Leg Show T-Bucket and Danny Eichstedt Blow Traditional Hot Rod Minds, Part 1
Hot rod builder/editor/author/archeologist Pat Ganahl called it the best rod magazine cover ever produced: the eye-grabbing January, 1971 Rod & Custom featuring Danny Eichstedt’s Leg Show T-Bucket.
Calling it a “mind blower” for the street, the R&C story pointed out the irony of how such a radical departure from ‘traditional’ hot rodding was winning shows, capturing crowd enthusiasm and providing tons of driving enjoyment for its then 23-year-old owner and builder, Danny Eichstedt.
As legendary automotive illustrator, stylist and now Hot Rod Magazine staff editor Thom Taylor observed in noting the Leg Show to be one of his favorite T-Buckets, “This car was startling in appearance — as any car for sure, but also from a traditional T-Bucket perspective.”
But, let’s start from the beginning about how this iconic hot rod, show rod, street rod came about.
Building the Leg Show T-Bucket
It all started in 1965 in the senior year of high school for Danny Eichstedt of Downey, California. The late Jack Keef, Dan’s good friend since 6th grade, had a T-Bucket hot rod and Danny decided he wanted one too — but like nothing that had been seen before.
Danny envisioned a short, 88″ wheelbase T with no turtle deck and not even a pickup box, which had become the “Norm” by that time. Coincidentally, around that time T-Bucket pioneer Norm Grabowski was working at Cal Automotive, in North Hollywood which was then owned by Tex Collins. So about a year before any construction began, Danny and Jack went to Cal Automotive and purchased one of their conventional fiberglass 1915 T bodies and a frame that had been welded up by Norm. In the photo above you can see Danny working the spray bomb to paint the frame in the equipment rental yard owned by Jack Keef’s parents.
Not long after, Danny graduated from high school, entered the service and set off for four tours of duty in Vietnam, not to return until September of 1969. But, thanks to Jack Keef, much was accomplished on the T-Bucket build while Danny was away serving his country.
Around the time of Danny’s high school graduation the Early Times car club was formed and became active in the area where Danny and Jack lived. (Jack became Early Times member no. 29 and Danny became member no. 67 after his return from the service).
Another Early Times member was Dan Woods who had created the Milk Truck as not only a show rod feature car, but also to be able to cruise with fellow Early Times members. As the Milk Truck show bookings increased, Dan’s cruising opportunities diminished. So, when he spied a really sharp looking T-Bucket with an abbreviated body at the 1967 Winternationals car show he traded the Milk Truck to its owner, coincidentally future show car builder and promoter Bob Reisner. Bob had bought the distinctively sharp looking 1915 T-Bucket from L.A. Roadsters member, Don Oaks. Here’s the story on how that influential T-Bucket came about.
At the time, Dan Woods lived in Paramount which is adjacent to Downey on the west, so Danny and Jack had many opportunities to see Dan Woods’ newly acquired, sleek T-Bucket. The body on Woods’ T was drawing much attention for its sectioned low sides and high back look. “If he cut his body 4 inches, then we’ll cut ours 6 inches,” and thus was born the low-slung Leg Show T-Bucket look.
They later learned that Dan Woods’ body had not been cut as much as they thought (only 3″ instead of 4″), thereby giving theirs an even more radical appearance. Keep in mind that this is all done by young guys in home garages. In fact, the Leg Show body resided for a while in Danny’s mother’s living room.
If you wonder where the name came from, you need look no further than this under construction photo and picture an attractive mini-skirted female in place of Danny. By the late 60s, the mini skirt trend was tapering off because they just couldn’t get any more mini and skimpy hot pants were just taking off, so the term “leg show” was prominent in popular culture. Of course, the T body didn’t have opening doors and the cut down sides made entering and exiting much easier than with conventional T-Buckets.
This was all planned by Danny and drawn up with a fellow serviceman while Danny was in Vietnam. The plan began to be executed by Jack Keef, 7600 miles away in Downey — not such an easy thing to do back then. At about the same time, Jack Keef also began a 7-year build on another extremely radical show car, Stage Fright.
Danny had a little bit of money set aside for the Leg Show T-Bucket build before entering the service and he also saved flight pay and hazardous duty pay, along with some entrepreneurial endeavors, to fund the build. As Danny would get money, he’d send funds to Jack with a wish list. Sometimes it worked out. Other times it didn’t. In the pic above you’ll see the distinctive super-deep-dish steering wheel that was like those being built at J&J Chassis in nearby Cerritos when Dan Woods worked there.
They bought a set of Halibrand mag wheels for the rear of the car and sent them out to be polished. The polisher, however, got carried away and ground down the distinctive Halibrand bead around the wheel openings and they ended up looking like the less desirable Ansens. Jack had already gotten some super-wide, 19-1/2 inch, Buick Skylark wire wheels from the late Don Thelen (who would later be one of the builders on the ZZ Top Eliminator among other notable rods) to use on his Stage Fright so they got used on the Leg Show instead with some equally fat Goodyear low profile rubber.
They bought a Crower-cammed 327 cubic inch Chevy junior fueler motor with Hilborn injectors, intending for the motor to go into Leg Show T-Bucket and the fuel injection system to be used on Stage Fright. Later, through his good relationship with Dean Moon, Jack ended up with a rare Gurney-Westlake Weber-carbed Ford engine that would be used in Stage Fright and the Hilborns were then available for the Leg Show along with Offenhauser finned valve covers and a Joe Hunt magneto
Initially, the Leg Show used 19″ Moon dragster front spoke wheels. Later, they swung a deal with Hallcraft to get the new 16″ Hallcrafts at cost in turn for Hallcraft being able to use a pic of the Leg Show in their catalog, which they did. The spoked rims were wrapped with 3.00 x 16 Inoue motorcycle tires. (Hallcraft was so accommodating that when Danny later experienced a crash with the Leg Show that they replaced the wheels for free).
Early Times member Tom Booth, who built a stunning gold torsion-suspended T-Bucket that was featured in Hot Rod magazine, helped make the Chevy engine look great by getting everything smoothed out with a die grinder.
Jim Babb was another Early Times member and his expertise in fabricating brass radiators for Fad T’s played a big role in some of the distinctive Leg Show features. The Babb built low-profile brass Model-T look radiator was 6 inches thick because it was made up of two radiator cores with spacing and louvers in between for effective cooling with an 80/20 ethylene glycol mix without the use of a fan, which would take away from a clean engine appearance. The low-profile radiator was filled from a unique octagonal brass surge tank built by Babb and he applied the octagonal theme to other features on the car like the headlamps, cowl lights, mirrors, brake lights and fuel tank, as well as numerous brackets.
A nice view of the Goodyear 14.70×15 CanAm Indy tires and Jim Babb’s unique octagonal fuel tank and tail lights, as well as Danny’s Early Times club plaque. Danny used a 1950 Oldsmobile rear axle with considerably shorter gears than the standard 3.23:1 ratio. You’ll also note that while Leg Show used the traditional Model T arched rear spring that Danny was a bit ahead of the curve again by utilizing Airheart disc brakes.
Another unique feature of the Leg Show was that it had no dashboard, which also gave greater visibility to the mohair stitching by master upholsterer, Eddie Martinez, who had done the interior of Ed Roth’s “Outlaw”. For cruising purposes, Danny switched out the Hilborn fuel injection for a more sedate four barrel intake that was covered with a unique Babb-constructed air cleaner which housed water temperature and oil pressure gauges in the back which were read by Danny through the windshield.
The original Candy Red paint was applied by Larry Watson.
Leg Show T-Bucket Premiers at Grand National Roadster Show
After Dan’s return from Vietnam, work on the Leg Show began in earnest, but Danny, Jack and their friends all had full-time jobs and not a great deal of spare time. They were up until 2:00 a.m. before they made the journey north to Oakland for the Leg Show’s debut at the 1970 Grand National Roadster Show.
Of course, the dramatically different Leg Show won the Street Roadster class at Oakland. Unfortunately, they couldn’t contend for the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster trophy because they didn’t have enough time to get Leg Show running, which was one of the AMBR requirements.
A nice view of the tuned length individual exhaust headers which exited the rear in staggered fashion, with Yamaha motorcycle exhaust baffles inserted to make things just a bit more easy on the ears. The winner of the giant America’s Most Beautiful Roadster trophy that year was Andy Brizio with his “Instant T”.
At the show, they got to know Andy as well as his young son, Roy Brizio, and on a later trip to Southern California by the Brizio family Roy had the opportunity to go for a mind-blowing ride at Ascot Park in Jack Keef’s T-Bucket, which by that time had sidedraft Webers.
Returning from Oakland, Danny and friends had to take 15 minute shifts driving due to their own lack of sleep and the fact they all had to be at work the next morning.
What a beautiful view through the etched glass windshield of the Leg Show T-Bucket.
Artfully etched glass was coming into its own in the show car and hot rod world then and was a nice way to not only enhance the look of a show car but to also win extra judging points.
The fact that fellow Early Times club member Jim “Jake” Jacobs was Associate Editor at Rod & Custom at the time is purely coincidental because the Leg Show T-Bucket earned its cover car status from its incredible reception at the Oakland show. When the eventful day came that photographer Darryl Norenberg shot the Leg Show T-Bucket for the R&C cover and feature story, in keeping with the car’s name they tried photographing it with a pert young lady, but alas those shots didn’t make it past conservative editorial scrutiny.
Originally, Dan planned to commit Leg Show to racking up series points in car shows, but found it was just too much fun actually driving it. And drive it, he did. Not too long after Oakland, Danny departed Downey for the 400+ mile round trip to the Visalia Roadster Round-Up, where naturally Leg Show won the People’s Choice award. In the photo above, taken at Visalia, you’ll note some changes such as the four-barrel intake instead of FI, Ansen wheels instead of the deep dish wires, and a change in color. The rear wheel change was to accommodate rubber more suitable for the long trip, while the intake and the color will be covered in Part 2.
In a span of almost 5 years, a hot rod concept in Danny Eichstedt’s mind came together with the able assistance of Jack Keef and other friends and Early Times car club members. With a budget of just a little over $5,000 much creativity and home garage ingenuity Danny Eichstedt unleashed on the hot rod world the truly mind-blowing Leg Show T-Bucket. But this is only the first part of the story. The second part covers even more Leg Show changes and one of the most monumental trips every taken by a show-winning T-Bucket.
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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