I discovered Neil Morris, owner and builder of this remarkable 27-litre, V12 Meteor-engined beast, at Queensland’s David Hack Memorial show in 2014. We arranged to meet at his shed for further investigation and I discovered Neil had two more T-buckets. The first was one he built with Y-block power in the 70s, then sold and recently bought back in pieces. The second T-bucket, 22 TEE, packs a blown 351 Cleveland, C4 auto and Jag rear.
But where on earth was that V12 I saw at the show? “It’s in the truck,” Neil said, then joked: “You don’t want to see that, too?” After rolling it off the truck I politely asked if we could start it, jesting that we might need a few hundred gallons of fuel. “Should only need five gallons to start it,” he replied, unfazed.
The countryside outside was remarkably quiet. There was an occasional birdcall, and a slight breeze murmuring through the nearby trees, but in the main, just silence. Until, that is, the switches were thrown. Electric fuel pumps let you know there was movement at the station. Then a clunk as the starter received about 1000 amps and it caught the flywheel. And all hell broke loose. It was so loud inside that tin shed. Twenty-seven litres of high octane-powered V12 just idling – but idling with such purpose. Cripes, the orchestral cacophony it made! It sounded much smoother than I expected. Who knew how fast it could go? Who the hell cared?
I’d never sat behind a V12 in a rage. Never really sat behind a V12 when it was at peace, either, but why couldn’t every journey in a motor car provide anticipation as good as this? I longed to hear Neil say: “Hop in.”
“Neil,” I shouted, “can we just have a little trip to the shops?”
“The shops are 30 kays away,” grinned Mr T. “Should blow the cobwebs away, one day, I suppose. So far I’ve just run it around the paddock. I reckon I might get too much unwanted attention on the road.” Thus we embarked on a trip around the pepper tree out front, and the true spirit of this wonderful engine emerged – it just purrs. At revs it runs so smoothly.
SIZING IT UP
The dimensions of this wonderment just have to be listed in imperial units, as metric numbers just don’t do it justice. Digest these if you will: 27 litres is 1648 cubic inches. The bore is 5.4 inches, the stroke six inches, and there are 12 of those pots to feed with high-octane.
When V12 Meteor engines were used in Centurion tanks, they carried about 120 gallons (545 litres) of fuel on board, and went through 1.4 pints of oil per hour. But to keep the aeronautical spirit of this V12, Neil wanted to use avgas, so he remade an old LPG gas tank and put a baffle in the internals to carry about 80 litres of high-octane and the large quantity of oil this engine requires.
The donk alone weighs about 750kg and supplies about 600 nellies. How on earth did Neil get it into a T-bucket? But he did; in fact the whole reason he built the thing was to show off the engine [see breakout].
The first T-buckets had the old 3/16-inch gauge imperial steel in their chassis, but with this one being a bit bigger, Neil thought he’d best get some modern metric steel. A delivery of 100x50x4 arrived and the project really started. A fibreglass T-bucket body was then bought. Having the body in the shed helped to lock in wheelbase and fine-tune the general look of the impressive machine.
The hard bit was mounting a gearbox, as the engine arrived without a bellhousing. So Neil made one. The gearbox choice was the reliable and easily found C6. It was not the strongest, but for Neil’s proposed use “it would do”. He used a tailshaft from an F100, a pair of 31-spline axles and a nine- inch diff with 2.5:1 gears. After plonking the Meteor engine and the gearbox/bellhousing in the middle of the shed, it was just a matter of playing around to see what looked right.
As well as the chassis and bellhousing, Neil also made the pipes, which are simply works of art.
A ’48 Ford in Neil’s lower paddock provided the front axle. The radiator is an Aussie Desert Cooler unit, although it now sports a Ford badge. Stub axles and disc brakes are from a Ford “something or other”.
“Nothing other than Ford exists in this shed, does it?” I asked. Neil’s beaming smile said it all.
ONE FOR THE AGES
It seems a shame this machine will probably never grace our roadways. Neil thinks it just might be slightly outside certain criteria required by our controllers. But without people like Neil Morris doing extraordinary things on a whim, mankind would still be throwing rocks and putting square pegs in circular gaps.
After I’d finished taking a few snaps, well after a farmer’s dinnertime, Neil told me of a saying his dad used: “I’m going to bed now so you can get off home. Turn the lights out as you leave.” I had certainly been there for a bit, but how was I to know one V12 could become a T-bucket Trilogy?