Home » The Holy Grail Of Hot Rods Has Been Found After Being Hidden For 50 Years

The Holy Grail Of Hot Rods Has Been Found After Being Hidden For 50 Years

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We use the term “Holy Grail” a lot around here, referring to a car that possesses a rare and unusual set of traits and characteristics that makes it something rare and desirable and unquestionably fascinating. These cars can come from any part of the automotive world, from tiny econoboxes to genuinely exotic things. And yet, I’m not sure we’ve ever told you about a car that holy grails as much as this Holy Grail holy grails. It’s something that is almost literally the definition of a Holy Grail: impossibly rare (it’s one of one), is shrouded in myth and legend, and has required a genuine quest to find it, since it has been deliberately hidden for about half a century. It also has a strange beauty all its own, just like that famous cup. It’s the legendary show rod Uncertain-T, and it has finally been found by our very own Autopian co-founder Beau Boeckmann, and will be restored by hot rod restoration guru Dave Shuten.

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In the hot rod/show rod community, Uncertain-T is something that has taken on the status of a legend. The car itself is absolutely remarkable as a work of art and engineering, but the story behind the car is equally incredible.

The seed of what would become Uncertain-T was born in 1960, when high school student Steve Scott of Reseda, CA saw a cartoon drawn by a friend of his in an advanced physics class. The cartoon portrayed a highly stylized Ford Model T-style hot rod, and the image so moved Scott that he decided he was going to turn that crude sketch into reality, and began work on the car in his parents’ one-car garage that very night.

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It took five years for Scott to finish the car, but when he did, it was a masterpiece. The overall design was simple but striking, with a fiberglass body that looked like a “phone-booth” Model T coupé, but canted forward at a really shocking and rakish angle, evoking the look of a hat worn shoved forward. Real Model T headlamps and a wind-up key at the rear completed the surreal look, and everything was mounted on a boxed aluminum frame. That frame even had coolant circulating through it to help keep the fuel-injected 1957 Buick “nailhead” engine running cool.

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Unlike a number of show rods of the era, Uncertain-T was very drivable, with an MGA rack-and-pinion steering setup and big finned drum brakes at the rear. The car made at least one drag strip run in 1965 at the Bakersfield Fuel and Gas Championships. That’s pretty astounding on its own!

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When it came to shows, Uncertain-T wowed everyone, leading to an infamous event in the history of show rods. At the. 1965 Winternationals show, Steve Scott, barely in his 20s, and his Uncertain-T took home the coveted Special Sweepstakes Award, beating out perennial favorites like George Barris. Barris did not take the loss well, slapping Steve in front of everyone at the show.

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Steve took Barris to court, winning a restraining order against Barris that would keep him 100 feet away at all times, and inspiring Big Daddy Roth to draw this hilarious rendering of the Uncertain-T, piloted by one of Roth’s trademark monsters holding a rolled-up court summons reading “Big George, Notice to Appear,” referring to Barris. Amazing!

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The Uncertain-T became a model kit from Monogram in 1966, but was only on the market for a few years. Scott went on to work at Car Craft magazine, then later for Petersen publications, but in 1967 experienced a major shift in his interests. According to this quote from Scott in Kustomrama:

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 “One day driving home from my job at Petersen Publishing Company, I suddenly, and very noticeably, totally lost all interest in anything to do with the automotive world. It just happened. It was like the channel on a TV just changed while I was watching a program that up until that moment was everything I had lived for, and I was left with a total understanding of what had happened, and why, and no desire whatsoever to try to change the channel back. I knew that even if I had tried to change the channel back, the program wouldn’t be there. I gave notice the next day that I was quitting, and from that moment on, I just simply went about my life with very different interests and focus.”

And that was it for Scott and his amazing show rod building career: he built one show rod, it became an absolute legend, and then he was done. That’s that.

The fate of Uncertain-T gets very murky from this point, which is where this latest chapter in the saga begins. By the early 1980s, the car’s whereabouts was unknown, with the car being allegedly sold to a friend of Scott’s, but then actively and deliberately kept hidden for decades, sometimes moving locations if the owner sensed people were too close on its trail.

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Uncertain-T was never truly found by anyone: eventually, the owner reached out to Beau’s late father, Bert Boeckmann, because Bert’s reputation for fairness and honesty made him one of the only people the reclusive Uncertain-T’s owner would even consider trusting. From there, Beau became involved, as he explains in Galpin Motors’ press release:

“This time, the Uncertain- T found me, I didn’t find it,” said Boeckmann, president and CEO of Galpin Motors. ”While this historic hot rod has been a worldwide phenomenon, with its whereabouts unknown for so many decades, I love that it was built and found in the San Fernando Valley right down the street from Galpin Ford. What makes it even more sentimental is the connection between the previous owner, Dick Nickerson, and my father, who all worked on the Mach IV four-engine Mustang Funny Car together in 1969.”

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The re-emergence of this car from the unknown is truly remarkable. It will first be shown in its as-found at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, Feb. 2-4, and at the Detroit Autorama in March, and then lead restoration specialist Dave Shuten will restore the car to the exact look, configuration, and design of its 1965 debut.

This is truly a Holy Grail of show rods, and is likely one of the last remaining unfound, unrestored legendary hot rods of the era.

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Torque
Torque
28 days ago

Uncertain T had to be th inspiration for car customizer Ian Roussell’s similarly cab forward canted VW Bus

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/36/81/5a/36815aed10287d00d264d368a3f68fe7.jpg

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
28 days ago

Am I the only one who thought that first image was AI generated ?

Tagarito
Tagarito
28 days ago

I’ve seen way too many heist flicks to worry about that holiest of holy grails being shown in public, then with a flash and poof of gold glitters and purple smoke it *gasp* disappears in its entirety.

Cue the evil laugh of the villain (aided by the proper number of henchmen, and remotely coordinated via VPN), who had waited in the dark, damp lair for more than half a decade for this hmmm…misdeed, until then ever so slightly certain that one day they would succeed in grabbing the Uncertain-T.

Fingernails tapping the cold, flat, glowing screen, impatiently waiting for that precious vehicle to be parked in the immaculate, empty garage with a lone downlit spotlight within 72 hours, more or less.

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
28 days ago

Cool story. I’m not usually interested in the T buckets and old fashioned hot rods but the context makes this one a bit different. Also running coolant throught the frame is a pretty neat idea. Was the final owner okay though? Maybe there’s a reason besides paranoia for him to have

“actively and deliberately kept hidden for decades, sometimes moving locations if the owner sensed people were too close on its trail.”

For all I know there are tons of old car buffs breaking into garages and describing their purloined goods as barn finds on BAT but it doesn’t seem likely. Maybe they’re a hermit and a collector who had to get rid of the one thing people were bothering them about?

Between the creator completely leaving the business after making it and the last owner deliberately obfuscating it’s existence and location this is more mysterious than Scooby’s van. And it’s a Mystery Machine!

MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
28 days ago

I didn’t even know this existed and wow, what a great backstory. Fun and funny design and it looks really great in all proportions. He deserved to win those awards. It is a true hot rod even in 2024.

Phil Layshio
Phil Layshio
28 days ago

I’ve seen cartoons of this, never knew it was a real car. Got to find a way to get to Detroit…

Bill Garcia
Bill Garcia
29 days ago

I know zilch about hot rods, and loved to read about this one. Great story!

I look forward to read more about Uncertain-T

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
29 days ago

That the steering column is canted backwards is just a sublime touch!

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
29 days ago

This hot rod and it’s history are awesome.. that thing is badass

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
29 days ago

I’ve always loved the crazy show rods from the 60s and 70s. Very excited to hear this will be at Autorama, I can’t wait to see it then.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
29 days ago

barely in his 20s, and his Uncertain-T took home the coveted Special Sweepstakes Award, beating out perennial favorites like George Barris. Barris did not take the loss well, slapping Steve in front of everyone at the show.

George Barris hit a young guy for beating him in a contest fair and square?

I wonder if something happened leading up to the slap or if there was nothing and Barris slapped Steve Scott because he was a sore loser.

Jayson Elliot
Jayson Elliot
29 days ago

Steve Scott tells the full story on his blog: https://www.stevescottsuncertaint.com/faq.html

George was well-known for instigating situations, then suing the other party, claiming that they started it! He always had one or more “witness” who would back up whatever he said in court. This happened way back in 1965, but it’s still a vivid video in my mind. I can even see in my mind what clothes George was wearing. The car show was just over. I was carrying the heavy car battery back to “The Uncertain-T” on my shoulder. You had to take them out during the show to comply with Fire Department rules. George, a couple of his “henchmen”, and the family that had paid George A LOT of money to rebuild their well-known white pearl pickup show car, “The Ala Kart”, all approached and confronted me in a group in the side aisle. George started angrily asserting that I had “kiss-assed the judges” to win the Sweepstakes Hot Rod category, instead of “The Ala Kart”. I said that was ridiculous, and that I didn’t even know who the judges were. The woman / mother then blurted out that George promised them that they would win! George then slapped me, obviously hoping that I was stupid enough to retaliate! I just stared down at him and laughed.

George was not very smart at all, because he was VERY lucky that I wasn’t stupid enough to let him dupe me into retaliating! Someone else with less restraint than I had might have smashed the very heavy car battery on his head! Hey… would that have been “Assault With A Battery”? LOL!

George was also very stupid to have done this where he did, without paying attention to the surroundings! I think he just saw me walking there alone and saw an “opportunity” to confront me. However, my mother was about 10 feet behind them and witnessed it all. Also, across the side aisle from us about 20 feet away was the show office with a big window facing us, and several people inside who saw it all!

I then went back to my display to resume moving out. Right behind me was a very nice young guy who came up to me and introduced himself. His name is Andy Anderson. He had been following me to ask me for an autograph. He had witnessed it all from just a few feet beside me. Andy is still a friend today.

Shortly thereafter, another very nice guy came up to me and handed me his business card. His name was Gene. Get this… he was a Los Angeles Police detective! He told me that his (gorgeous) black ’34 Ford 2 door sedan was in the show space right next to where it all happened! Not only did he witness it all, but so did several of his off-duty police buddies who were there with him. Total recorded witnesses: 7 Los Angeles policemen, 8 car show officials and workers, Andy Anderson, and my mom!

Gene, the off-duty detective, advised me what to do. He said to go into the show office immediately and call the police to file a complaint, making sure that everyone in the office was listening. He said the police will refuse to file a complaint, saying that if nobody was hurt, that it was a civil matter. Gene said that I needed to make sure that the police logged my call for the record. He said to call the Los Angeles Court in the morning and file a formal complaint, and to have him (Gene) summoned as a witness in court. He gave me his business card. Other than in the court complaint, he asked me to NEVER divulge his name due to the nature of his work. I never have until now. Why? He was an “undercover cop”!

When I went to the courthouse, Gene came up to

me in the lobby and moved me over to a corner.

He said that he couldn’t appear in the judge’s

chamber because of the nature of his job. He

told me to not worry, that everything would be ok.

However, if it was absolutely necessary, to have

the judge call him in. I was soon led into a

judge’s office, not a courtroom. Right behind us

entering the room was George and one of his

“witnesses”. They must have been hiding,

because I hadn’t seen seen them until then. The

judge had me sit to the right side of his desk,

and George and his “witness” in front of his desk.

George looked all puffed up by this, like he and

his “witness” were sitting in the important seats.

The judge read the complaint, then asked me to

tell my side of the story. Before I was finished,

George started blurting out his side of it, saying

that I was lying. The judge dramatically raised

up a bit and leaned far forward over his desk and

pointed his finger at George said… “Shut up…

we’ve had enough of you around here!”

The clip is from the January 30, 1965 issue of Drag Sport Illustrated, a popular weekly drag racing newspaper back then. It reads: “ ‘KUSTOM KING’ ATTACKS ‘RODDER’ AT CAR SHOW. George Barris, famous Show Car customizer, was charged Sunday night with assault and battery after attacking Hot Rodder Photographer, Steve Scott, at the NHRA Winternationals Car Show. Witnesses said Barris became enraged when he found out that Scott had won a Special Sweepstakes award for his wild “Uncertain-T” show car.”

WOW! That was it! Case Closed! The judge then pronounced that he was granting me a Permanent Restraining Order against George, and that if George ever came near me (I don’t remember the distance), or in any way bothered me again, and I reported it, George would go to jail for slapping me!

It all lasted only a few minutes, as the papers were already done. Gene wasn’t outside when it was over,

so I couldn’t ask him what happened, and he probably didn’t want to be seen with me AFTER George got

hammered by the Judge. My guess is that Gene had conferred with the judge before the hearing and

entered his sworn testimony… and that’s all it took. Love it! – (copyright 2015 – 2019 Steve Scott)

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
29 days ago
Reply to  Jayson Elliot

Man, Barris sounds like he had exactly the perfect temperament to host a long running car-based comedy show on the BBC. Too bad they never offered.

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
28 days ago
Reply to  Jayson Elliot

Scott is a better man than me. Reading his account as soon as he mentioned the battery I was considering how hard it would be to throw one at another person. Anyway I don’t know about the law in that place or time but if you’re carrying something and someone slaps you, you should have the right to hit them with that thing or throw it at them. It’s practically an invitation to retaliate.

Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
28 days ago
Reply to  Jayson Elliot

George Barris was a true turd of a person. Sam Barris was the one with the talent.

Torque
Torque
28 days ago
Reply to  Jayson Elliot

Thanks for posting Jayson, that’s an excellent clipping, I had never heard this story; I guess George felt he had to ‘save face’…

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
24 days ago
Reply to  Jayson Elliot

Thank you for posting this

3WiperB
3WiperB
29 days ago

So… Autopian meet-up at Detroit Autorama in March then?

Cerberus
Cerberus
29 days ago

That thing is cool AF and I normally hate T-buckets! Love how it just leans into the cartoon ridiculousness, plus the clever engineering and being designed and built by someone so young really makes it stand out. While I had never heard of it, I can see why it has been remembered by the people who had known about it.

Also, as a Greek, Barris was an embarrassment. He’s a hack and the work that is attributed to him without controversy is goofy and OTT uninspiring at best. Even younger than 10 I thought his stuff was stupid—like that Lincoln Futura he ruined, littering it with junk and velvet-covered bodywork with obvious and predictable bat motifs. He was like the ’60s version of Orange County Choppers. Someone with actual talent wouldn’t resort to stealing credit for other people’s work, goading people into petty lawsuits—especially by attacking a kid for winning a contest. That’s the kind of behavior I’d expect from a POS narcissist, which goes with the kinds of things I’ve always thought of him.

Lardo
Lardo
29 days ago
Reply to  Cerberus

stop holding back. say what u really think

notoriousDUG
notoriousDUG
29 days ago
Reply to  Cerberus

Yes a thousand times. Barris was a tacky hack and everything he built was boring AF and just kinda dumb.

Ben
Ben
29 days ago

Wait, wait, wait…is this an actual Holy Grail? Like, 1 of 1? On this site I think that makes it the Holy Grail of Holy Grails!

I also appreciate that this car is so cartoon-ish that the cartoon is basically just the car. I look forward to hearing more about this!

Derek van Veen
Derek van Veen
29 days ago
Reply to  Ben

But…but…it’s not a brown RWD manual wagon!

John Patson
John Patson
29 days ago

That Rodders Journal cover showed where the bumpers went….

Mike B
Mike B
29 days ago

I love stories like this. Him building this in his parent’s garage as a kid and then hiding it away just reinforces my belief that California in the 50’s and 60’s was an absolutely magical place for car culture (and in general).

I typically hate T-Bucket type cars, but this thing is so off the wall I have to love it.

Last edited 29 days ago by Mike B
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