It was five years ago today that we lost a man who was one of the most influential contributors to the everlasting popularity of T-Bucket hot rods. Ted Brown‘s sense of style has influenced hundreds, if not thousands, of T-Buckets.
In May, 1968 Rod & Custom magazine referred to Ted Brown as “the original street rodder with Concours d’Elegance taste, and owner/builder of the trick T of the century.”
Referring to Ted and his street rod building shop, they went on to say, “If we had time to get over there every day, we could fill a Hot Rod Magazine Annual each month with his ideas and still have enough left over to fill R&C’s ‘Street Rod Tips’ section for an entire year.” A few months later, Ted’s strikingly cool T-Bucket appeared on the magazine’s cover and in a detailed feature story.
Ted and I became friends back in 2008 when he was retired and had been away from the T-Bucket world for a while. However, he still drove his T-Bucket, which he’d put over 200,000 miles on, and had continuously modified and adapted it over the years in numerous ways to make it more comfortable and safe.
I was happy to introduce Ted to the old TBucketeers Forum, which he enthusiastically joined and was able to help and inspire countless others with his vast knowledge.
On this anniversary of his passing, the following is an updated reprint of a tribute story I did about Ted in April, 2010. Little did I know at the time that the little tribute video a threw together in 2009 would garner over 24,000 YouTube views.
Originally published April 4, 2010: Ted Brown was a young hot rodder from Minnesota who heeded the advice to “go west young man” to seek fame and fortune. Man, was he ever successful!
After arriving in Southern California, Ted had the opportunity to see Norm Grabowski’s “Kookie” T-bucket at the famous Bob’s Big Boy in Toluca Lake and “was totally blown away”. “That car is what got me wanting to build those types of rods,” Ted said recently. But first Ted went into partnership with another legendary chassis builder, Chuck Finders, and contributed to the success of many of the nationally successful A/Gas Supercharged cars of the day, including Stone Woods & Cook, K.S. Pittman, Jr. Thompson, Hamberis & Mitchell and, my personal favorite, the MGM-C & O Hydro AG/S Austin pickup.
About 10 years ago, I bought a set of the California Custom Roadsters (CCR) T-bucket chassis plans. I was particularly taken with the CCR logo image with its rakish lines and sleek top.
Not too long ago, I was looking at an old Rod & Custom from the early 70s and noticed an uncanny resemblence to the CCR image in a Ted Brown Chassis ad.
After researching my old magazines a bit more, I then made the connection. The first ads for the CCR plans, which ran in 1973, referred to “Plans & Data for building the famous Ted Brown/Bill Keifer Chassis.” I then learned that Ted established CCR in 1971 with Bill Keifer as his partner; the CCR T-Bucket plans were based on Ted’s unique, original design; Ted eventually sold his interest in the company, which continued to grow as a producer of some of the finest, best looking T-Buckets available and thanks to his distinctively handsome frame design of the early 70s many thousands of T-Buckets exist today — many built by CCR and many more by home builders around the world thanks to CCR’s professionally executed and widely adopted T-Bucket plans (estimated at 4000 T-buckets in 1977). As a result of his early exit from the business, in my opinion, Ted Brown is perhaps the most influential, yet unrecognized, T-bucket chassis designer of all time.
Today, Ted is “retired” in Bakersfield, CA and still driving his T-bucket which has racked up over 200,000 miles and has been home to a variety of engines, including Buick nailhead as well as big block and small block Chevys. CCR’s successful T-Bucket enterprise continues today in Chino, CA, with continuous refinement of the original T-Bucket chassis and production of “the world’s best T-Bucket body”.
Postscript April 27, 2015: We were saddened to learn that Ted Brown was stricken with a rare form of atypical Parkinson’s and passed away. He will be missed by many, but his legacy will not be forgotten.
You may view Ted’s obituary and share your thoughts in the Guest Book here> April 27, 2020 Note: Ted’s Guest Book is still active and if his work inspired you we encourage you to leave a short note of remembrance. Thanks.
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11 thoughts on “Ted Brown: T-Bucket Chassis Designer Extraordinaire”
I grew up in the Lakewood/Bellflower area and I remember Ted Browns shop as being at 17454 Clark Street on the corner of Clark St. and Ramona St. in Bellflower. I used to go in there and they would give me free stickers like STP and so forth! Maybe this was their first location before they moved to Lakewood Blvd?? After Ted Brown’s it was some kind of race car body shop, It was common to see Dragsters and funny cars there. Seen the Snake and Mongoose there several times!
When I put together my book on T Buckets I didn’t have any books on T Bucket plans or ideas, only my memories from the 50s and the rods I helped build as a teenager. That explains my different ideas on how to build one from scratch with no money and not a bunch of expensive after-market crap. The Bucket I helped my brother build in 1955, he sold for $150 without telling me because he knew I didn’t have any money and it broke my heart. So twenty years later I recreated it and wrote the now legendary how to book as I built it so anyone could have one whether they had any money or not, I believe Ted Brown and I would have hit it off if I had ever met him.
After writing the T-Bucket book I went on an Australian -Walk-about from Key West to Alaska and ended up deep in Mexico. 20 years later I went on the internet to see if anyone remembered my book which I’d sold to a publisher and was blown away to find 3 pages about me there. So I contacted one of them and met John Morehead, the rest is legendary.
While I never got to know Ted personally I was proud to know him through our phone conversations. Always willing to spend as much time as possible to discuss my project. Although my T was a bit different than Ted’s his expertise on different ideas were amazing. Thanks again Ted! God speed! Tom
Ted and I got to know each other through an online three-way discussion about how the chassis in the black SWC was built. We later became close facebook friends, he loved my daughter, thought she was really cute (she was 2-3 at the time) we talked a lot over the last few years of his life about chassis building/set-up, he was a smart man, always willing to share his experience, and always ready to listen. I started building a steel bodied sixties style T-bucket (corvair coils in back) while he was still alive, the car isn’t done yet, but the chassis is nearing completion, I constantly find myself wanting to bounce ideas off him, especially in the area of rear suspension set-up. I really miss him. My daughter is a big girl now, she is nine, I know he would LOVE to see some pics of her, and hear about how she is doing in school and stuff. I miss you Ted, rarely a day goes by that you don’t cross my mind.
Ted Brown’s a GAS! I will always love Ted! Mikey Daniels
Ted’s work will be long remembered. He was possibly the first to apply a design aesthetic to T-Bucket hot rods.
Very cool post John, indeed Ted is a living legend in the Hot Rod/Drag Racing world, always willing to help the folks on http://www.tbucketeers.com/forum/
Sounds like you have done your home work John.. It is nice to finally get a bit of credit for the T Buckets… AG/Super cars were fun to build, a rolling test bed for my T Buckets now… MGM/C&O was my personal last A Super car, it had all my eggs in that basket.. hehe
Hi Ted, I just bought the MGM C&O Austin from a buddy (Joey O ) he told me to get in touch with you , I have some questions on the chassis ? Any help would be appreciated, he gave me a ph # for you , I did nt know if it is current ? The car needs to be restored back correctly, my E Mail is (omitted for privacy) Thanks Jeff
Yes it is! Was always one of my personal favorites.