What is a T-Bucket?

Dan Cavallari

A T-bucket is a type of car built off the Ford Model T body style; the car is modified into a hot rod while still maintaining some of the original styling of the Model T. Older T-bucket cars may have been built off actual Model T frames and bodies, though that practice is far less common today, as Model T cars are very difficult to find. The name "T-bucket" comes from a combination of the Model T origins and the bucket-shaped body so indicative of these cars.

Older T-bucket cars may have been built off actual Ford Model T frames and bodies.
Older T-bucket cars may have been built off actual Ford Model T frames and bodies.

Some characteristics of a T-bucket make it very distinct from other hot rods that may feature the wide back tires and skinnier front tires that most hot rods feature. A T-bucket rarely, if ever, features an engine cowling, or cover. Instead, the engine is exposed and is therefore a major part of the aesthetic of the car. A Model T radiator is often included in the car's construction, though this radiator sometimes has little function beyond aesthetics, as the custom engines tend to be quite large — much larger, of course, than original Model T engines for which the radiator was designed.

The engines on a T-bucket are quite large, but most of the size is for aesthetics rather than function. The car is so light and small, in fact, that it can be difficult to find drivetrains that can handle the stress. The engines are not necessarily Ford engines, either; many engine designs have been retrofitted to T-buckets, and most owners choose engines for power and aesthetics as well as ease of customization. Other features may be added as well, including custom headers, superchargers, and more. The engines can be so heavy that the frames that support them may need to be reinforced.

The body of the T-bucket is quite small, very often a two-seater, and it is bucket shaped, characteristic of the original Model T cars. The rear wheels are much wider than the front to accommodate the power output of the engine and drivetrain, which is useful for drag racing purposes. The front tires are much thinner to improve handling and reduce drag. Most T-buckets are not used for drag racing, however; they are instead used for show, and some are even used for normal street use. Such cars used for street use often feature smaller engines, since such large engines are definitely not needed on city streets.

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