I’ve been fascinated by and a fan of Steve Scott‘s radical Uncertain T since I first saw it on the cover of the November, 1965 issue of Car Craft magazine. It was only natural that one of my early blog posts back in 2010, and recently updated, featured Steve Scott’s radical creation that was so “bent out of shape” for a hot rod that it made fans “Uncertain (it’s a) T”, as CC noted back then. Hang on, because in this post we’ve got some real inspiration for all you T-Bucket and other hot rod builders as we expose the Uncertain T.
Cutaway images have fascinated hot rod fans since they first appeared in Hot Rod magazine back in 1948. And if you’re doing a hot rod X-ray you certainly should do it with one that’s got some interesting guts. The Uncertain T certainly does. In spades!
Thanks to the Petersen SEMA Digitization Project (hence the watermark) there’s a treasure trove of never before seen photos of the Uncertain T, sans body, so you can see all the innovative things that went into Steve Scott’s legendary creation.
At first glance, the Uncertain T chassis looks pretty small. Yet, it’s hard to imagine how many unique features were loaded into such a short wheelbase.
Funny thing, though, Steve Scott doesn’t recall the wheelbase measurement. It wasn’t important because he wasn’t building to a specific figure.
Rather, he used every trick in the book to build the shortest wheelbase possible that would fit his vision for the Uncertain T.
Let’s discover some of those unique features starting at the front with that deeply dropped tube axle. No big deal until you realize that Steve had his fabricated 8 inches narrower that the standard Ford axle width utilized by everyone else. It brought the front wheels in closer to the frame and mass of the car for a much tidier look.
And the front wheels were 16 inch motorcycle rims laced to dragster hubs. In the above photo you’ll note the rectangular tube front crossmember, which differed from the more convention round tube T-Bucket crossmember. The reason being that the frame was constructed from 2″ x 3″ rectangular aluminum tubing that Steve purchased from Art’s Surplus in Van Nuys, CA.
To ensure a clean front suspension appearance while still being functional Steve utilized a transverse torsion bar system similar to those used on dragsters, with friction shock absorbers incorporated into the torsion arms. The drag link runs below the front hairpins so as not to interfere with the overall lines of the front suspension.
Some engineered innovation you won’t see are the solid aluminum blocks welded inside the rectangular aluminum tubing at the corners in order to provide strength for the torsion bar and headlight mounts.
When it came to engine choice, performance was important for Steve but it had to look good as well. And a Buick nailhead fills that bill perfectly. Steve chose a 1957 Buick Fireball V8 that was standard at 364 cubic inches. After boring it out and fitting Jahns popup pistons the nailhead displaced 386 cubic inches with an 11.5:1 compression ratio.
Considering that construction on the Uncertain T started in 1964, it’s notable that Steve chose an alternator given that G.M. had only been using them a little over a year as standard equipment. Plus he had the aesthetic sense to mount it low.
For improved breathing Steve chose a pair of 1963 heads with their larger exhaust valves. To top it all off, though, was a Hilborn mechanical fuel injection system that combined the best elements of performance and looks. In terms of looks the Hilborns used a finned valley cover that was the perfect match for the nailhead’s finned vertical valve covers. As far as naturally aspirated high performance went, nothing beat Hilborn FI. Everyday driving, meh. Helping Steve out in these pics is his close friend, Gary Andrews.
To fire things off Steve chose a Schiefer magneto. The clutch and flywheel company, Schiefer, acquired flathead magneto manufacturer, Harmon and Collins, in the early 1960s. Schiefer then started building magnetos for OHV engines used in drag racing and as an improvement over the Vertex units. They were quickly adopted by winners like Don Garlits who recorded the first official 200+ mph quarter mile run in 1964 (201.34mph), so it was the perfect choice for Steve’s Uncertain T nailhead.
In the photo above you’ll note the stepped frame rails that go from the narrow cowl width at the front to the wider body width at the rear. Steve’s ingenuity again came into play when it came to steering. Not wanting to have a steering shaft through the firewall or a pitman arm breaking up the body’s side lines, Steve reworked the rack and pinion from a 1960 MGA roadster. This is probably the first such R&P adaptation on a hot rod.
In the mid-1960s all the big name gasser winners like Mazmanian, Stone-Woods-Cook, and Montgomery were running modified GM Hydramatic transmissions. Steve chose a 1955 Pontiac dual range Hydramatic for the Uncertain T and everybody told him there was no way he’d get it to fit in such a short coupled car. However, Steve sought out Irv Cohen of Drag Machine Co. in Gardena who machined 3-1/2 inches off the rear of the transmission to enable it to fit — if there was no driveshaft!
Before you move on, take a look at that nicely chromed vent between the tranny and the bellhousing. Something not visible when the body was attached. Just one of the many refined details that made the Uncertain T a sweepstakes winner.
So here you see a shortened Hydramatic transmission directly coupled to a 1940 Ford rear axle with a Halibrand magnesium quick change center section. And, yes, that crossmember has an early Ford style transmission mount and U-joint coupling.
Here you see Gary Andrews attaching the Uncertain T rear axle which was beefed up with Ford truck axles and nicely chromed axle tubes.
For sure rear stopping power, in light of the brakeless front which was typical for the period, Steve went with 1960 Buick finned aluminum front brake drums and 1959 Buick rear backing plates. Now, about that rear suspension.
Yep, the frame is underslung with the chromed leaf spring above it. All done according to Steve, “to get the chassis and drive train as low as possible in line with the motor so that it would be level and not tipped… all part of the design of The Uncertain-T… that I considered to be an art sculpture.”
With the rear end on top of leaf springs a natural assumption is that it could move up and down and wouldn’t that put too much strain on the trans/differential coupler? But Steve’s response to that concern is, “Nope. The rear end pivots up and down from the exact center of the U-joint, which is the exact center of the front leaf spring bushings, making it a very happy setup.”
Most of these photos, by the way, were done as part of the Car Craft photo shoot. In the above shot, Gary Andrews is talking to Car Craft art director, Bob Young.
And this wasn’t the typical staged photo shoot where someone was just told to pick up a wrench and look busy. Rather, Steve Scott and Gary Andrews were doing actual assembly of the Uncertain T, which is shown without the radiator above.
And in the above shot that radiator and shell have been attached — and not just set in place.
As you’ll note here with the coolant lines attached and probably one of the earliest uses of aircraft braided stainless steel hose in a street rod you’ll find. Typical in Steve Scott’s incredibly detailed build.
While it was a busy day, there was some time for cutting up as Steve shows an alternate use for the Uncertain T’s windup key rear nerf.
When you can build a hot rod that looks as awesome without its clothes as it does with that’s saying something. Steve Scott’s craftsmanship on the Uncertain T was incredible.
Steve’s handiwork was especially appreciated by “Big Daddy” Don Garlits after he was chauffeured by Steve in the Uncertain T to pick up his winning trophy at the 1965 Bakersfield Fuel & Gas Championships.
The Uncertain T even earned a place of honor on the cover of the 1965 NHRA Winternationals program.
If you haven’t already, you can check out my earlier post about Steve Scott’s Uncertain T here.