Bill WestWest Hills, California7/8-Scale '13 Track Roadster
Drivetrain: While this nostalgic little roadster started off as a quickie shop car over 30 years ago, it slowly morphed into a dedicated metalworking project as West was continually making improvements in his quest for "the right look." Along those lines, an old Volvo mill was originally tapped for power but was later replaced by a '72 Fiat 1,600cc dual overhead cam four-cylinder that made its way into the engine compartment about a decade ago. The little 'banger looks like a scaled-down Offy and was rebuilt with a .030-inch overbore, Fiat pistons, Hastings rings, and a pair of Weber 32 side-draft carbs. Being a metalman by trade, West fabricated the valve cover, oil pan, header, front cover, and air cleaner by hand out of aluminum. The diminutive size of the car didn't leave room for a clutch assembly, so a GM Turbo-Hydro 185 automatic trans was found and adapted to the back of the Fiat motor by the owner, who also fabricated the brass shifter.
Chassis: What started off as an original '13 Ford Model T frame was narrowed, shortened, fully boxed, and trussed to obtain the correct proportions and necessary strength. The front suspension also started out life as Model T gear but was shrunk to fit the now pint-size chassis. A shortened transverse spring cushions the dropped and narrowed axle from serious injury, while homemade friction shocks dampen the ride. A '58 BMW steering box was "sectioned" to fit onto the framerail, and brakes were sourced from a '68 Triumph Spitfire. Out back a '72 Toyota rearend was rebuilt with 3.78:1 gears and a limited-slip differential to provide some extra punch out of the hole.
Wheels & Tires: Normally, 13-inch Dayton wire wheels are reserved for the lowrider crowd. However, in this scaled-down application, they look just about perfect, mimicking the style of original Ford wires. The owner-fabricated brass center caps and big 'n' little Michelin tires were employed to achieve the proper stance.
Paint & Body: If you're wondering how it could take 27 years to build such a tiny car, take a long look at the body. West fabricated every panel at home in his spare time, using tools ranging from an English wheel to a hammer and dolly. The entire thing is constructed out of aluminum, including the folding hood and full bellypan. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle, the body was divided into sections, and West slowly formed and finished each piece one at a time, with a few sketches and an idea in his mind as the only blueprints guiding his way. Once all the panels were fitted, very little bodywork was necessary. Bob Dale of Valencia, California, sprayed the custom-mixed Olive Green acrylic enamel. Tom "Itchy" Otis laid down the contrasting orange pinstripes. The headlights are '12 industrial units by Detroit Electric.
Interior: The backs of the seats are actually formed into the body, and they provide a quite comfortable ride, considering the small size of the roadster. West did all the upholstery and finishing work himself, sewing bisque-colored leather into a 2-inch tuck 'n' roll job that covers the seats and a small roll around the perimeter of the cockpit. The handmade aluminum dash is filled with VDO Classic Gold gauges, and the steering wheel is a 13-inch replica of an original Ford wheel. The carpet was fitted by the owner, as are the pedals, which were handmade.