In a much simpler time at the turn of the 20th century, America’s first hot rodder, Henry Ford, was busily working on machines in his cramped one-room workshop to retire horse-drawn transportation. He wanted to get the world moving in combustion-motivated vehicles the “average man” could enjoy equally with presidents, kings, and chiefs of industry.
The first mechanical marvel that would forever put Henry Ford in the record books was far from his first invention (or even his 10th), but the Model T introduced in 1909 would certainly become the most loved and enduring icon from the early days of motoring. For nearly two decades, Ford had his people improve the Model T each model year. In 1927, the vehicle hit its peak and was selling so many units that the cars were affordable to just about every working family in America.
While there were many different body styles of Ford’s rugged Model T available, the one still most preferred was the open model with both a front and rear seat known as a Touring. Ford would end up selling millions of Model Ts before the introduction of his next landmark in 1928, the Model A. But, for the first generation of speed freaks looking to go fast, the Model T was the car most cut their teeth on, and it birthed the American institution known as the hot rod.
When body shop owner Randy Wiersma first picked up his 1927 Ford Model T Touring from a longtime friend, who was an old mechanic with a large collection of antique automobiles, the original intention was to restore the complete car back to factory condition. Randy started the project, but somewhere along the way decided a stocker just wasn’t the way he wanted to go with the Model T. He sat on it for a while, and then the direction of the project took a severe turn and headed straight into the world of rodding with some inspiration from friends Brad Starks, Oscar Gamble, and Jackie Gough.
At first the guys just wanted to set up the car as a fun beater Randy and all his buddies could cram into and troll the grounds at the big street rod events, but the ’27 evolved into something far beyond a beater as the pieces went together in the capable hands of Brad Starks. Brad’s work began with a custom 2×3 square tube chassis and continued with the fitment of a 1980 Oldsmobile four-cylinder engine (an extension of the original Chevy II Iron Duke) and some trick suspension bits that would not break the bank.
After taking care of all the components under the skin, Randy’s team (which includes Brad) at Randy’s Body Shop in Paducah, Kentucky, did what they do best and smoothed the body and fenders to absolute perfection before spraying the mile-deep black paint. Finishing touches include minimal plating in favor of painted and brushed components and a clean and simple interior just right for those cruising laps the guys had long planned.
The car Randy ended up with carries on the long-standing love affair with Henry Ford’s Model T and keeps that flame burning for the generations of hot rodders who share those deep feelings for one of America’s greatest icons.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1927 Ford Model T
After Randy Wiersma decided he didn’t want to restore his Model T, his employee Brad Starks spearheaded the project and made all the crafty changes to the now-tasty hot rod. The sturdy foundation Brad started with is a new custom chassis made from 2×3 steel rectangle tubing, which has been stepped in the rear and fitted with custom-molded running board brackets. Burying the nose to the ground is a Mr. Roadster axle with a 6-inch drop flanked by Mr. Roadster spindles spinning GM disc brakes. Steering is handled by the ingenious use of a Dodge Omni rack-and-pinion setup. The rearend is held in place by a combination of Ford wishbones and a Speedway Panhard rod with the bounce controlled by a pair of Carrera coilovers. The entire chassis and all the large components are coated in a rich covering of BMW medium charcoal, with smaller pieces painted Honda Silver for contrast.
One of the many elements that originally made Henry Ford’s beloved Model T so special was a nearly bulletproof driveline with a four-cylinder engine that could run on and on for years with very little work needed under the hood. Brad Starks decided to stick with the reliable four-cylinder theme and selected a 2.5L banger from an ’80 Oldsmobile. Brad dressed up the GM Iron Duke derivative with a pair of Harley-Davidson CV carburetors on a custom intake he built along with a shaved factory valve cover and custom-fabricated air cleaner. Providing the spark is a points distributor from an early Chevy II engine machined to fit the late block accompanied by a custom-built header and exhaust system to route the spent gasses. Final detailing is a complete set of brush-finished button-head hardware from Totally Stainless. Mated up to the Olds mill is a GM 700-R4 automatic/overdrive transmission that was completely smoothed and painted before being fitted with a Lokar shifter. Power from the combo up front is transmitted to a Chevy S-10 Blazer that was equally smoothed like the rest of the chassis components before being give a liberal spray job.
Wheels & Tires
No going out on a limb with anything too modern, a set of spokes from Wheel Vintiques (15×6 and 15×7) with brushed trim accents is wrapped in a set Firestone and Uniroyal blackwall rubber running a 135R15 size in the front and 205/75R15 in the rear.
Body & Paint
Brad Starks walked a very fine line on the exterior by not over-modifying Ford’s original 1927 offering, but he slicked it up just the right amount to make you give it a triple-take every time you look at it. Modifications include chopping the windshield 6 inches, filling all extra body holes, making custom pieces to cover the original hood weatherstrip channels, and fabricating a one-piece hood out of 18-gauge steel. All the rest of the original steel body parts were thoroughly massaged to perfection before Brad and co-worker Craig Dickerson sprayed the ultra deep black Standox paint.