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The Uncertain-T Tribute

6/8/2020
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The Uncertain-T tribute looks right at home at the Museum of American Speed. We're thrilled that Martin Bennett took time to stop by to visit.

You could say that this story begins with a teenaged Steve Scott, looking at a cartoon of a wild, out of proportion T hot rod drawn by a fellow student and thinking “I can build that.” But that’s the story of the Uncertain-T, which we all know became a very famous car on the show circuit in the mid-60’s, became a Monogram model kit, and then disappeared. Some (including Steve himself) say it’s still out there, waiting to re-emerge for another turn under the spotlight.

Martin felt that the slicks on the original car were too narrow, so he had custom, wider slicks made by Radir.

But that’s not the story that we’re telling here. This story is about Martin Bennett and the amazing tribute car that you see pictured here. No, this is not the original Uncertain-T, but we sure thought it was when we spotted it on the floor at SEMA last year. There among the sea of low slung tuner cars with giant wheels and spoilers sat a wild, out of proportion, tangerine flake Model T and it stole the show. After a little head scratching, it became clear that this was not the original, but in fact a loving and remarkably well-done tribute.

Here's how we spotted it at SEMA in 2019. This was one of the few times there wasn't an impenetrable crowd around it.

Martin started with that Monogram model kit, measuring and scaling everything up. The body was created by grafting a fiberglass cowl onto a beautiful, handmade wooden body by Clive Plumtree that was then covered in fiberglass matting and gelcoat. With the difficult task of recreating that kooky body tackled, Martin moved on to the rest of the car. The front is suspended by a torsion bar setup, just like the original. There’s a Winters quickchange in the rear, held up by a pair of leaf springs and Speedway Motors friction shocks. The wheelbase is slightly longer than the original to make way for a water pump on the Nailhead.

The wild profile of the Uncertain-T is just as dramatic in 2020 as it was in 1965.

The Nailhead in question is a ’63 401, bored .020 over and assembled with10.5:1 compression and a solid lifter cam. It's dressed with finned goodies and a Hilborn injector to match the original. The injector has been converted to run a Holley EFI, and the Joe Hunt magneto has MSD electronic guts hidden inside. It's backed up to a Chrysler 727 out of a truck, followed by a comically short 5-inch drivesharft.

The Nailhead looks just right, but has decent manners with the modern electronics that are hidden in the injection and ignition.
Custom SW gauges in an engine-turned insert look just like the original. The right hand drive makes Martin's car unique.

Why is it right hand drive? Well, that might be the most amazing part of this story. You see, Martin is from New Zealand, and they have a long list of requirements for what makes a car legal to license and drive on the street. The fact that Martin cloned a car that was barely drivable to begin with and built it to pass some of the most stringent motor vehicle guidelines in the world is remarkable. How did he do it? There are a ton of little tricks all over the car. The front brakes (the original car didn’t have any) are adapted to the wire wheels and also allow a legal set of wheels and tires to be swapped out. There’s a rollbar behind the seats to allow a three-point seat belt. The steering column pivots to a legal angle, then back to the wacky show car angle when parked. So that means that Martin is actually going to drive the thing. Can you imagine pulling up next to this outrageous creation at the traffic light?

This picture is amazing. Both the Uncertain T and the Red Baron were very famous and popular model kits, and it's not often that you're going to see them together in one shot.

Thanks to Martin, we can skip the drama of whether or not the original Uncertain-T will ever come out of hiding and still have the experience of seeing a wild, raked, cartoon come to life under the lights on the show floor. We were thrilled to see it at SEMA, and honored that Martin chose to spend some time with us at the Museum of American Speed (where these photos were taken).

Martin Bennett poses proudly next to his Uncertain-T tribute. It takes someone with vision and dedication to see any car project through to the finish line, especially one as ambitious as this.

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