tube is cut has much to do with getting the bosses positioned properly, so a full size pattern to lay over the end of the tube is included. The welding of the axle is critical, so the builder may want to tack everything and then have the welding done professionally. Even is this is the approach, a considerable savings in long green is going to be realized for the do-it-yourselfer.
For the guy that wants things to be right, there is an excellent explanation of the Ackerman principle along with information on having it come out correct so the car will steer as it is suppose to.
Like the frame set (set 1), the front end plans make it easy to do it right, even for a first time builder.
Plan sets 3 and 4 both deal with the mounting of the rear end. Set 3 is for a Jaguar rear end and the other is for the conventional type. Each set of plans handles the assembly in a step-by-step way, and the same type of bill of materials is used that were described for sets 1 and 2.
The set for the conventional rear end (set 4) even has some good tips on selecting the make and year of rear end to use, so unless you have what you are sure you are going to use it is wise to get the plans before the components are actually purchased. Full size patterns are included in each set for brackets and gussets, and full descriptions of things like the radius rods are drawn out clearly. Like the front end plan set, the rear spring for the conventional rear end is completely described so that the right one will be used. With the completion of the work called for on the rear end plan sets you will have a rolling chassis that is only lacking the steering box, the motor mounts and a brake master cylinder, and they are next.
The fifth set of plans in the series deals with the motor mounts and the steering. To begin with, Bill found out a long time ago that for the type of car that is built by these plans, the reversed Corvair steering box is just fine. The plans give a complete breakdown of how to reverse the Corvair steering box and what modifications are needed to the output arm to have it usable. The changeover of the box itself is fairly simple, and with the detail that the drawings show it is even better. Patterns are included for the steering box mounting hardware, and the location of this on the frame is spelled out clearly. Even the steering drag link length is shown, so there is nothing left to guesswork.
On the motor mounts, CCR uses an early Ford type biscuit under the engine side mount bracket. The frame tab is a simple plate with a gusset, and the three items combine to make up a fine mount that is very sturdy. The plans call for a 1968 or later Chevrolet engine, but by substituting a different engine plate these can be used with many other late model engines.
The last thing covered in plan set 5 is the transmission support and center crossmember, and for good reason. Since the mount location for different transmissions varies, the engine and transmission combination must be used to locate the rear (transmission) mount. This is called out in the plans as is the proper way to jig and tack everything prior to finish welding.
We mentioned the master cylinder earlier, and that is about the only thing not covered by the plans. The reason for this is that the mounting of the cylinder is very simple, and the pedal is part of it as supplied by CCR, so there is little fabrication involved.
The CCR Chassis Building Series have been around for four years, but they were in the making for some time so are actually older than that. However, their age does not mean that they are outdated, but rather that they have been tried and proven to work. And, work well to boot.
Prior to the plans being offered, California Custom Roadster was building their cars this way, and they have continued to do so right up till now, and Bill assures us that as long as he has such a workable design he’s going to continue to go this way for some time.
Since CCR builds their customers’ Fad-Ts to these plans, all of the brackets that are called for on them are available to the builder. If the builder has the tools and skills to construct the chassis, but does not want to make all of the brackets it takes, these can be ordered in groups or singularly from the CCR catalog. These will cost a little more than those built at home by hand, but they do have the advantage of being made on an automatic flame cutting machine, and require a minimum of finishing. The catalog also has all of the hardware that you can’t build yourself, like the front and rear springs, shackle kits, spherical ball ends, as well as the body and all of those accessory items. It should be pointed out that CCR is a complete street rod shop that specializes in Fad cars. By contacting and working with CCR from the outset of a project, the builder will get parts that were engineered to work together. There won’t be any problems of the various components being compatible, and there is a full complement of parts that includes things like the interior, wiring, and other items that will make your next car building project a fun one.
California Custom Roadster has recently relocated in a new, larger facility. The plans as outlined herein run $5.00 per set or $20.00 for the complete package of five sets (including front end, frame, two types of rear ends, and the steering and mount sets). These plans are a must for the serious T builder that wants to do it himself, but wants a car that does not look home built. The CCR roadsters are consistent trophy winners at car shows and rod runs everywhere, and are always distinctive. The first step to having one of these cars is to contact CCR and request a catalog or order a set of plans. While you are at it, have Bill send you out one of the flyers on his new chassis kits, the price is right and it will get you a start on a car that can be ready for the ’78 Street Rod Nationals.
Now that I’ve been through all of the sheets of the plan sets on the CCR roadsters, I can see why the number of units built runs so high. The plans are easy to read and the parts that can be built will work, what else can the novice builder ask for?
In a 1987 LA Times interview, Bill Keifer summed things up nicely, “It’s roadster weather out here all the time, right? We’re the trend setters. In New York, they go for fancy apartments and people; in New York, it’s who you know. In Southern California, it’s what you drive. This area is probably the car capital of the world.”
But today’s middle-aged rodders have mellowed, he said.
“They’ve been trying to change the image of the old hot rodder,” said Keifer, 41. “They call themselves street rodders now. They don’t go around burning the tires anymore and hot rodding around town. The cars today are cruisers, not really hot rods. You’re out there to say, ‘Hey, look at me,’ not to burn up the street.”
Somewhere along the line, the company name was pluralized and today, California Custom Roadsters is located in Chino, CA. Sadly, Bill Keifer passed away in 2004 but the Keifer family continues the tradition building some of the highest quality T-Bucket bodies, chassis’ based on the original plans, T-Bucket kits, accessories and complete high-end T-Bucket roadsters.
This new digital edition of the California Custom Roadsters T-Bucket Chassis Plans features a new bonus Plan Set 6 for installing rear coil-over shocks.
In addition, we’ve included the CCR part numbers for most all of the brackets and parts welded and attached to the frame and axles. That way, you can choose what’s best: to either fabricate the part or have CCR provide it.