As Hot Rod Magazine's 50th anniversary approached, the editorial staff considered building a Deuce roadster as its anniversary car. Illustrator Chip Foose had a better idea: They should build a modern version of the tracknose '27 T that appeared on the first cover. Once Chip provided a design sketch, the wheels were in motion.
That first cover car, Regg Schlemmer's 136-mph dry-lakes racer, featured a flathead, yellow and black paint, and a race-ready aerodynamic look. Hot Rod planned to build its car a bit differently; it would have state-of-the-art parts and be a thoroughly modern, domesticated street rod.
To bring the vision to life, the Hot Rod staff enlisted the expertise of Roy Brizio Street Rods of San Francisco. Brizio dove into the project by acquiring a Wescott fiberglass body and a Speedway Motors dirt-car nose that was modified to fit. The yellow-and-black paint scheme of the original gave way to Hot Rod magazine colors -- red and white -- applied by Art Himsl.
Schlemmer's car had a specially built tubular frame, a 1937 Ford tube axle, and a quick-change rear end. Brizio followed suit with a tapered steel-channel frame, a custom-bent tube axle modeled after a '37 Ford unit, and a Halibrand quick-change.
The front suspension changed considerably, though, as Brizio's shop installed a pair of inboard-mounted coil-over shock absorbers. A Chevy Vega steering box, four-wheel disc brakes, and set of Boyds aluminum wheels on BFGoodrich radial tires rounded out the rolling chassis.
An engine builder by trade, Schlemmer installed a Mercury flathead V-8 equipped with Navarro heads, an Evans manifold, and a Smith cam in the original car. The Hot Rod staff opted for a more modern and reliable powerplant. Edelbrock's Curt Hooker built a dual-quad-equipped Ford 302-cid V-8 hooked to a T5 five-speed manual transmission. With 304 horsepower in a 2200-lb car, Schlemmer would be proud.
Like Schlemmer's original race car, this hot rod has a spartan interior. Oxblood leather upholstery, a Bell-type midget steering wheel, Stewart-Warner gauges, and three pedals were the only items needed.
Appropriately, the T roadster appeared in the January 1998 issue of Hot Rod, 50 years after that important first issue. A modern take on a historic hot rod, the anniversary car is much more civilized than the seminal hot rod that inspired it. The idea is the same, though: power, speed, style, and open-air excitement.
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