T-Bucket History: Marty Hollmann’s Hugely Influential T-Bucket

Martin Hollmann is without a doubt the most underrated T-bucket builder of the 50’s and 60’s.

Marty Hollmann T-Bucket Hot Rod
I first wrote about Marty’s T-Bucket over ten years ago and since that time we’ve gained many new followers and added many new posts to our blog, so it’s quite likely this is the first time you’re seeing this.

Martin Hollmann's 1915 T-Bucket
Martin Hollmann’s 1915 T-Bucket

The Marty Hollmann T-Bucket holds a special place in my view of T-Bucket history not only because of its unique bobtail look at the time and its popularity, but also because Marty was the first traditional T-Bucket builder I interviewed when I started doing these blog posts. I was in awe that a man would take a call from a stranger in the Midwest who wanted to ask him about a hot rod he’d built over 50 years ago as still a teen. It was Marty’s helpful courteous responsiveness that set me on the path to doing the many stories that followed.

The T-Bucket Hat Trick

How so, you say? Sure, Grabowski and Ivo built awesome buckets that have inspired generations that followed. But, what other 19-year-old (born in Berlin, Germany, no less) creates such a unique, beautifully proportional T-bucket that it achieves the hat trick of hot rodding: the covers of Hot Rod, Car Craft, and Rod & Custom — all within a 15 month period!

Martin Hollmann T-Bucket

I first saw Marty’s T-bucket on the cover of the January 1961 Car Craft and was fascinated by it. At the time, I was only 12 and didn’t truly understand the beauty of symmetry, but I knew I loved this T-bucket. The T grille shell was sized and positioned to allow the finned Weiand valve covers to be perfectly visible above its angular sides. And that ’49 Olds V8 appeared massive — it was as wide as the bucket’s firewall!

The profile photos showed a T-bucket that appeared more rakish than those of Grabowski and Ivo. Only later did I learn that there was a significant difference between Marty’s 1915 T body and the later models used by Norm and TV Tommy. I was so taken with the look of Marty’s T that it influences what I’m doing today in building a T-Bucket.

Martin Hollmann T-Bucket

When Marty’s T appeared on the cover of the March 1961 Hot Rod, it was paired with Norm’s T touring. Coincidentally, Marty and Norm Grabowski were friends. Norm was member #10 and Marty was member #11 of the L.A. Roadsters club. I’m sure the friendship also helped when Marty’s T appeared, less windshield, in the 15th episode of the 4th season of 77 Sunset Strip as the “Chrome Coffin”.

As further proof of this bucket’s mass appeal, it was used in such movies as “Bikini Beach” and “Son of Flubber” and other TV shows like Dobie Gilles and Westinghouse Playhouse.

Marty Hollmann T-Bucket Many Loves of Dobie Gillis

Marty Hollmann Dobie Gillis T-Bucket
Marty’s T as “The Osborne Special” of Dobie Gillis’ snob rival, Chatsworth Osborne Jr.

Marty Hollmann Chrome Coffin
Edd “Kookie” Byrnes leaning on Marty Hollmann’s “Chrome Coffin”

Marty Hollmann T-Bucket Many Loves of Dobie Gillis
Marty Hollmann’s T-Bucket in TV series, “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis”

Built on a short 98 inch wheelbase with a 1948 Ford rear axle snubbed by traditional Model A Houdaille shock absorbers and a dropped ’34 Ford I-beam front axle, Marty’s T looked ready to scoot, even when sitting still.

Martin Hollmann T-Bucket

Marty’s bucket was also the car that the Lindberg “Bobtail T” model was based upon. Maybe not officially — but it most certainly was a dead-nuts knockoff. This was a huge 1/8 scale model that even came with a small DC motor to power it. Lindberg still makes the “Bobtail T” (now with a list price of $99). It’s been such a venerable model kit that Lindberg even cloned it in another color and offers it as the “Big Red Rod”.

Marty Hollman Bobtail T
Marty Hollman Bobtail T

You can see clay humanoid classic cartoon character, Gumby, tooling around in a Bobtail T in the funny little video below

I learned from Marty that he never received a cent in model car royalties. It seems Ed “Big Daddy” Roth was one of the few hot rodders back then lucky enough to have a licensing agreement with a model car company.

T-Bucket Marty Hollmann

Just in case you might have any lingering doubts about how cool Marty’s T-bucket was, here are a couple of other facts to note: Chassis guru, Kent Fuller, helped Marty in the construction and the shiny black finish was applied by an up and coming young painter named Don Prudhomme. Marty’s T was also one of the first to use a fabricated brass grille shell, done by Gilbert Metal Products, to house a radiator adequate for cooling the ’49 Olds engine that had been bored out to take 1956 Olds 324 pistons.

T-Bucket Marty Hollmann

I’m also going out on a limb here that it’s possible Marty’s was the first popular T-Bucket to use converted Model T kerosene lamps on the cowl and for the tail  light.

My Marty Hollmann T-Bucket Video

Before his passing, Martin operated one of the world’s leading independent aircraft design and engineering firms, Aircraft Designs, Inc. I’m such an admirer of Marty and his influential T-Bucket that I put together a short video so that you’ll have an opportunity to also become a fan!

Thanks to the Petersen SEMA Digitization Project, there are a few never-before-seen photos of Marty’s T-Bucket as part of the L.A. Roadsters contingent at a couple of shows in the 1960s.

The earlier single 4 barrel manifold later gave way to four deuces. The ’49 Olds engine was mated to the traditional ’39 Ford transmission.

At the 1961 L.A. Roadsters show at the Hollywood Bowl, Marty’s T was a co-featured “for sale” hot rod with the legendary Dick Flint roadster.

The Marty Hollmann T-Bucket was my earliest bobtail T influence and its clean, uncluttered basic look is timeless.

Marty sold his T roadster in the 1960s and what happened to it after is another one of those hot rod mysteries.

Unfortunately, Marty Hollmann passed in 2012 but he left quite an impression as a result of his full life not only from a hot rod perspective but also largely through his many contributions to aircraft design.

Marty Hollmann T-Bucket
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13 thoughts on “T-Bucket History: Marty Hollmann’s Hugely Influential T-Bucket”

  1. I remember all those T’s! I grew up in Nor-cal in the “60’s. High school from 1961 to 1964. Had all sorts of hotrods but never a “T”. So around in 1992 I built a “T” using the old book “How to build a “T” for $3000.00″ Built it for
    $4675.65 Corvette yellow with a Buckskin interior. Had a blast and after 7 years, traded it for a 1940 Ford 4 door. Wish I still had the “T”! Went thru a coupe hot rod builds including another project car started by another guy. That was a “T”. Due to the weather in Amarillo, Texas, the “T” went away and I built a “32 Ford 5 window highboy. Now I’m thinking of building another “T” for one of my Grandson’s who is 12 years old. This ought to be interesting!

  2. I have had bodies, frames and parts, I’ve built 1 of at least most every model car T Bucket available, I was also a friend of Norm. Bob Chester at Spirit is a good friend, I’ve ordered parts from Speedway, Spirit and Total Performance since 1998, I watched EVERY episode of 77 Sunset Strip (even when TV’s were all black and white) I’ve got every book about T Buckets from John here and some assembly manuals. I have all the episodes of Sam and Dave building the Total Performance T Bucket from Shade Tree Mechanic. I have at least 55-60 years worth of HotRod magazine, 20-25 years of Rod & Custom and still have the first issue of Street Rodder (May 1973). My HotRod magazine mailing address is Lynn Hotrod Chitty, I am one of the original members of the National T Bucket “Association” member #11 BUT no T Bucket? Between legal issues with my wife and her ex over child support and having had cancer twice I sold all my parts at least two times, lost at least two homes two or three jobs and several cars, and now at 69 with lung cancer (just went through cyber knife treatments) two years ago). I just don’t think I have it in me to try again and that’s ok because I have had good times and my good friend Dave Pilgrim let me drive his T years ago so what more could a guy ask for?

  3. The Marty Holman T actually popped up on a facebook page recently, later it had the olds motor pulled and a sbc put in its place, there are pics of it not to shortly after he sold it with the SBC in it, and you can tell its the same car, well that care sufaced not long ago but no was redone and it was changed a little more into a modern type T bucket.

    • Thanks Jeff, I think you may be referring to the Gary Hendrickson T-Bucket and although it has numerous elements similar to Marty Hollmann’s it is a different car which was built around the same time. I’ll have more about it in a later story.Gary Hendrickson T-Bucket roadster

  4. actually it looks like a flat rear crossmember with something like a ’40 or so spring on a ‘late model’ spring behind rear end.

    • Good observation, Mitch. Before building his T-Bucket, Marty had the Olds engine and LaSalle transmission in a 1934 Ford Phaeton, which was too slow at the drag strip with its extra weight. That’s one reason he built the T-Bucket and to do so he traded the Phaeton body for the T body and kept the driveline. According to Marty, he used Ford Model A frame rails which he customized and that were welded by Kent Fuller. Since it’s likely he used the more flat Model B spring from the ’34 Phaeton, you’re no doubt correct about the later spring mounted behind the axle and under the flat crossmember. Thanks for bringing that out.

  5. Thanks Fran. Marty sold his T not long after it became famous because his family returned to Germany. It was listed in an ad in the back of Hot Rod magazine for $2500. You can see the ad at 2:24 in the video. Marty later returned to the U.S. and airplanes were then his passion and he never got back into hot rods.

  6. The memory banks are a little dim as I did not remember Marty’s name at the beginning of your article, but the pictures of that neat little car sure restored them. I think that I have a couple of the mags. this T was in, but I was unaware of the other history that went with it. Anybody know where it’s at or if Marty still has a hot rod? Thanks for history, Carp

  7. Hi Tim,

    I’m pretty sure Marty’s chassis was not kicked up at the rear.
    Rather, it looks like it has a Model A-type rear crossmember that creates a channel about 3-4″ above the flat frame rails that the rear spring is mounted in.
    Model A chassis
    By now, you’ve probably also received the link to the photos via your corrected email address.

    Thanks again,

  8. G’day John
    My question on whether the chassis was flat was referring to whether or not it was kicked up at the back (a z-chassis might have been a better term for me to use). But anyway, with the pictures I’m not sure if I gave the wrong email address or not, I can only see the one picture in your reply on the site (sorry was hoping for other shots).
    Getting back to the T-Bucket though again, yes really good looking even the old knee action shocks just add appeal, where modern gas shocks wouldn’t have the same effect, just brilliant wish I lived in that time (to see that car with the expectations of the day would have been mind blowing).

    Thanks again if possible
    Tim (Australia)

  9. Hi Tim,

    Thank you for the nice comment. You have great taste because I believe Marty’s “bobtail” T-Bucket is one of the greatest looking ever.
    I hope you find these pics helpful and wish you success in your build. Always great to hear from T-Bucket builders down under. Hope you’ll spread the word about our site to your mates.


    P.S. Yes, Marty’s chassis would be considered “flat” vs. a tubular frame. However, I believe it was actually a Model A channel steel type frame.
    Side view showing frame of Marty Hollmann's T-Bucket

  10. G’day tbucketplans website
    Just been having a look at your page on the Marty Hollmann T-Bucket and went on to look at your YouTube video of the T-Bucket. I live in Australia and have been planning a T-Bucket build for a while and love the proportions of this rod and the brass petrol tank on the back rather than the pickup box that is the norm over here.
    I am emailing to ask pretty please with sugar on top whether you could send me the pictures from your video and any other pictures you have of Marty’s T-Bucket as I am fairly computer dumb and don’t know if I can get the pictures off YouTube or not. My plan would be to build a fairly similar T-Bucket to this but with the steering wheel on the right side of the car where it’s suppose to be. Also another question is Marty Hollmann’s T-Bucket chassis flat judging from the video on You Tube it looks like it is.
    Thank you in advance if this deed is possible
    Tim (from Australia)


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