1926 Ford Model t Roadster
Just the Facts
Owner: Ron Crawford
Ron Crawford has been a Model T enthusiast for practically all of his life. He was a 13-year-old kid when he owned his first one. Now, at the age of 80, he’s back behind the wheel of another Model T.
Although this bright green 1926 was finished last year, it was 2001 when the project first got underway. Ron, an architect by trade, had a design in mind and needed a builder to help create the actual thing. He found what he was looking for at the Model T Shop in Sacramento, California, owned by Ray Zarick. Ron explained what he wanted—a 1930s-style lakes modified roadster. Zarick caught the vision right away, and even had a steel body in his inventory to get the wheels turning. Working together, Ron and Zarick created a meticulously built rod, with an amazing amount of engineering and artistic trim work.
When the necessary bodywork was finished —patch panels, new doorsills, back panel replacement—the transformation could start. The body was narrowed 10 inches at the front cowl and 12 inches at the rear panel. The three-piece hood is accented by a stainless center bar and held by a leather strap with spring tensioners hidden inside. Ray narrowed and shortened a 1933 Chevy grille shell, filling the center with a handbuilt insert made from vertical stainless bars. The headlights are 1930 Model A reproductions.
The paint was mixed and shot by Randy Dimmitt at Randy’s Kandies, in Placerville, California. He used polyester-base U-Tech paint to achieve the pure green finish. Mike Clines from Clines Pinstriping has been ‘striping and lettering since the 1950s, and is a pro at painting gold leaf. The numbers on the doors are his contribution. Antique brass pieces from various sources are used as ornamentation all over the car.
After the body shape was finalized, a 2×3 rectangular tube frame was constructed for a tailor-made fit. The ‘rails extend up behind the body in a sweeping S curve to support the fuel tank and keep the roadster low. Inside tubing carries wiring to the taillights and license plate light. To ensure a good fit, the body is mounted on dowel pins. Equal-length hairpins were built for the front and rear. The rear suspension supports a 4.11-geared Ford 8-inch with a 9-inch center and quick-change cover. Friction shocks were mounted at each corner. Springs are a Model A buggy spring in back and quarter-ellipticals in front. The leafs were fitted with Teflon strips and grease, then taped, prior to being wrapped with leather. The 4-inch drop and drilled I-beam axle from Magnum Axle connects a pair of 1940 Ford spindles with 12-inch 1940 drum brakes; 9-inch drums are employed in the back. Front brake lines from a single reservoir “fruit jar” master cylinder are hidden behind the I-beam axle.
Sticking to the 1930s-era theme reduces the options in the wheel and tire department to essentially one choice. Luckily, it’s a great choice. The 19-inch Model A wires, as well as the brakes, have been painted body-color green, set off by the chrome caps. They roll on skinny 5.50-19 and 6.50-19 Firestone blackwalls, out of the Coker Tire catalog.
Powering the car is a Ford four-banger, but not the kind Model T restorers would recognize. Esslinger Engineering specializes in Ford four-cylinder SOHC race engines and built this Midget Racing version from a 1974 139ci (2.3L) engine. The block was bored 0.030, and balanced and blueprinted. An Esslinger crank-triggered electronic ignition lights the air/fuel mixture delivered by four 40mm Mikuni side valve carbs (used on Harleys) on a custom intake manifold. On the other side, leftover gases exit through Model T Shop headers. The T5 transmission features a 9-inch Mercedes clutch disc.
The resized body required the dash to be modified to fit. Ray added an engine-turned panel and filled it with Stewart-Warner Wings gauges with curved lenses and brass trim rings. Brass lamp parts were used to mount the round-tubing steering column to the dash and for the steering wheel bearing. The wheel itself is a 15-inch Model T reproduction piece. The one-off shifter features a brass handle. The roadster was sent to Sonoma Custom Upholstery where the wrap-around seat and door panels were covered in deep tan leather.