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Daily grind: Katy Tolhurst’s 1923 T-Bucket

31 March 2020



Hi, Katy. We’ve seen you around with the T-bucket for a while now!
Yeah, my husband Trevor started the build in the spare bedroom of our house in Tancred Street [Christchurch] in 1978 and completed the car in 1980. He had a full workshop set up in there. He built the chassis in the room, and when it was complete we had to take the window out so that we could remove it. The day that Ron Collet came around to help start the engine, Trev tried to burn the house down.

He tried to burn the house down! What the hell happened?
He had put a roast on to cook, then went out to work on the engine. By the time he remembered the roast and went back into the house, the smoke was about a metre off the floor. The only thing that saved the house was the fact that the oven was against an interior part wall, so there was nothing above it, otherwise we would have lost everything. 

Lucky save. So Trev built the chassis himself?
Yes, there was a guy, Colin Henlan, who came down to Christchurch in ’77 and Ron Collet said, “that’s what you need Trev, a chassis like that”. There are now only two tube chassis like it, this one and the one in Colin’s bucket. He sold his car to Euan Mark in Levin, who runs it at the Nostalgia Drags at Meremere. Euan has named his ‘Puff ’n’ Stuff’. Every piece was hand-tooled, hand-cut, and filed. It took Trev about six months to build … in the bedroom.

We are guessing that this isn’t the original engine?
Correct. It was originally built with a blown 350. We had a 6-71 blower to start with, but, being tied up with Ron Collet, we swapped it out for an 8-71. Trev raced it back in 1980 running a 10.0-second quarter. 

So, this is the second engine?
Oh no, it’s had many engines over its life. Our son Morgan raced it three years ago with a best of 10.04 with the race motor in it. Technology has moved on from what we had in the ’80s. This one is a 350/350 combo with cast-iron heads and a big Holley carb. 

We have seen you pedal it down the track on a few occasions, so what have you run in it?
With this engine I’ve done a 12.2 at 123mph. At the moment, it’s just running out of steam at three-quarter track. No one can get me off the start, but they can catch me towards the end when I’m running out of puff. Back in the day, Trev raced it predominately, and I had a couple of years at it, then we sold it, and the owner painted it yellow with a brush so that it wouldn’t be known as ‘Trev’s Bucket’. He was having some bits re-chromed and someone stole the front axle, wheels, the four-link, shocks, the diff, and everything out of it. He got very disillusioned with it, so we brought it back. 

Was there much left to buy back?
The body and chassis was about it. That was about 14 years ago. So, since most of the original stuff was gone, like the windscreen, headlights, headers, and gauges, it took Trev about six months to completely rebuild it.

Does it take a lot of effort to take it from street to strip?
We change the diff gears, fit the cage, change the torque converter, and rear tyres. If we get really keen, we have another engine, which is our race engine. 

Sounds a bit serious! You guys are well known in the drag racing scene here in New Zealand; how long have you been running the quarter?
January 1975 we started. 

Wow, that’s a long time. Having seen it at many car shows and rod runs, what’s the furthest you have travelled in it?
We use [it] to travel to Timaru and have been to Nelson. We’ve done all the Blenheim rod runs. In 1980, it was sitting on the Picton Wharf, where it was featured in another publication.

So, we have never seen it with a roof — does it have one?
Oh yes, it has one stored on board. We lift the seat where everything is tucked away. Only takes a few minutes and it’s done. People don’t realize the technology that Trev has put into it so that we can race, or do the weekly groceries, or drive in the rain. 

Are there plans in the pipeline to do anything to it?
Oh, it needs tidying, but Trev has another one that’s nearly finished. So long as we can get it out on the weekends and go places I’m happy. We regularly do 180km for a Sunday run. We have had days where we have gone to Akaroa for the day. Love driving it and the grandkids love being in it.

Good to hear. Thank you for talking to us.