Check the bottom of this article for links to the entire KYC! series!
Now back to business...
Norm Grabowski (drivers seat) downs a hamburger at Bob's Big Boy in Toluca Lake, CA for a 1957 TIME magazine photo shoot. Photo courtesy of: TIME archives
Back in 1952 Norm Grabowski would start to put together a oddball car that would become more than the sum of its parts. The car was a combination of a '31 Ford frame, with V8 engine, a heavily cut down Model T Ford Touring car body, the bed of a Model A Ford truck and a '32 Ford grille shell. Along with an excellent sense of humor Norm put it all together and made one of the most memorable Hot Rods ever made.
Norms bucket from behind. Photo courtesy of: the TIME archives.
In 1957 Time magazine sent some photographers to Southern California to photograph the local Hot Rod scene. They went to Bob's Big Boy in Toluca Lake, CA where they came across Norm and his creation. A few years after that, the car would be featured on the popular TV show 77 Sunset Strip (1958-1964). In the show, Norm's car belonged to a character named Kookie. The Kookie T was born.
By the 1970's the style of the T-bucket had become set in stone. The main company responsible for this solidifying of design was the Wallingford, Connecticut based Total Performance, INC. Total Performance produced everything you would need to construct your own Bucket. You could order a pre-made frame or get plans complete with full size templates. Bodies and Beds were now made of Fiberglass and even included a interior insert that only required minimum upholstery. The T-Bucket had become almost normal.
My father's '23 T-Bucket in Gatlinburg, TN circa 1977
The T-Bucket had become a fad. One that was all but gone by the mid 1980's. During the height of their popularity they were synonymous with the phrase "Street Rod". Even my father owned one. While I have no memory of it, him and my brother still talk fondly of the trips they had in it.
Modern T-Buckets generally fall into one of 3 categories: 1. Built to look like a modern take on an old idea. 2. Built to look like race cars from the '20s or '30s 3. Built to look like they came from the '50s, but incorporating styling cues from roadsters and coupes built during that time period.
T-Buckets can still be found at the occasional car show or cruise in. They are one of the wildest examples of the Hot Rod / Street Rod world. From today's perspective it's hard to believe that people built them and drove them on the streets. Today's uptight world, makes them even wilder. I bet that would please Norm to no end!
What do you guys think? Would such a car even be allowed on the streets in your country? If they were, would you be brave enough to drive one? Let me know in the comments below! If you'll excuse me I've got to go rattle can spray paint my open headers while it still looks like it's not going to rain! Keep on Cruisin'!
Art by: Chris Breeden