How to Build a T Bucket on a Budget


Hot rods are as American as baseball and apple pie, and some of the most popular are early Fords. The Ford Model T, also known as a T-bucket, has been a long time favorite. The T-bucket is a popular choice among "hot rodders" for many reasons. It's a small car that is very versatile; the market for these cars is huge; you don't have to spend a lot of money to build one; and it has the classic look of a hot rod.

Things You'll Need

  • Money
  • Mechanical ability
  • Tools
  • Assess your situation. Determine how much money you are going to be able to spend on the project. You can expect to spend between $5,000 and $15,000. Are you good with your hands, and do you know how to work on cars? A project like this requires a working knowledge of the mechanics of automobiles, and the ability to work around problems to find a solution. How many of the tools that you need do you already have, and how many will you need to go out and buy? Building a car requires a number of tools and pieces of equipment. These include a mechanics tools set, sanders, drills, grinders, hammers, at least one floor jack, jack stands, an air compressor, a welder, a bench vise and other tools. This is a major consideration. Some of these tools are costly, and this can quickly eat away at your car budget. Try to determine how much time you will have to work on the car. The longer the project stretches out, the better the chance that you will lose interest in it. For the novice, expect the build to take a minimum of a year.

  • Research your available options. Once you've decided that you have what it takes to build a hot rod, you need to figure out how to start the project. You can look for a car that has been built and is running. This is a good choice for someone that doesn't want to have to build one from the ground up. Buying a complete car will save you time and money. Buying one that can be driven will keep you from losing interest. You can look around for someone that is selling a project car. Some people have bought cars to build, but they gave up on it and want to sell it. In these situations, the sellers are just looking to get their garage back and will sell the car for a lot less than they invested in it. This is the best option for keeping your build on a tight budget because you can avoid having to buy many new parts. There are several Model T kits on the market as well. A quick Internet search of "ford model t kit cars" will produce numerous listings of manufactures and dealers. Many of them are sold in pieces and in partial or complete kits. This will most likely be most expensive route to take. You can expect to spend about $15,000 on this build if you keep it on a tight budget.

  • Find used parts. The best way to build a car on a tight budget is to use as many good used parts as you can. Junkyards and classified ads are useful places to find what you need, but swap meets can be one of your best resources. You can also cultivate good resources for parts and information by talking to the vendors at the swap meets.

  • Fabricate as many of the small parts as you can. Little brackets and holders are usually simple to make, but the cost can really start to add up if you go out and buy them all. If you are going to make them, make sure that the material you use will be able to hold up to the job. Never compromise safety by cutting corners to save a few bucks.

  • Ask for help. When you find yourself in challenging situations, don't be afraid to ask for help. There are several hot rod forums on the Internet. You can also call up you local parts store or an auto mechanic for advice. Stop and try to find the answer to the problem when you are stuck. Trying to fix the problem yourself may lead to frustrating and costly delays.

  • Paint your car. How you go about this step is going to determine the final look of your T-bucket. Cheap paint jobs usually look like cheap. If you want a descent looking paint job on your car, spend the money and take it to a professional. They have the all of the proper equipment and the expertise to help your hot rod look as striking as possible.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do as much research as you can before you buy anything. You will be amazed at how much information there is out there, and how many different ways there are to do the same thing.
  • Join a few different hot rod forums that have guys building the similar cars. Forums are good places to get help and share experiences. You will be the one giving advice to others by the time you finish your car.
  • Don't rush things or give up. If something isn't working right, walk away from it and work on something else. Come back later and fix it with a clear head. After putting about one hundred miles, check everything to make sure it is all still tight. Bolts have a way of loosening themselves up after being used.
  • Working on cars is dangerous. During the course of your project, you will likely cut yourself, smash a finger or two, get things in your eyes (even with your safety glasses on) along with other injuries. Take your time and pay attention to what you are doing. Always were your safety glasses.

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  • Photo Credit Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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