Jamie Croker gave new life to a 70s-built bucket

Originally built in the 70s, this Model T hot rod scored a new chassis, new driveline, new interior and a reworked body on its way to the Elite Hall

Photographers: Helmut Mueller

Originally built in the 70s, this Model T hot rod scored a new chassis, new driveline, new interior and a reworked body on its way to the Elite Hall

This article was first published in the May 2009 issue of Street Machine

JAMIE Croker thought he’d found a cheap way to get into hot rodding when he picked up a pile of bits for a pretty low price.

Jamie’s had a few street machines in his day — an XY Faker, a couple of XCs, an XB coupe and even an HK GTS Monaro — but his old man had been hassling him for quite a while to get a ‘real car’.

So nine years and a whole bunch of bucks later, Jamie’s got his real car. Problem is, now Dad wants Jamie to build one for him!

Considering what he started with, it’s pretty amazing how this little T-bucket turned out. The pile of bits was once a running car that had all the classic 70s T-bucket goodies: a fully chromed Jag diff, small-block Chev and a Turbo 350. Those bits got sold off and Jamie got his money back on the purchase price.

Whitewall ‘cheater slicks’ give the bucket some serious 60s attitude, not to mention plenty of traction! Teardrop tail-
lights are fro a ’39 Ford

Initial work was slow and Jamie did bits and pieces where and when he could. It turned out that a lot of the previous work was a bit sad.

“The chassis was pretty much useless. We cut out all the crossmembers and started again with new tubular items; the rails were the only parts we used,” he says.

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Thanks to good mate Pete from Ratz Mobile Welding it was eventually sorted out and the chassis was set up for its new all-Ford driveline.

The heart of the matter is a little 302 Windsor but Jamie thought he’d throw a few goodies at it to give it some giddy-up.

Of course, it’s gotta look tough too, so he chose a fully polished tunnel ram topped with a couple of 465 Holleys. To make sure all that fuel could get to where it needed to be, he splashed out on a set of Roush Windsor Jr heads. These heads come as a job lot from the US, with studs, valves and springs already fitted. Final touch was a set of Crane roller rockers and some big valves. The rest is pretty stock; just a Crane cam and a balance job. For some old-school cool, a set of finned rocker covers were polished up and set in place.

T-buckets just have to have killer pipes and Jamie went to town with his. Fabricated at home and then sent off for chroming, the four exhausts come together in a set of Corvette side-pipes that have been fitted with baffles. But yeah, it’s still pretty loud.

A beefed up and fully manualised C4 heads back to the Tank Fairlane nine-inch. And the tailshaft? Jamie just says: “It’s real short!”

That sweet-looking body sure didn’t start off looking that good. Ask him what it was like when he started and Jamie says:

“Crap! It was an old 70s tub that was really twisted.”

Thanks to a bit of help from Lee Davies and a lot of his own work, Jamie got the body looking schmick and added a few personal touches. Nothing major, just some subtle tweaks: the windscreen posts have been moulded in and chopped, the Ford script that normally adorns the tailgate was removed and ’39 Ford tail-lights were fitted.

In case you’re wondering what Jamie could possibly cart around in that tiny little pick-up bed, the answer is fuel. A home-made stainless tank fills up the entire area, so unless you’re wearing it or you can fit it in your pocket, there’s not much luggage space.

Everyone knows that green is nice but this particular hue is spectacular. It’s a custom mix that Jamie dreamed up and had sprayed on by Dom Arena and Tim Johnston. The pearl green adorns the body, chassis and most of the driveline. The rest is either polished or chromed. Cool.

As if it didn’t stand out enough already, Jamie figured a white interior would finish it off nicely. He found an old set of speedboat fibreglass buckets and cut them down to suit. The seats and pretty much every other bit of trim in the car was done in white vinyl tuck and roll by Rob at Peg’s Auto Trim. The carpet is black but copped some white trimming for contrast. VDO Classic gauges, Hurst shifter and a Bell 10-inch steering wheel finish it off.

Holding it up is a stock ’32 Ford axle that was chromed years ago. A transverse spring, stainless four-bar front end and chromed shocks add a bit of sparkle, while out back the big ol’ nine-inch copped a coat of green paint and a set of 4.11 gears.

Wheels can make or break a car and, when it comes to hot rods, they plant the car in a certain era. Jamie really digs the late 50s, early 60s look and went for a set of steelies painted black. Measuring 15×5 up front and 15×7 out back, they’re not huge, but wrapped in the Firestone wide whites and ‘cheater’ slicks it’s a super-cool look. They’re pretty sticky too, as Jamie found out not long after he got the car going. He gave it a bit of stick and it lifted the wheels about 12 inches off the ground!

So when was the car finished? How about the night before the Street Machine Summernats! About a month out Jamie was pretty close but knew he would have to go at it hammer and tongs to get it done on time. He ended up taking two weeks off work and, thanks to good mate Aaron, managed to get it sorted out.

Well, that’s what Jamie thought. The ’box had been rebuilt a couple of years earlier and when the engine was started, the oil pump seal walked up the input shaft and the tranny dropped its fluid.

To fix that, the engine and ’box had to come out, along with the radiator and various other bits and pieces. Thankfully, more good mates – Mick and Ange from M&A Engineering – chipped in to help and got the gearbox sorted in time. Just.

There was also some last minute trimming to complete and Peggy ended up coming around to Jamie’s place at all hours to finish it off for Summernats.

And that’s where we spied it, in the line for scrutineering at Summernats 18. To Jamie’s surprise it got picked for the Elite Hall and earned a Top 60 place. To say he was rapt is an understatement. After all, it’s just a home-built hot rod, nothing special.

Jamie Croker
1923 Ford T-Bucket

Paint: Wattyl custom mix pearl green

Brand: Ford Windsor 302
Induction: Tunnel ram, twin 465 Holleys
Heads: Roush Windsor Jr, ARP studs
Camshaft: Crane hydraulic
Lifters: Crane hydraulic
Pistons: Cast
Crank: Balanced
Bearings: Clevite 77
Pushrods: Crane
Valves: 2.02 in, 1.60 ex, double valve springs
Oil pump: Mellings, high volume
Fuel pump: Holley Blue
Cooling: Ford Zephyr radiator with thermo fan
Exhaust: Home-made chromed headers, Corvette side-pipes with baffles

Gearbox: C4 fully manualised with shift kit
Diff: Tank Fairlane nine-inch, 4.11 LSD
Tailshaft: Real short!
Torque converter: 2800 rpm stall

Springs: Transverse leaf front
Shocks: Chrome Gabriel (f), Jag coil-overs (r)
Bushes: Nolathane
Mods: Four-bar front end, Rod City Repros four-bar rear
Stering: Early VW Kombi
Brakes: DBS rotors (f), stock big finned drums (r)
Calipers: XR Falcon
Master cylinder: XA Falcon

Seats: Cut down fibreglass, from speedboat
Steering wheel: Grant 10-inch
Trim: White vinyl
Instruments: VDO Classic
Shifter: Hurst
Carpet: Black with white edging

Rubber: Firestones 5.60×15(f), Firestone cheater slicks 8.20×15 (r)
Rims: Steel, 15×5 (f), 15×7 (r)

JAMIE says thanks to: “Ange Anastasi — the car would never have been finished without this bloke, he even let me store it at his house for 12 months when I was without a garage; Dougie for getting the thing to run; two volunteers at work, John Oliver for sorting out the wiring nightmare I had created, and Ian Smith for some little machining jobs; and all my other mates for coming over, drinking beer and telling me I would never get it done. Ha! In your face! And of course, my wife Susie for putting up with the craziness and long hours it took to finish the car off, especially leading up to the Summernats.”