Twin-supercharged, 27-litre V12 Meteor-powered Ford T-bucket

Think your big-block is tough? Try a twin-blown, 27-litre V12!

Photographers: Peter Bateman

I’d been on a drive interstate and found myself in southern Queensland. On the way to my digs, I passed a sign advertising a Warbirds show that Sunday. I thought I might see something interesting there, so decided to take my camera for a walk.

First published in the August 2014 issue of Street Machine

Lucky me! It turned out to be the 16th annual David Hack Classic Meet at Toowoomba Airport. Organised by the Rotary Club of Toowoomba North, it’s a highlight of south-east Queensland’s show calendar and attracts a big turn-out.

David Hack was a promising young motoring photographer whose work featured in Street Machine, among other mags. Tragically he passed away in 1998 from non-Hidgkin lymphoma, and each year the show pays tribute to him with a display of his favourite things: airplanes and motor vehicles.

What a sight! Along with some beautiful North American Trojans, a Harvard Mk111 and a Bacau Yak-52, a Commonwealth CA-18 Mustang flew in to please those in attendance.

But I was diverted by a crowd around an amazing-looking T-bucket. The engine appeared to have a few cylinders more than usual. “Gee,” I heard one onlooker say, “that looks like a Merlin.” It certainly had 12 exhaust ports, but there were two superchargers on top. The Merlin had a centrifugal supercharger, and the ones on this looked more suited to land-based use. I thought it had to be a V12 Meteor. I figured I had better find the owner and learn something.

It took me two hours and 37 incorrect enquiries, but eventually I found Neil Morris, owner and builder of this remarkable 27-litre, V12 Meteor-engined beast. We arranged to meet at his shed.

I may have started out looking for the bloke with the V12 T-bucket, but on arrival at Neil’s place I found a lot more. First, on entering the farm shed I saw another old T-bucket on a set of GoJaks, looking like it had been there for a few seasons, and not all of them bountiful. It had a great stance and heaps of patina.

“What is that?” I asked Neil.

“That’s the first rod I built,” he replied. “Did that when I was 18. Proper chassis, R HS – I made it all. Customline 292 V8 engine, ’48 Mercury front end. It even got in a magazine – I have a copy somewhere [see more below].”

This T hadn’t been with Neil for all of that time, though. In the late 70s it was sold to a bloke to be a raffle prize up Mount Isa way. For a local footy club, he thinks. Word is it then went to Darwin.

“A year or so back I had a bloke ring me asking for information about it,” Neil explained. Turns out the bloke had bought it at a swap meet and the magazine article was with the car. He had plans of restoring it and wanted some old photographs and pointers, so he tracked Neil down.

“Well, we met and went through most of the things I could remember, and the upshot is I bought it back from him,” Neil said with pride. “Think it cost me about as much as the original build”.

The restoration of this, his first T-bucket, will be Neil’s next project. He explained his yearning to put it back to original, even though that would rule out future easy road use. Most parts used in the original build were not modified, so their replacement or repair should be a doddle.

In the old days, to find good stuff you just went to the wreckers, and even sending bits away to be chromed involved little effort. Chroming is a little bit harder these days, but still possible.

But I was still looking for that V12 T-bucket. “What is under that cover?” I asked Neil. To my amazement, he removed the cover to reveal yet another T-bucket, and a very fine thing it was, too. I was starting to think this bloke should be called Mr T.

This second T-bucket project, 22 TEE, gave Neil the chance to refine long-held skills. Being from farming stock, he has always been comfortable with big engines, steel, welding gear and hard work. The four-into-one pipes, for example, are very nicely made. The build allowed him to dream a little too. It started with a fibreglass body found in the Trading Post. A Clevo 351 and C4 auto were sourced from the wreckers, as was the rear end.

Neil bought a front axle from Designed Chassis, and in the tail, a Jaguar rear holds the substantial 29/15.5R15 Hoosiers in place. Oh, did you note the GM 6/71 blower? A rare non-Ford addition.

The only areas where Neil acknowledged less-than-adequate talent were the trim and paint. No great problem though; once everything was ship-shape he just sent the car off and paid the piper. 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 it turned. UurUthn. Again. Uurgntck. Again! Uurg blunnn brummght VROOOOOM! It was so loud inside that tin shed. Twenty-seven litres of high octanepowered 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.


The dimensions of this wonderment just have to be listed in imperial units, as metric numbers 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 more below).


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 the 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. They’re a work of art, affirmed by the many positive comments I heard at the Warbirds day.

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.


It seems a shame this machine will probably never grace our roadways. Neil thinks it 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, Neil told me a saying his dad used: “I’m going to bed now, so you get off home. Turn the lights out as you leave.” I’d certainly been there for a bit, but how was I to know one V12 could become a T-bucket Trilogy?


Neil took his very first T-bucket to Surfers Paradise in the early 70s to go drag racing. There it was photographed for the August 1972 edition of Australian Hot Rodding Review, the spiritual birthplace of Street Machine!

The article, entitled ‘From Tractor to T-bucket’ was by Brier Thomas, who was not your usual scribbler – just as the story you’re now reading was fashioned by a photographer, Brier was also a renowned snapper. I wonder if that original POX 623 number plate is still around (and allowed to be used)?


Neil was inspired to whack a V12 in a T-bucket by his cousin, Neville Morris (Street Machine Hot Rod #10). Neville had built a Merlin engine from pieces. “After he built that V12, I thought I’d better have a go too. Anything with lots of cylinders and big horsepower interests me.”

A friend of Neil’s in Brisbane had seen an ad for “motor pieces” and, following that lead, he found the engine. He was told it was faulty, but as it was still bolted to the original wooden crate, he thought he could get it going.

From the moment he saw it, Neil wanted to show the engine off but did not want it to be a stationary display. The only way was to make it move; why not make another T-bucket?


Type:1648ci V12 Meteor
Induction:twin 6 /71 superchargers
Cooling:Aussie Desert Cooler radiator
Box:C6 auto
Steering:Datsun 120Y
Rims:Swap-meet specials
Rubber:Federal 20 5 /6 0R14 (f), Mickey Thompson Sportsman 33/19.5R15 (r)