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How I Am Building My Basic T Modified

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  • How I Am Building My Basic T Modified

    Last Spring I bought a T bucket kit on Ebay for $ 530.00. I kind of bought it on impulse, because it was on there cheap and it was only about 150 miles from my house. It was advertised as a Total Performance body and frame, and I even sent the guy an email asking if it was really a TP, and he said "yes." But when I picked it up, it turned out to actually be a Speedway body and a homebuilt frame. I still paid him because the body had never been mounted or cut in any way, and the frame looked ok.

    I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them because I already have a real TP body and frame sitting in my shop, but I'm kind of obsessive about buying things, so I figured some day I would build a little drag altered or something out of it.

    Here is a picture of what I got for my money.


    Don
    Attached Files
    Last edited by donsrods; 11-04-2006, 09:46 PM.

  • #2
    For a few months the body and frame just sat there until I could figure out what I was going to do with it. I didn't want to build it as another T bucket per se. I thought of dropping in a built 466 CI big block Ford and C6 transmission I have sitting there too, and making a little low buck bracket racer, but decided to not do that right now. I was knee deep in building my '39 Dodge truck, and I was trying to get that ready to drive to Daytona at Thanksgiving for the Turkey Run.

    We started talking on the other forum about low buck cars, and I said I could build a safe, well built car for $ 3,000.00. Some people said it couldn't be done, so I took up the challenge. I knew the car wouldn't be a show car, but I wanted to build one like a picture I had seen of a little rat rod styled T bucket. I loved the raw look of this T, and felt I could do it cheaply yet good. So I moved the '39 aside and decided to built the T bucket instead for Daytona.

    Here is a picture of the car that inspired me to build mine. I think it is just cool. The chick behind the wheel doesn't hurt, either.:D :D :D :D


    Don
    Attached Files
    Last edited by donsrods; 11-19-2006, 11:37 AM.

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    • #3
      As you can see, the difference between this T and the traditional T buckets is that this one has no bed back there, just a gas tank, and it sits super low. This style T is called a "Modified" which is a shortened version of "Lakes Modified." They were called that because they were raced at the Dry Lakes in the old days, and probably still are.

      To get the car this low, I had to do some major modifications to the frame and suspension, and planned to do a serious modification to the rear kickup to set it much lower. I also was going to mount the 4 inch dropped axle I had even lower by using a suicide style front end. If you aren't familiar with that term, it is the one you see on most T buckets, where the front spring is mounted behind the axle. These were called suicide in the old days because if the spring or perch broke, the front end would drop to the pavement when you were going down the road at speed. Not a good situation.:eek: :eek: I'll show more of that as the thread progresses.

      So, I mocked up my body and frame and front suspension to see what needed to be done to get the stance I wanted, and here is what that initial set up looked like.
      Attached Files
      Last edited by donsrods; 11-04-2006, 07:35 PM.

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      • #4
        Here are some more pictures of the initial mockup, and some of after I had started modifying the front perch to get the front lower.

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        • #5
          OOOPs. forgot to put in the pictures.:D :D :D
          Attached Files

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          • #6
            I kinda felt I was making progress, but the whole time I was working on it my Son was bugging me to build a new frame for it. He just didn't like the looks of the welds and some of the parts used on it. I kept telling him that I wanted this rod to be slightly on the crude side, as that was the look I was after, but he insisted that it was just too crappy to use it.

            Finally, I had to agree with him, so I scrapped all of the work I had done up to that point, and I went out and bought 24 feet of 2 x 3 rectangular steel tubing, with a wall thickness of 3/16 inch. I could have used 1/8 inch thick, but the 3/16 has more rounded corners and looks a little nicer. Plus I like the thicker wall for mounting brackets and all to.

            The first thing we did was build a frame out of 2 x 4 lumber so I could see how much I would have to kick up the rear, and also how long the frame would have to be. Once that was done, we started cutting the tubing on an angle so we could build the kickup.

            There are many ways to do a kickup, but I only use one. It is where you cut both pieces of tubing to the correct angle and miter it in, just like you do trim around a door in your house. I feel it makes a stronger kickup, and looks cleaner too.

            Here are some shots of the tubing after it was cut and we started to fit it together.
            Attached Files

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            • #7
              Now, you will notice in the previous pictures that after we cut the tubing on an angle I drilled 2 holes in each side of it. I also cut those 2 little pieces of flat stock and shaped them to slide into the tubing. The final picture shows that we welded the little tabs to the inside of the tubing, through the holes I drilled. This is called "rosette" or plug welding. The only reason those little steel tabs are there is to give us a backing to make a really deep, hot weld against.

              The first picture below shows how these tabs look after welding them in place. The second picture shows how they look inserted into the other adjoining piece of frame. You can see how you can get a really hot weld into the wider gap you are able to leave with the backing pieces in place. If you didn't have these backers the weld would not be as strong, and the weld would not lay as flat and pretty.
              Attached Files
              Last edited by donsrods; 11-04-2006, 07:09 PM.

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              • #8
                This frame has a pretty serious kickup, I think 14 inches, and here is what it looks like all laid up, ready for welding.

                The second picture sort of gives an idea of the tongue and groove appearance of the two frame halves, before they are slid together for welding.
                Attached Files

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                • #9
                  One of the things my Son didn't like about the first frame was the fact the builder had used water pipe for the front perch crossmember. It is really not the right stuff to use for something so critical. Instead, you want to use about 3 inch od DOM tubing (I think it means Drawn Over Metal??) for this job. But it is hard to find, especially in small quantities, so I ordered one from Total Performance, and it only cost like $ 25.00 and is the correct dimension to just slip into the 3 inch wide frame tubing, and still leave a lip to roll over the front. It is even the correct width, 24 inches, about what a typical T bucket should be.

                  Sometimes a part you buy off of professional vendor is a better bargain than making do with something else. It saves you time and works out better in most cases. Where possible, I am making most of my stuff on this car, but sometimes it makes good sense to just bite the bullet and buy a ready to go part.

                  Once we got the tubing form TP, we cut the insides of the two frame sides to slip the tubing into, and left some extra metal to fold around it. This will make a neater looking front crossmember, and probably stronger too.

                  Here is what that looked like in progress.
                  Attached Files
                  Last edited by donsrods; 11-04-2006, 08:18 PM.

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                  • #10
                    I think I will wrap up there for tonight, my typing fingers are getting grooves in them.:D :D

                    I'll pick back up sometime later on, where we put the cut frame members on a frame jig and welded it all up.

                    One thing I wanted to stress here is don't be afraid to scrap something you have done and start over if it means the first effort was not going to be right in some way.

                    I didn't want to scrap that first frame, but when we cut it up (my Son cut it up one night to build a table for our metal brake.....I think he did it on purpose so I wouldn't ever be tempted to use it :D ) he found that the welds were not penetrating at all. He showed me that when I came to the shop the next night, and he was right. The welds were only on the surface, and would have broken for sure.

                    Not sure when he got smarter than me, but it happened somewhere along the line.

                    I hope there is some info in this thread for others thinking of doing some similar project. By the way, this is everybody's thread, not just mine. PLEASE join in with what ever comments, suggestions, and questions you may have. It will make this thread so much better and more interesting if you all get involved with me on it. I really want you to do this.

                    Thanks for looking,

                    Don

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                    • #11
                      Thanks hotroddaddy. My typing fingers healed overnight, so I can post a little more progress.:D :D :D

                      Once we had the rear kickup all cut to the correct angles, and had the round front perch cut into the front portion of the side rails, it was time to start welding them together. I still needed a rear crossmember, and for that I wanted to use a Model A crossmember that I had. I could have just used some more 2 x 3 box tubing, but I wanted that old-timey look, the way we used to do them .

                      The frames on these cars almost never have the side rails running parallel to one another, they are always angled. That means at the front the frame is a certain width, and at the rear is is wider. This is done for a couple of reasons. The first is that it just looks better this way, and the second is that the frame needs to be narrow in front to give clearance for turning wheels, but has to be wider in the rear to give you some extra room for your tranny and all that stuff.

                      After we figured out how much we wanted the frame to widen at the rear (the front was already locked in at the 24 inches because the tube crossmember is that wide) we cut the Model A crossmember to the exact width so it would slip into the inside of the frame rails. We had to cut it on a slight angle, because of the frame being tapered, but once we had that figured out, we used our bandsaw and cut the ends off of the crossmember.

                      Here are some shots of the crossmember after we cut the ends off.
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                      • #12
                        Here is where the fun part begins, and you feel like you are really making progress. Now you get to actually weld up the frame and make it look like something.

                        The best way to weld up a frame is on a jig that you clamp the cut pieces into and it keeps them from moving during the welding process. It is amazing how a large piece of steel will "pull" to one side and distort if you just lay in down and run a hot bead on it. By clamping the part you are welding to some other heavy piece of steel you keep it from being able to do this.

                        A frame jig can be very simple, or very elaborate. The ones the pro shops use have movable brackets and all so they will accomodate a variety of different frames, and I have even used large pieces of I beam to clamp stuff to that will keep it from pulling. Our frame jig is one my Son built, and he decided since we only use it occasionally that he would not make it sit on legs. We needed to be able to shove it out of the way for the extended periods of time that it is not being used. He built it to simply lay down on the floor, and it had surfaces where we can insert clamps to hold the frame or whatever we are welding to it. It is totally level and square, and he marked it every two inches so that we can get accurate measurements to see if our frame is zquare before we weld it up.

                        Here are some pictures of the unwelded frame clamped to this jig.
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                        • #13
                          To backtrack for just a second, we had actually already laid the side rails on the jig and had welded them up, so the kickups were all done at the point you see the frame clamped to the jig. We clamped them down during that welding process to minimize warpage and keep them in alignment.

                          Now we are ready to start the actual welding of the rest of the frame. We inserted the rear model A crossmember and welded it up, then moved to the front and welded up the round perch. The entire process took a lot of time because my Kid is a perfectionist, and he measured and remeasured until I was ready for a nap.:D :D I kind of get it real close and weld it up, but he gets crazy if the parts are 1/16 off. I guess that is the way to be though.

                          Here are some pictures of the frame once the rear crossmember was welded in.
                          Attached Files

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                          • #14
                            And, of course like any kid with a new toy, I couldn't wait to slip the body on and prop up some tires and wheels to see how it was going to look. I decided the car needed to have a little rake to look good, but the slicks are pretty big and give it a couple of inch rake. These pictures below show the parts just mocked up to give me some idea of what I need to move around to get the look I am after.

                            Next time we will mount the front perch and suspension.


                            Thanks for looking.

                            Don
                            Attached Files

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                            • #15
                              I am watching and learning
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                              Last edited by RatSalad; 11-05-2006, 08:05 AM. Reason: Just Wanted to

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