"We really had to hustle to get the Big T ready before the model's introduction. Another thing I had to do was send detailed photos back to the engineers at Monogram, so they could draw the plans as we went along. We probably took six to eight weeks to finish the car and turn it over to the company, which wasn't a lot of time to build a roadster from scratch."
Starbird went on to have a very successful, creative partnership with Monogram, constructing full-size prototypes for a number of years (he also served as a consultant for the company). The follow-up to the Big T was the '64 project, the Big Deuce. Generally speaking, sequels to smash hits are met with lukewarm response-not so with the launch of the Monogram Big Deuce.
Arguably the best design Ford Motor Company ever sent out the doors of Dearborn, the '32 was considered the way to go by fledgling rodders since day one. A roadster-well, that's to car nuts what the Mona Lisa is to art lovers. Put the hot rod classic in a large box of neat parts and you've got a hot seller on your hands; let Darryl Starbird massage the details and Monogram couldn't make enough product to keep up.
Besides the cars' being different years and models, the development work on the Big T and the Big Deuce was as different as day and night. Starbird remembers, "The Big T was a complete buildup, with Monogram following closely drawn plans as the work progressed. With the Big Deuce, Monogram was ready to produce the model but needed a full-size car built to test the components for fit and function before introduction, so that if changes were needed, they could be done beforehand."
Over the years these works of art were housed in a large warehouse at Monogram. Sometime in the mid-'60s, Monogram expanded and needed the space that the prototypes occupied, forcing the disposal of the vehicles. A few were sold to employees. Others were given away in promotional contests, including the Big Deuce and the Big T. Darryl said, "I believe someone in Los Angeles won the Big T, and it hasn't been seen since. By then, a lot of guys were using the roadster pickup as the basis for their cars, and I always felt the Monogram car just blended in. Every once in a while, someone still sends me a photo of his or her Big T discovery, but I can look at the pictures for a few minutes and know it's not the original because certain details aren't the same."
In any case, after the '32 was given away, it and the new owner disappeared without a trace, a trick that would have made Harry Houdini jealous. Asked if he had an attic full of un-built kits, Starbird laughs, "Wish I did! A few months back I bid $600 for one on eBay and was out-bid. My wife, Donna, bought one for our Hall of Fame not long ago for $500. The box was rough, but the kit is perfect, unassembled, and with all the pieces there."
The original Big T and Big Deuce have drifted off into the world of lost art and legends. There was talk a few years ago that someone was going to have Starbird build an exact replica of the original T, but alas, it was just a rumor.
Okay, so that won't happen, but why doesn't Monogram reissue them both, complete with the line of accessories parts packs? After all, there's a sizeable population of Baby Boomers out there who still don't have large toolboxes or stacks of cash and are lacking the skills to build a real hot rod. They certainly wouldn't mind having luscious red 1/8-scale versions on the coffee table.