“La Cucaracha”, the Iskenderian T-Bucket Roadster

Today, July 10, 2019, is Ed Iskenderian’s 98th Birthday! We’re happy to help celebrate by republishing this post from 2010 and also releasing our one-hour interview with Ed on our Hooked on T-Bucket Hot Rods Podcast. Join in the celebration!

Ed Iskenderian Roadster
With its nickname being Spanish for “The Cockroach”, it’s likely no insult was intended toward Ed Iskenderian’s iconic 1924 T-Bucket roadster. It’s more probable the moniker referred to the fact that Isky purchased the beginnings of this car for $4 in 1939 from his best friend, John Athan. He then tossed away the flimsy Model T frame rails in favor of the sturdier Essex frame which likely came from a junkyard and offered the added benefit of easily mounting a ’32 Ford flathead V8 to replace the wimpy 4 cylinder T-banger.
Isky Roadster Hot Rod Magazine
After getting it on the road in 1940, Ed added a set of Maxi “F” semi-overhead valve heads recognizing that the original 1930’s design which put the exhaust valves overhead surrounded by water jackets to improve cooling for trucks would also be the basis for improved performance on the dry lakes. Isky’s intuitions were positively confirmed when his T-Bucket roadster turned 120 mph at El Mirage in 1942. The look and performance of the Isky Roadster were notable enough to land the cover of the sixth issue of Hot Rod Magazine in 1948. In his pursuit of further speed, Ed had sought out Clay Smith for a cam and when faced with the long lead times quoted by the legendary cam grinder, Iskenderian decided to give it a try grinding his own. Thus, the fabled Iskenderian Cams business was born and Ed eventually earned his own nickname, “The Camfather”.
Isky Roadster
What’s really enduring about the Isky Roadster is its distinctive look. Its sleek profile is due in part to the subtle trimming of 3 inches off the top lip of the body and its unique grill shell is the vertical amalgamation of the top halves of two early 30’s Pontiac grill shells.
Ed Iskenderian T-Bucket
With its black lacquer finish, formerly blood red interior, wide whitewalls on Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels, and swoopy chromed exhaust headers the car created by a young Ed Iskenderian has stood the test of time and is one of hot rodding’s most distinctive icons. I love it!

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John Morehead

Founder at TBucketPlans.com
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!

TBucketPlans.com 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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6 thoughts on ““La Cucaracha”, the Iskenderian T-Bucket Roadster”

  1. Oh, those were the days! As a kid growing up CA in the late ’50s and early 60’s I remember literally drooling over these type of cars (and there were lots of them). There was a very high stack of car bodies in a field (near Huron) and on the top was a ’32 Ford Duece coupe. Every time I passed that stack I would tell my family, “That’s the car I want.” of course I never even got close enough to it to know exactly what was. After I left there I have always kept that image in my “kid’s mind.” I still dream about it and wonder if someone else saw it’s beauty and rescued it or if it just became scrap. Still Dreamin’

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  2. This is what is meant when they say, “They don’t make ’em like they used to!” Both the Man and the Machine.

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  3. I got to know “ISKY” when I lived in Bellflower, California. I had acquired a huge amount of early racing newspaper clippings and original early racing programs from the board tracks and dirt tracks dating from the very early 30’s. As I was digging through all that I had I was thinking who would be a good source to talk to about the early days of racing. After talking to a few friends and showing to them what I had the same name came up a few times to convince me that Ed Iskenderian would be the one to consult. One day I went to his shop in Gardenia, California and asked if he was there and I was shown to a door leading through the shop and told to go through the big roll up door and I would find him out there. As I was walking through the inner sanction of the hallowed halls of “CAM HEAVEN” I reached the big roll up door and just a short distance from the door was the man himself. I approached him and introduced myself and started a conversation with him and I showed him a couple of items I had brought with me to give him an idea of what I had at home. We went back inside and sat down at the big table that is just inside the front door of his shop and had the most fascinating conversation that I could have ever imagined with a very famous and historical person that was the creator of performance cam shafts in the world.

    That day and that experience was one of my most memorable that I will/have lived with ever since.

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