Grasshopper Roadster T-Bucket Tribute: Beauty and Brawn

I’m republishing this post from four years ago because friend Timmy McMaster (Y-Block Guy) recently published a historic hot rod photo that blew my mind.

Grasshopper Roadster Thanks Timmy McMaster

Timmy said,

“Local Hanford, CA man built this car in the late 50s. Sold it after a while and then it became famous in someone else hands. Picture was taken two blocks from my shop (Hanford Auto Supply) at Tenth and Lacey in Hanford CA. 76 station in back is still there but is a burger stand now.”

Which leads us to today’s hot rod history lesson: Who or what popularized the concept of chassis lightening holes?

The Geraghty & Crawford T Roadster! Which is what that primered Hanford T-bodied drag roadster became. And it had a huge influence on me as well.

Grasshopper Roadster 1923 T-Bucket Geraghty Crawford

One Fall afternoon after a hard day of sixth grade studies 😉 I made my regular stop at the corner drug store on my way home and was transfixed by the cover of the new Hot Rod magazine on display. It was the most fascinating mechanical marvel I’d ever seen: the Grasshopper Roadster, a beautiful ’23 T body shell and a mass of chrome and matching green hot rod chassis made for both show and go!

Geraghty Crawford Grasshopper Roadster 1923 T Hot Rod October 1959

The Grasshopper Roadster, built by John Geraghty and co-owned by John Crawford was the subject of a 3-page centerspread with photos by Eric Rickman.


Grasshopper T roadster

I can confidently say that up until that 1959 national exposure nobody had ever seen a more elegantly beautiful Altered roadster: T or any other body for that matter.

Grasshopper T-Bucket Geraghty

The Grasshopper Roadster’s eye-popping green color on the cover was described in the feature as “Creme de Mint” lacquer and the interior rotogravure photos coincidentally had a green tint. (In case you’re not Mad Men-era mixed drink savvy, a Grasshopper cocktail is made with crème de menthe liquer).

Geraghty Grasshopper T-Bucket

That issue of Hot Rod became my favorite and I spent untold hours gazing at the Grasshopper Roadster photos and reading about it.

Green Hornet Grasshopper T-Bucket Model Kit

Not too long after, I even bought and built the Monogram rip-off model, which they called the Green Hornet, that even used the HRM photos as the inspiration for its box art.

Grasshopper Green Hornet Model Display

The hobby shop store display was so convincingly cool!

Like others before Ed “Big Daddy” Roth hit the model car world, Geraghty and Crawford received no royalties. Back then not only kids but also car builders didn’t know about licensing deals or royalties

New Grasshopper Roadster Built by Dave Shuten and Galpin Auto Sports

Grasshopper Roadster 1923 T-Bucket Geraghty Crawford

To say I was blown away at the 2015 Grand National Roadster Show to see the Grasshopper Roadster reproduction built by Dave Shuten and the crew at Galpin Auto Sports is an understatement. My jaw dropped! Never did I think I would have an opportunity to see this 23 T roadster I so idolized as a youngster up close and personal.

Grasshopper Roadster 1923 T-Bucket Geraghty Crawford

To me, one of the fascinating features of the Grasshopper Roadster was the use of lightening holes in its frame, which Hot Rod described as “already light, alloy channel”.  Coincidentally, in the same issue was a Roger Huntington article on the use of lightening holes to reduce the weight of a drag car and improve its performance. I’m still fascinated by lightening holes. The Grasshopper Roadster, however, didn’t stop with the frame holes. Of course, the rear brake backing plates were drilled to aid cooling as well. However, the Grasshopper’s chromed bell housing was liberally ventilated with what appeared to be 3/4″ diameter lightening holes, too! 🙄

Grasshopper Roadster 1923 T-Bucket Geraghty Crawford

The beautiful “hammock” style seat that hung from the Grasshopper’s chromed rollbar was unique and I loved how the body panel pinstriping really made the ’23 T body shape look like a fine sculpture rather than an old sheet metal container. It turns out that the striping and lettering were done by Von Dutch — and they’ve been lovingly recreated in the new Galpin version.

Grasshopper Roadster 1923 T-Bucket Geraghty Crawford

The original steel T body had been reinforced with small diameter tubing and ran a traditional turtle deck, under which was a chromed quickchange rear axle that was solid mounted to the frame and also used the chromed rear wishbones for additional axle stability.

Grasshopper Roadster 1923 T-Bucket Geraghty Crawford

The Grasshopper Roadster truly was built for both Show and Go. For Show, it used a hollowed-out, fully-chromed ’57 Olds engine with supercharger and dual quad carburetion. For Go, the Olds engine was bored and stroked to 480 inches, with 9 1/2:1 compression and 18 pounds of boost, fed by a big Enderle injector. Unfortunately, the lightened chassis had been originally built for a small block Chevy engine and the massive torque of the big, blown Olds would twist things such that it was never possible to get any kind of traction, especially with the hard tires of the day.

Grasshopper Roadster 1923 T-Bucket Geraghty Crawford

The real beauty of the Grasshopper Roadster is evident in the above photo with the nicely designed and striped front crossmember and spring perch, the shock mounts and Deuce grille shell. The nifty little 12 inch Halibrand front mag wheels were complemented by rear Halibrands. Another unique feature which can be seen in the first photo on this story is how the traditional wishbones were not only split at the rear but also mid-way in their length transitioning into radius rods attaching to the front axle.

Dave Shuten John Geraghty Grasshopper Roadster
Dave Shuten with original Grasshopper Roadster builder, John Geraghty

It’s also very nice to know that the original builder, John Geraghty, thanks to editorial and photographic whiz Eric Geisert was introduced to Dave Shuten and his Grasshopper tribute (I hate to use the word clone — just sounds bad). Unfortunately, John Geraghty passed away a few months after the Roadster Show unveiling.

Grasshopper Roadster 1923 T-Bucket Geraghty Crawford

I really have to thank Beau Boeckmann and Galpin Auto Sports for having the respect of and commitment to our hot rodding roots to enable and support the efforts of Dave Shuten and crew to resurrect the Grasshopper Roadster for a new generation of rodders to discover and for the old generation to reminisce.

If, you’re like me and can’t get enough Grasshopper, you’ll certainly enjoy this video walk around.

If you’d like some insight into how the Grasshopper recreation came about at Hollywood Hot Rods, then check out this photo.
Grasshopper Hollywood Hot Rods

And the following photo from Caprice Photography shows what appears to be the turtle deck reconstruction.
Grasshopper Hollywood Hot Rods Caprice Photography

And if you’re like me and just can’t get enough of the cool Grasshopper T you’ll love this new video from Jalopnik. It gets really good at about the 6 minute mark.

John Morehead
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10 thoughts on “Grasshopper Roadster T-Bucket Tribute: Beauty and Brawn”

  1. Thank you, Dave brought his replica to my father’s funeral and even fired it up. I still remembered it from when I was a small child. My father built many other race engines over the years. It was fun working in his garage as a teen. He also built some incredible Christmas decorations in the 60’s including a rocket ship, helicopter, train and flying saucer. All made it on the front page of the Glendale Nees Press and the Rocket ship on the LA Times
    John Geraghty

  2. Even though this is an old post, I thought I’d mention to John above that The Grasshopper is proudly displayed at Galpin’s museum that the public is welcome in 9-5 m-f. It’s a beautiful car, also I didn’t see it mentioned (skimmed thru the post real fast) that the painter is Darryl Holenbeck (last years 2016 GNRS winner) luckily I’m friends with Dave, Darryl, and Troy, and at the 2015 GNRS, Darryl and Dave let my young daughter (who was fighting cancer at the time) get inside and sit and pose in it. I guess it just brought up some fun memories when I saw this post pop up on a Google search for T-buckets.
    Thanks, Ken

  3. I’d like to know about the cooling system. The car appears to be without a radiator, but I see hoses leading away on the driver’s side front of the motor. Does It use the frame as a radiator?

    • Good question, Bob. Keep in mind the Grasshopper was built only for drag racing, so there is no radiator for cooling. However, if you look closely that hose you see is attached to the water pump on the driver side and attaches to a cylindrical vertical mounted simple tank behind the grille shell (which is barely visible — see below). It was just to recirculate water for minimal cooling on the short blasts.
      Grasshopper coolant recirculation


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