Uncertain T

The Uncertain T – Legendary ’60s-Era Show Rod

It’s not often that a historic hot rod draws its inspiration from a high-school advanced physics class. Sure, Einstein and Oppenheimer were motivated by unique discoveries they discovered in class – but theirs focused on sub-atomic particles, not modified vintage vehicles.

High school brainiac Steve Scott was a different kind of physics student. The year was 1960 when a classmate penned a cartoon of a wildly wacked-out Model T “coupe,” one that looked like it had been slammed from behind by a semi. The cab canted forward at an impossible angle. In a word, cartoonish.

Perhaps, but Scott was so captivated by the illustration that he decided to bring it to life. After class, he hustled home and began drawing the cartoon to scale on the wall of the family garage in Reseda, California. While only 17, Scott was convinced – and committed – to build a full-size version of the radical T. In 2017, Scott was remarkably analytical about his approach:

“I spent a lot of time measuring real parts and drawing them to the exact size on the garage drywall. One of my top priorities when designing and building the T was to keep everything as clean and minimal as possible. I had to have all the major parts before I could start building the body. It wasn’t just a radical-looking hot rod…it was a work of art…a sculpture!”

Undertain T

The sculpture began with a pile of 2x4s, which Scott used to mock up the frame and a pile of fiberglass to form the unique body. He constructed a fiberglass form, or plug, out of electrical conduit and a real 1921 Model T cowl. He tirelessly spread polyester resin over fiberglass cloth and matte – barehanded, no less, as he needed as much “feel” as possible.

Using his 2x4s as a template, Scott welded up the frame from square aluminum tubing. The chassis featured a medley of components – wide Ford axle housings and axles, finned aluminum Buick brake drums in the rear, and a Halibrand quick-change. The hollow frame rails also doubled as a coolant passage, with an electric water pump directing anti-freeze through the frame to the radiator.

Scott sourced a rack-and-pinion steering unit off a European econobox, then mounted it in line with the frame rails, pointing one rack end to the left front spindle. This allowed for a vertical steering column to enter the interior. Scott cemented the car’s hot-rod bona fides with Model T headlights and radiator shell. Painter Junior Conway applied a striking metallic tangerine finish. Trimmer Lee Wells finished the interior in diamond-tufted black.

While the body’s radical shape was the headliner, second billing went to the beautiful 384c.i. ’57 Nailhead Buick V8 (somewhere Tommy Ivo is smiling…). Those beautiful finned valve covers were accented by a gleaming stack of polished Hilborn injectors, a thematic match for the elegant array of chromed exhaust pipes. Motorcycle wheels and tires up front and rear mags shod in racing slicks added to the exaggerated profile.

Even before the car was complete, Scott knew he was onto something special. He contacted both Revell and Monogram about producing a plastic model kit of the Uncertain T. He eventually agreed to a deal with Monogram.

The car was completed in 1965 and then it took off around the country to star in countless car shows. The number of awards it won was, well, uncertain. Let’s just say the tally might challenge a physics major. Moreover, the automotive press was enamored with it too, its Roth-esque appearance proving irresistible. Car Craft and Popular Hot Rodding magazines featured it on the cover. In 1965, Scott even landed a position as associate editor at Car Craft.

And then, Scott dropped the mic on his career. He suddenly lost all interest in the automotive scene and resigned from Car Craft. (Perhaps being assaulted by George Barris at a car show influenced his change of heart.) The Uncertain T and Scott simply vanished for decades. The car ricocheted between a several owners, once stored at a winery. Scott had moved to Hawaii but in 2020 moved back to the mainland, where, overcome by nostalgia for the Uncertain T, he visited car shows to market merchandise related to the car.

Uncertain-T found, Galpin Motors, show rod, Ford Model T

Late in 2023, an unforeseen comeback unfolded. The car was discovered intact in a Van Nuys, California, warehouse, wearing a weathered version of a gold metalflake finish applied in the mid-’60s before it disappeared from the show scene. Beau Boeckmann of the giant SoCal car dealership Galpin Ford purchased the car for its Auto Sports Collection, and GAS employee Dave Shuten is slated to restore it.

The Uncertain T’s disappearance had spawned decades of speculation about its whereabouts. And its reappearance triggered widespread celebration that such a historic custom had been rescued from the dustbin of hot rod history.

So, it was only fitting that the T re-emerged at the recent 2024 Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona. At long last, Scott and his Uncertain T had reclaimed their place in custom car history. Truly a Legend of Hot Rodding. And that’s for certain.

Read about the find here!

Gary Medley has been a friend, ally and contributor to the performance community for decades. His interest in cars and journalism was pretty much a genetic imperative, as he is the son of Tom Medley, creator of Stroker McGurk. Medley’s own career path has traveled from the halls of Petersen Publishing to PR director for an Indy Car race to pitching tight-fitting Italian-made cycling shorts and countless other forms of high-speed life. Living between two volcanoes in Hood River, Oregon, Medley will be a regular Fuel Curve contributor when he’s not working to sustain his father’s legacy.