Building a '23 Track "T" Bucket

Building a '23 Track "T" Bucket
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Building a '23 Track "T" Bucket

By Dave Bracket

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In early 2003, I wanted to build another Ford 23' "T" Bucket. I had built one in 1963, that one had a 6.71 blown Chevy motor, but this time I wanted one that was streetworthy and fun for cruising. I did some sketching and came up with a different design. This time I wanted a track "T" nose on the body and a pickup bed, but with a low profile. The inherent problem with 23' Fords is the short narrow body. The trans takes up so much room you must sit very upright and have little foot room, thus most T buckets are tall and short, not great for cruising.

 I had an old pickup truck I built from a VW squareback, the low profile motor gave me an idea. If I used a similar VW motor, it would fit inside the pickup bed and give me all the foot room I needed for a low seating position. So now the idea was complete. A 23' Ford "T" roadster body, with a track "T" nose and hood, using a VW motor inside the pickup bed.

track t 1a

track t 1b

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I traded my old VW pickup for a 1971 VW stationwagon, with automatic transmission. This would be great for cruising and also one less pedal for the narrow cowling. I removed the entire body and front end and was left with the pan, rear suspension, motor and tranny. My first thought was to build a custom rear suspension, but this VW had independent rear suspension, a light torsion setup and I could easily add disk brakes on the rear, since I would have no front brakes.

I bought a fiberglass 23 "T" bucket body, set it on the VW pan, mocked up the bed with cardboard, used extra tires to determine front axle placement. The new wheelbase was a foot or so longer than the VW, so I needed to support the front axle and also the rear motor mount, as well as support a roll cage. I got 2" square tubing with .095 wall, ran it along the bottom edge of the VW pan, forward to accomodate a transversal spring perch and rearward to hold the rear VW motor mount, attaching it securely to the VW rear suspension.

 I utilized the VW tunnel moving the pedal assembly rearward, got steering from a VW bus, similar to Crosley steering, and made an extension for the shifter to accomodate the rearward sitting position. The fibreglass body had a floorpan in it , so that set on the VW pan. Now I made a roll cage that sandwiched the fiberglass body between it and the pan. I bought a track "T" fiberglass nose and aluminium grille and fashioned the hood assembly from fiberglass, then removing the firewall and fiberglassing the nose, hood and body into one piece. With no motor I could put my feet into the hood area and also use the right side for storage. This allowed a low sitting profile, which makes the car look long and sleek and also dirve and handle like a sports car.

I bought a front transversal spring and small chrome shocks from Speedway Motors, built a custom tube axle and wishbones, mounted that to the frame and built drag link and tie rod. Since the car only weighs 1100 pounds, I did not add front brakes, so I machined light Anglia style spindles for the front wheels. I used the VW brakes, but added later disks to the rear. Rear suspension was all stock. Now for the pickup bed.

I got some 20 gage sheet metal and formed the pickup bed, also making a steel tonneau cover to disquise the motor. The tail gate was embossed and I used my "Daveiko" logo there. I bought two trailer fenders and added Model A tail lights. Battery and fuel cell were also in the pickup bed, so the wiring was simple. Front headlights were mounted on the shock mounts. I added a tubular front bumper, side nerf bars for some side impact protection and a custom rear bumper.

I made custom headers that ran forward then back to give the appearance of a front engine. The motor was rebuilt with mild cam and a Weber two barrel carb was added. Gold powder coating was used for the accessories and trim.

Lastly, I needed a windshield, but not the typical tall "T" style. I could not find one with the right profile, so I built a frame from 3/4" square .125 wall tubing, and had glass installed locally. I adapted a custom steering wheel to the VW steering, prepared plywood panels for upholstery, and had the upholstery finished. Custom chrome wheels were added and the paint was done with flames and pinstripping to finish the package.

I love cruising in this car. It is lightweight, easy on fuel, handles great, the automatic is very convenient, and the long low profile gives it a different hot rod appeal. My first 23' "T" bucket was a powerhouse and wheelstander, but this one is just fun to drive and catches many glances. Great summer fun.

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