Potvin Supercharger Meets High Tech T-Bucket

I’m happy to repost this story from three years ago about Kerry Smith’s unique T-Bucket because we recently introduced a fascinating interview with him on our Hooked on T-Bucket Hot Rods Podcast. It’s Episode 6 and you can listen to it here>.

I really like Kerry Smith and his approach to T-Buckets. Kerry marches to a different drummer. Who else would build a high tech T-Bucket around a 1950s-era Potvin supercharger?

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

But before we jump into all the terrific details of Kerry’s T, it’s probably helpful to have some perspective on its most eye-catching element, the Potvin Supercharger.

Potvin Supercharger Brief History

Chuck Potvin of Potvin Equipment Co. was a pioneer in the transformation of the GMC blower from a 3,600 rpm truck component into a racing mechanism that can be twisted as high as 13,000 rpm!

In the early days of GMC superchargers being used in drag racing, blowers mounted on top of the engine typically used multiple V-belts, which tended to slip or a chain drive that was prone to breakage. Chuck Potvin saw the many benefits of directly coupling the blower impeller to the engine crankshaft. Front mounting’s advantages went beyond just eliminating slippage. Advantages of the front mounted Potvin supercharger included the positive, nonslip drive, improved driver vision, lower center of gravity, and cooler location, out front in the air stream.

Potvin Supercharger exploded view

The Potvin supercharger was introduced to the hot rod market in 1958, originally in a you-weld-it kit form made up of flame cut components. Based on its rapid acceptance, that was quickly changed to machined castings which made it an easy bolt-together installation. At about the same time, Moon Equipment took over distribution of the Potvin supercharger kits and eventually acquired Potvin Equipment Co.

Potvin Supercharger Mooneyes

Of course, one of the more famous installations of the Potvin Supercharger was in the Mooneyes dragster.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

But, in today’s hot rod world the most famous Potvin supercharger installation has to be in Kerry Smith’s T-Bucket. Seriously, what other street rod has a front-mounted blower sticking through what looks like its grille shell, with no radiator in sight? And it’s all put together so cleanly.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

It starts with a Don Ross Fabrication custom frame of 2×4 tubing, with all wiring and coolant hoses hidden inside frame.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

Up front is a chromed Speedway tube axle and leaf spring, Magnum backing plates, Wilwood discs and spindles, along with Don Ross custom 4-bars,

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

The custom front crossmember houses Honda Civic rack and pinion steering. In front of the steering linkage you’ll also see adjustable steering dampers from a motorcycle.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

The engine is by Dave Plubell of D&P Machine Service in Garland, TX and is a 355 Small Block Chevy, with World heads, Speed-Pro 7.5 pistons, Crower cam, Scorpion roller rockers, 6-71 blower by BDS pumping out 10 pounds of boost, and a vintage Potvin supercharger drive that Kerry found collecting dust on a back shelf in a Florida speed shop.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

Kerry fabricated the port EFI with Cutler throttle body, Lucas injectors and Haltech F10X ECU. Fired by a Mallory MaxFire programmable distributor. Torque is transmitted by a B&M Holeshot converter through TH400 transmission.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

The fiberglass T-Bucket body is a California Custom Roadsters stretch version which is 8 inches longer than stock, being 5 inches longer in the passenger area and 3 inches in the cowl, with additional modifications by Steve Muck and Don Ross. At the front, Hoosier radials are mounted on Budnik 15×7 Famosa wheels.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

Exhaust headers are by Sanderson and you’ll note the oxygen sensor mounted to ensure proper fuel injection operation.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

Interior features a custom dash insert by Don Ross, with Autometer gauges, Budnik wheel, and Mullins column. Kerry handled all the complex electrical system, with main panel behind interior firewall, connectorized to wiring inside the frame rails. The out of sight GM CS100 alternator is driven by the driveshaft. Optima yellow-top battery, relays and other circuitry are under seat mounted.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

Black vinyl upholstered office chairs have been cleverly repurposed for bucket seating. Rear Hoosier radials are mounted on Budnik custom 17×13 Famosa wheels. The pickup bed has been modified with an unobtrusive very utilitarian air scoop.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

The pickup bed lid is opened by Dakota Digital linear actuators to reveal a custom fuel tank by Don Ross. The rest of the fuel system is made up of an SX billet pump, filter and boost-ref regulator. With the lid up you’ll also note a custom crossflow radiator with dual electric fans and Dakota Digital PAC-2000 fan controller. The cooling system utilizes reverse water flow, Jabsco electric water pump, hoses in frame, 3.5 gallons of distilled water and 2 bottles of Red Line Water Wetter.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

Tail lights are strategically located on the backs of the side air inlet scoops and the hot air is exhausted through a  custom Don Ross tailgate grille.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

Talk about a rear end! It’s not a Jag, not a Corvette. It’s a rare Halibrand quick-change Independent Rear Suspension originally made for Sprint Cars and Indy Cars.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

Kerry has a variety of quick-change gears, ranging from 2.60 to 4.11 for use in the limited-slip differential, with Wilwood inboard discs, and 4 Alden coilover shocks.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

And Kerry’s Potvin Supercharged T-Bucket is no fairgrounds cruiser. Built almost 20 years ago (although you’d never know by looking at it) Kerry’s put almost 100,000 miles on his T.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

In fact, I caught up with Kerry after he’d driven the T some 300 miles from the Twin Cities in Minnesota to the 2015 T-Bucket Nationals in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Potvin Supercharger T-Bucket Kerry Smith

So, if you haven’t made your plans yet for the 2016 T-Bucket Nationals July 6-9 in Indianapolis. This is just one example of the kinds of unique T-Buckets you’re likely to see up close and personal there — and have a chance to talk with their owners and builders.

Now, if you’re like me and just can’t get enough of Kerry Smith’s T, then I’ve got a little video below of it from the 2015 Nationals.

And as a bonus, you can see more and hear it idle in this informal video that Kerry did.

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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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8 thoughts on “Potvin Supercharger Meets High Tech T-Bucket”

  1. John has done a great article on my bucket. One of the questions I had when we started the project was if I could do EFI with a Potvin. The original setups used mechanical fuel injection, Hilborns and such, at the blower inlet. I wanted to do port EFI and just put air thru the blower. We did it and it worked fine. I’m now using a FAST EZ-EFI to control the fuel and it is really nice.

    Reply
  2. The thing about this I found fascinating is the AMT 1/25 scale SBC kit I bought recently has a Potvin blower as one of the intake options. I’m using the low-rise single-plane 4bbl carb intake option to simulate the EFI I’m putting on my 1:1 Bucket.

    Reply
    • Thanks Opus. I’ve always been fascinated by the Potvin drive, going back to seeing the original “kit” in 1958 with the flame-cut parts you had to weld together. I was really impressed the next year when Rodney Singer captured Top Eliminator at the NHRA 1959 Nationals in Detroit with his and Karol Miller’s blown Lincoln dragster with a 430 c.i. MEL engine, using the front mount Potvin drive. Karol Miller was a famous Y-Block Ford engine builder and one of my heroes as well. They defeated the feared Jack Moss twin engine Chevy powered AA/D to accomplish that. Be sure to send us some pics when your 1:1 model is done. Yes, the Potvin intake casting is a nice EFI representation.
      Potvin front drive blower kit

      Reply

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