’23 Skeedaddle! Bill Maropulos’ 1923 Ford T Bucket eliminates the competition
They say life sometimes has it’s twists and turns but for Bill Maropulos and his 1923 Ford T Bucket it was a straight line with a fork in the road. One sign in the road pointed to “Normality”, the other to the dragstrip.
His love of cars and Hot Rods started early through buying a used GTO. The next stop was the dragstrip. Fuel and passion immediately started pumping through his veins and in 1973, Bill was walking through a swap meet and bought a short wheelbase bare bones dragster and trailer for $350 bucks. He put a used 350 small block and 350 Turbo automatic in the dragster and neutral-dropped his way to running 10.20’s.
By 1976 Bill upgraded to a full length front engine rail job running in Competition Eliminator running consistent 8.20’s. Eventually he switched to a rear engine dragster finally dipping into the 6’s. He had a friendly competitor who always seemed just a little bit faster at the top end so Bill bought one of his engines and tore it down simply to learn about the little extra “tweaks” it took to take things to another level.
Bill continued to work his day job and race on the weekends. In the early 80s he even switched to running a V6 after looking at the NHRA rulebook. Problem with them was reliability. So Bill proceded to take an engine apart, find their inherent weaknesses and fix them. At the time, Chevrolet was a main sponsor for Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins who was still doing development work for them. Yet once Bill’s V6 engines started staying together and winning his class at the Winternationals, Chevrolet came calling with sponsorship. After a year or so of running the V6, he switched back to V8’s spending a lot of time in the Winners Circle. In fact, he became Competition Eliminator NHRA World Champion in ’85, ’87 and ’93. The day when “Grumpy” Jenkins came to Bill asking for advice, he figured he had finally “Made it”.
Through all the years of drag racing, Bill never owned or built a Hot Rod. In recent years he started going to car shows taking notice of T Buckets, they’re an open engine and open wheel style which he could relate to. He also knew they were a hairy ride at speed despite Bill being a guy who drove dragsters at nearly 200 MPH.
A few years ago, Bill decided to build a T Bucket. Not just any T Bucket, but one you could drive with one hand on the wheel at 90 MPH and build it with an LS2 modern small block with a vintage tri carb setup. The end result is the stunning and unique ’23 T you see before you.
He started with a Speedway Motors “Tribute T” body and frame. The tricky part was fitting a NASCAR style LS motor in it which features an extended front timing cover to allow for a distributor rather than coil packs. It also contained the electronics that go with a fuel injected version. The 364 cubic inch bit of modern mayhem dyno’d at 602 HP! It features ported LS2 heads with titanium valves underneath custom billet valve covers. Hogan’s Racing made him a beautiful custom machined intake topped by three Holley 500 CFM 2 barrels and the distributor is from MSD. The engine is tied to a Turbo 350 transmission and the exhaust system features custom made headers with Borla mufflers.
The next task was the chassis. On the front is a four-inch dropped straight axle with a leaf spring, Pro Shocks and ET Gasser wheels. To handle the power at the back is a Ford Tru-Trac 9-inch hooked to a triangulated 4 link and Air Ride to set the stance. The rear wheels are Weld Rodlites with 295/65 15 Street Drag Radials.
Bill painted the body and frame himself with Valspar Deep Molten Red Pearl to button up the exterior. Inside the carriage, he added a full compliment of Autometer gauges and a LeCarra steering wheel. The interior was then turned over to long time stitcher Mike Ambrose who laid down the dark tan vinyl around a 400-watt stereo with a pair of 6.5- inch speakers.
These days between building killer engines, Bill spends his time cruising as much as he can. Belted into the T Bucket, he loves the feel of the wind in his hair reminding him he still has hair and watching those open wheels spinning down the asphalt just like the old days. He’s already put about 4,000 miles on it although he has a tendency to calculate that into 16,000 ¼ mile passes while still trying to figure out why street lights don’t turn from yellow to green.
It’s sort of a strange transition going from the drag strip to car shows, yet Bill still ends up in the Winners Circle with this tantalizing T.