I was starting to feel a bit down at the 68th Grand National Roadster Show last month not seeing hardly any T-Bucket hot rods. But then I walked into another of the many buildings and, wow! There it was: the T-Bucket tilt body hot rod of my dreams! And I’m not kidding.
I’d gotten hooked on this elusive beauty several years ago after seeing the below excellent Sherm Porter photo of it online.
But, I’d never seen this T-Bucket tilt body creation in any of the magazines and I was longing to see and learn more about it.
I had only ever seen one other photo of the T and with its pink paint job, flames, Jaguar rear suspension and Playboy bunny rear window opening this was a T-Bucket I was longing to see more of and learn about.
This was truly my lucky day! I immediately fired up my camera, which hadn’t gotten much use up to that point, and started clicking away.
Sometimes I get all fidgety if somebody is standing in my sight lines, but what the heck, since it was famed hot rod builder Roy Brizio also checking out this radical tilt body T-Bucket. Roy knows a thing or two about fine T-Buckets, having grown up in and around his dad’s Andy’s Instant T’s.
This was truly a momentous occasion because this T-Bucket tilt body wonder made its debut at the Grand National Roadster Show 45 years ago. Back then, it was runner up for the “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” award to another tilt body roadster: John Corno‘s rear-engined 1930 Model A, built by Russ Meeks.
But what Russ Meeks built was a different kind of tilt body hot rod altogether
The story of how this unique T-Bucket came about and how it was brought back four+ decades later by the builder’s devoted son is fascinating.
It started in late 1966, when a young Canadian truck driver named Bill Traquair bought a T-Bucket rolling chassis from fellow British Columbia resident Ron Ashworth and started construction of the T he would name “Mod Rod”. (Not to be confused with the “Mod Rod” radical T-Bucket built a few years later by Mike Haas).
Bill’s “Mod Rod” was built over an 18 month period with fellow B.C. hot rod builder, Gary Lang, who was also building a tilt body T-Bucket (another story for another day) in a rented garage with a gas welder and mostly just basic hand tools.
In 1998, the Guggenheim Museum in New York caused a stir in the art world with its The Art of the Motorcycle exhibition. However, 30 years before the Vancouver Art Gallery preceded it with a display of custom cars and motorcycles that was just as controversial. The 1968 month-long exhibition featured Bill Traquair’s Mod Rod on the cover of the exhibition guide in its first appearance after being completed.
The rationale for this pioneering car and cycle exhibition was explained inside the guide:
The custom car is North America’s original contribution to the folk-art of the 20th Century. Not only does it work as sculpture, it also, by virtue of the raw power it is known to unleash, possesses a magical mana for the young of all ages.
In its original form, the Mod Rod was painted candy tangerine by Fred Welsh and sported a coil-sprung, fully chromed ’57 Chevy rear axle.
In 1969, Bill’s Mod Rod won its class and the Road Sweepstakes award at the Vancouver Autorama and graced the cover of Motorsport in British Columbia magazine.
However, since it was a driver an unfortunate accident occurred, which led to a rebuild that would ultimately define Bill’s Mod Rod. That brought about the pink pearl paint job with its distinctive flames, along with a beautifully chromed Jaguar independent rear suspension from an XKE. And, to top it off, the fiberglass T-Bucket tilt body came into being; no doubt inspired by the funny cars of the day.
Not long thereafter, Bill ventured South to Oakland, California where it garnered AMBR runner-up status as the disco era was about to begin. After his Oakland success and also similar success at the Portland Roadster Show the growing responsibilities of family life and home ownership brought about Bill’s decision to sell the Mod Rod.
But, Bill’s son Shane Traquair never forgot the Mod Rod, which you see him standing next to at the age of three in the photo above. As Shane grew up he became committed to finding and acquiring his dad’s beloved T-Bucket. Around 1989, Shane found the owner of the Mod Rod but what he wanted for it was more than Shane could swing at the time.
Not giving up on his dream, in 2013 Shane was able to track down the Mod Rod again and after much persuasion was able to purchase it. However, like with most older T-Buckets numerous changes had been made over the years: paint, interior, wheels, intake, exhaust, brakes, just to name a few.
Just as Shane was no longer the little 3-year-old boy standing next to his dad’s T-Bucket, the Mod Rod had changed as well. The photo above shows Shane’s appreciation for having the Mod Rod back in the family and would signal the massive effort to bring it back to its 1970s show-winning ways.
By the Spring of 2016 Shane and Bill and their many helpers had gotten the Mod Rod close to being back to its T-Bucket tilt body form that so impressed back in the 1970s.
Not long after, the T was turned over to Rick Wojdak of Axe Graphics to do the striping, flames and silver leaf after the body had received its pink pearl repaint.
Which kind of brings us to the 2017 Grand National Roadster Show and the almost hour I spent carefully examining the spectacular specimen of a 1970s T-Bucket.
I’m a huge fan of Jaguar independent rear suspension, especially from the standpoint of looks and how a T-Bucket is the perfect vehicle to properly display its well-engineered mechanical features. Especially when it’s been chromed and polished .
I like the fact that when Bill Traquair built the Mod Rod he decided to use only one pair of coil-over shocks. The other set, which would normally be mounted ahead of the the axle shafts, are not necessary with the light weight of a T-Bucket and eliminating them helps clean up the overall look.
And I’m totally enthralled by the T-Bucket tilt body concept that allows observers to marvel even further at the mechanical underpinnings of a hot rod.
Plus, the underside of the Mod Rod is just as beautiful as the exterior and every component has been lovingly massaged and finished to make it totally awe inspiring.
For example, the chromed shorty mufflers on either side of the chromed super-short driveshaft.
And the chromed and polished C-4 automatic transmission that’s coupled to the Ford 289 engine with its many chrome accessories.
In Bill Traquair’s original build, he used a four bar arrangement with a chromed spring-over-axle front suspension.
And one of the car’s many unique features were the custom fabricated Gary Lang front disc brakes.
And the build detail was just incredible as evidenced by the fishplate supports on the rear kickup that were elegantly drilled for even more weld penetration to ensure strength. If you look closely in the above photo you can see the fuel tank in the rear pickup bed and also the rear set of locking pins that secure the body when it is lowered back into position.
You’ll see two handles on the wooden dash panel that are used to manually tilt the body.
In this interior view, you’ll see that the throttle has to be disconnected to perform the tilt operation. I’m also a huge fan of diamond button tuft upholstery!
In addition, the shifter linkage is disconnected for tilting and here you can also see the nice little removable panel for the steering shaft and brake pedal to pass through. Of course, the steering wheel and brake pedal pad are disconnected before the magic happens.
In the photo above you’ll see not only the front locking pins and cushions for the body mounting, but also the nice little chromed tubular frame that’s spring loaded and collapses next to the frame rails when the body is secured. Basically, this was not built as a trailer queen show car. Rather, it was built to be driven to a show or rod run and then with a few simple minutes of effort easily converted to a stunning T-Bucket tilt body display capable of letting everyone see just what made it tick.
And literally no detail was overlooked in building this T. For example, the beautifully padded top not only had the bunny rear window cutout, but the matching bunny emblem embossed on the interior of the top as well.
Yes, it even featured a windshield wiper and an elegant leather strap arrangement for securing the top to the windshield frame.
I so admire the work that Bill Traquair did in building the original Mod Rod and I also admire the inspiration and work that drove Shane Traquair to track down, rebuild and reintroduce this awesome T-Bucket hot rod to Grand National Roadster Show visitors 45 years after it first won hearts there.