For quite some time I’ve been fascinated by a wildly raked T-Bucket with roots that go back almost 60 years in the Spokane, Washington area. Its lingering appearance from the 1970s is something most people either love or hate. Personally, I love it and when I saw that it was recently relisted on eBay I just had to do a story on this California raked T-Bucket.
But first, if you’re not familiar with what a raked hot rod is here’s the definition according to the Ultimate Hot Rod Dictionary:
California rake: n Traditional term for any pronounced vehicle body and chassis marked by a low front end and a relatively high rear body position. Initially popularized in the 1950s to describe the then-unique stance applied to California-based hot rods.
I know, it may look a bit strange or even silly. But you have to put it in perspective. Here’s the early 1960s logo of the East Bay Rods car club in Northern California.
Then take a look at the Ed Roth waterslide decal below, done by Ed Newton in the mid-1960s as well.
The look had become so widespread that in a 1974 Rod & Custom article, designer Tom Daniel gave the “broke back” raked T-Bucket look a thumbs down — at least primarily in the below case because of the gap between the mounting of the body to the frame.
Coincidentally, another similarly raked T-Bucket built in Southern California in the 1960s happened to be on eBay recently as well. (To see how that T-Bucket ended up on television’s Fast ‘n Loud see the story here).
That’s from the 60s and 70s, but also check out the more contemporary cartoon done by artist George Trosley.
You get the point. The radically raked T-Bucket is a time-honored hot rod cartoon image. And hot rodders have been building cars to match hot rod cartoon images since Steve Scott shook the world up in 1965 with his Uncertain T.
Raked T-Bucket Starts as Teenager’s Dream
According to Bob Shepherd (Stude54ht on the HAMB) this steel-bodied T’s hot rod roots go back to 1958 when he started helping young John Fleckenstein build his dream hot rod. The 1960 photo above captures John doing the initial fire up of the T with Bob riding shotgun and local speed shop owner, Ned Kelly, offering his experienced guidance to the enthusiastic Spokane, Washington teens. With its radically chopped T grille shell, suicide front axle, stubby pickup bed and wild engine it definitely had “the look.”
Dubbed “T-Soto” for the DeSoto hemi engine topped with a sextet of Stromberg 97s it was a very wild looking T-Bucket for 1960 with its swooping individual tube headers leading into a short collector.
The interior had the requisite tall shifter actuating a 1937 Cad/LaSalle transmission connected to the hemi via a Cragar adapter and leading back a a Halibrand quickchange rear end. Note the hand-operated fuel pressure pump mounted in the center of the dash.
The T was garage built by John and the other “kids” like Bob. The frame was 2×4 steel tubing and the welding was farmed out to a local shop. John later added American Racing 12-spoke spindle mount mags to further enhance the tough look of the T roadster.
At the time, John even had a custom painted Ed Roth sweatshirt with his T-Soto on it. Back in 1960 in Roth Studio’s magazine ads they offered custom “Weerdo Shirts” for $5.25 with the invitation, “Anything you want painted, we’ll paint.” As an Ed Roth fan, John was soon influenced by Ed’s developing style of monster shirts with wacky-looking characters driving even crazier looking radical hot rods.
John Fleckenstein’s Raked T-Bucket Takes Shape
Seeking to build a more radical hot rod in the monster shirt genre, by 1961 John disassembled his T-Soto and sold the frame and body to fund his raked T-Bucket creation.
By 1964, as the photo above shows, John had gone all out with his new T creation. He built a truly radical new frame that was Z’d in the front, which was truly unique back then. In addition, the frame was radically tapered from the Model A style rear crossmember to the incredibly narrow front crossmember, which would allow only one of the narrowest radiators ever seen on a hot rod at the time. Almost immediately behind the engine, John built his frame with an equally radical kickup that put the body on an incredible 60 degree rake! He replaced the conventional T runabout tub with a shortened Canadian T touring body. Canadian Model T’s built after 1912 had a driver’s door, while American cars did not. This was because Canadian cars were built largely for export to countries where the steering column needed to be moved to the right side, thus requiring two doors.
John was likely also inspired by another rather famous raked T-Bucket built locally by the older Don Audel who was winning his share of car show trophies at the time.
John’s mocked up version seems to have not one-upped, but rather two-upped the Audel T wherever possible.
John drilled the front I-beam axle and radius rods and the custom built T-style radiator seems barely over a foot wide resting between the extremely pinched front frame rails. But like many young men John’s interests changed. He sold his raked T-Bucket and moved to Europe where his automotive interests and mechanical abilities were channeled into sports and formula racing cars.
1970s Raked T-Bucket
Fast forward to the 1970s and John Fleckenstein’s suede T-Bucket underwent a major transformation after he sold it and moved to Europe.
Around 1970-71 it was owned by the late Walter Anglin and still was in the Spokane area. The six deuces on the Hemi had been replaced by a GMC blower with dual quads and by then the front suspension had acquired its unique copper plating.
Not much more is known about Walter’s ownership and how it came to be such an eye-popping 1970s T-Bucket.
However, it’s been said that one of the owners back then was Gino Bruegeman in the Yakima, Washington area.
Aside from the radical rake, the T-Bucket’s next most distinguishing feature was its wild flames and Seattle mural paint job.
The incredibly detailed mural’s focal point was the Seattle Space Needle, which was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and used to be the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. It’s believed that this incredible paint job was applied by the late Bob Hill who was awarded a permanent Professor of Arts at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO, in 1989.
While today one might consider the Seattle skyline mural gawdy, you also have to put into perspective this was done in the heyday of the custom van craze, when many sported elaborate mural paint jobs.
But, more significantly, the coveted 1975 America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award was won for the second time by neighboring Oregonian hot rodder Lonnie Gilbertson, after adding an elaborate forest mural paint job to his T-Bucket.
One thing we do know about the raked T back then was that it participated in the Vintiques Car Club 3rd Annual “Un” Run one year after the wild Gilbertson T mural captured the giant AMBR trophy.
Not long after 1976, however, for unknown reasons the T-Bucket was parked behind garage doors where it would reside for the next three and a half decades.
Raked T-Bucket Garage Find
Fast forward to 2009 when some guys learn about an old hot rod that might be for sale. And when the garage door opens if you look hard enough you just might find one.
Clear a path through years of accumulated junk and a pile of boxes and you’ll see a genuine Halibrand quickchange rear end.
And it’s also of the coveted Halibrand Culver City era.
Move a few old lawn chairs and wipe off a layer of dust embedded in grease and discover a vintage Dodge Red Ram hemi, the smallest hemi ever built by Chrysler at 241 cu. in. that was available in the 1953-1954 Dodge Coronet. Look closer and you’ll see a strange dual two barrel manifold designed for four bolt carburetors like Rochester 2GC’s, rather than the more conventional aftermarket choice of Stromberg 97s. Somewhere along the way the larger DeSoto and six deuces got swapped for the more streetable baby hemi and twin two barrels.
Someone had fabricated a J&J Chassis/Dan Woods-inspired super deep dish steering wheel. This photo also shows the fiberglass rear fenders and abbreviated ‘glass pickup bed that were glassed to the shortened steel touring body.
Another cool interior addition was a fabricated tiller style shifter for the LaSalle tranny that nicely matched the steering wheel.
Once this T is taken out of the junk pile and the clean-up starts you can really begin to appreciate it in all its glory.
It looks like the headers John Fleckenstein built before selling the T have also survived. And the angles of the windshield and its stay rods really become evident as emphasizing the Roth-inspired monster rod that was the basis for this T-Bucket build.
Once you start to take it all in you realize this was a very well-planned theme build. The copper plating is everywhere. Not only is it unique in hot rod builds, but it accents the paint scheme perfectly.
Above you’ll note how the front of the frame was kicked up to help accent the nose-down attitude and you can’t miss the super narrow front crossmember. And that tiny radiator is one of the most unusual you will ever see on a T. Don’t believe it?
Check out the upper radiator hot water hose inlet! Wacky? You bet!!
Moving to the rear, this T is just chockablock with vintage parts like the spun aluminum Moon fuel tank with spinner gas cap residing in the tiny pickup bed.
Of course, the T needed something more than the foam rubber pad that was there when it was rediscovered to it’s been outfitted with a nice, subtle period-correct roll and pleat job.
And what’s really cool is that this survivor has been brought back to life as a driver.
To see this awesome raked T-Bucket coming at you is a one-of-a-kind experience.
And the raked look is equally unique if you happen to pull up behind it on the street or highway.
It was designed to attract attention and draw a crowd 40 years ago and it’s still doing it today. Take a look and you’ll know why.
As a 70s survivor myself, I can honestly say that this raked T-Bucket is the epitome of the wild free-form expression that ran rampant then, which had its roots in the 60s just as this T did with its Roth monster shirt inspiration.
I love all T-Buckets, but what I especially love are unique, wild and even wacky T-Buckets because they prove just how dopey the guys are who toss off the line they heard someone else say, “All T-Buckets are the same.” Anyone with any automotive knowledge who’s not legally blind knows otherwise.
I especially love this raked T-Bucket not only because it’s story goes back to the late 1950s and it evolved as times and tastes changed in the wonderful decades of the 60s and 70s, but also because it is totally unique. Unique in its raked profile. Unique in its engine, transmission and rear end. Unique in its frame construction. Unique in its wild body treatment. Unique in its interior features. Unique in its incredible artistic paint finish. Hey, it’s the whole package that’s unique.
Pretty cool that it was relisted on eBay. Somebody out there is going to end up with a hot rod with provenance as they say in elite circles. But, to me it’s just plain old kick-ass!
- Jim Unruh T-Bucket – Is it old, new or both? - September 8, 2022
- Chester Greenhalgh Budget Hot Rod How-To Genius, R.I.P. - August 8, 2022
- Tribute to Tom Hintz and his T-Bucket Track Roadster - July 27, 2022