When it comes to obtaining a hot rod, there are basically two categories of rodders: those who build, and those who buy. San Fernando Valley resident Bill West definitely belongs to the former group, as he has been building rods for himself and friends for the better part of half a century. Originally from the Santa Barbara region of California, West moved to Los Angeles as a teenager and quickly became immersed in the burgeoning Southern California hot rod scene. After discovering a talent for making things out of metal, he went into business for himself, fabricating anything from light fixtures to bellypans and everything in between. Over the years, his skills and talkative nature allowed the craftsman to forge friendships with several notable names in rodding, including Kent Fuller, Gray Baskerville, Kurt Hamilton, and Kenny Howard (aka Von Dutch).
After decades of working hard and raising a family, West came across an opportunity in the late '70s to procure some old Model T parts from a friend out in the desert. After rescuing an original '13 frame and the complete front suspension that went along with it, he decided to piece together a "quickie" shop car to cruise around the neighborhood. Once the chassis was on the ground and rolling, West decided that it really needed a dropped and narrowed front axle to achieve the right look. He took on the job himself, and after that first step was taken, the snowball effect kicked in. Soon, the entire chassis was in pieces on the floor, with the frame getting narrowed and fortified to form the foundation of a novel but original idea: a scaled-down early track car.
After 27 years of late nights and long weekends, the roadster is complete. From 10 feet away the little T looks like a full-size vintage race car. Only when someone approaches and towers over the mighty mite can you appreciate the effort and skill that went into crafting such a unique little rod. Every aluminum body panel is a hand-formed work of art, and every detail looks "right," from the brass headlamps to the four-cylinder Fiat engine, which looks like an Offy that was left in the dryer too long and shrank. After almost three decades of work does West plan on taking a break from hot rod fabrication? Not hardly. He's currently finishing up a 289-powered Model T Tudor he is building with his grandson, as well as a slick chopper that looks like it just rolled out of the early '70s. Apparently, dyed-in-the-wool builders don't have time to rest on their laurels.