Sports cars and hot rods generally seem as dissimilar as the wine-sipping and beer-swigging enthusiasts who drive them, a notion reinforced by each genre's distinct qualities: Sports cars buzz; hot rods rumble. Sports cars hug pavement around hairpin turns; hot rods haul beans in straight lines and careen around corners only when there's no alternative. Sports cars are refined and dainty; hot rods are raw and primitive.
Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll find common visceral goals like speed, excitement, and freedom. In fact, post-war hot rod history is filled with examples of track roadsters built to do road-course battle with more refined and expensive European sports cars. Many were very successful, proving the mettle of grass-roots rodding ingenuity.
Such similarities are not lost on Carl Glitzke. A retired mechanical engineer, Carl expects things to work well, not just look neat. He's also a sports car enthusiast who has owned a '52 Jag, a '70 Alfa, and an '80 Fiat, so he is accustomed to a certain level of balance from his transportation. He didn't abandon those expectations when he decided to build a hot rod.
"I had planned to build a specialty car for more than 20 years," Carl tells us. "I thought I would build a sports car, as that has always been an interest of mine. However, in my area (Colorado Springs, CO), street rods seem to have more interest and clubs, so I decided on something in-between.
"I started reading and learning about street rods and my heroes became Tom Prufer and Don Varner with their beautiful track Ts of the '70s. I spotted a write-up of Zipper's Lakes Modified in 1999, called Darrell Zipp, and bought a 'roller' on my first visit to his shop."
For those who don't know, Zipp is a long-time hot rod builder who has worked with everyone from Ed Roth to Dick "Magoo" Megugorac. A few years back he combined his Art Center College of Design skills and rodding ingenuity to create a Lakes Modified-style '26 T roadster combining vintage flavor and modern technology. Before long he was offering a body-and-chassis package to other rodders who wanted in on the fun.
Zipper's package system appealed to Carl. "This was my first car build," he says. "I wanted to do as much as I could, so I started learning about painting as Darrell was building the roller. I actually built a small 8x12-foot paint booth in my garage and talked to a lot of people-some even knew what they were talking about! The rest of the build (wiring, plumbing, upholstery, etc.) was learned on the fly as needed."
First rod or not, this is one fun machine. Sports car handling is assured with an independent quick-change rearend and four-wheel discs, while a RamJet 350 provides rocket-like acceleration. The competition flavor is reinforced by bold red scallops and checkerboard graphics inspired by Seth Hammond's Salt Flats car. Carl actually alternates between two noses on the car-the track-style version with E&J-style lights and a Model A shell with commercial headlights. Combine those with two sets of wheels and tires-the Mehelich Cruzers and BFGs shown here, plus a recently purchased set of American Salt Flats with Firestone dirt track tires-and the car's appearance can be altered on a whim.
The only fierce competition Carl's roadster sees is at rod runs, and it already has many wins in that arena. More importantly, it has all the qualities an agile hot rod or potent sports car should-it's light, it's fast, and it's fun. It sounds like the perfect combination for attacking Colorado's twisty mountain two-lanes.
Carl GlitzkeManitou Springs, Colorado'27 Ford Roadster
Drivetrain: With a GM RamJet 350 you get great power, easy starting and idling, and a cool-looking induction system. What more could a guy want? The engine is dressed in Edelbrock brightwork and hooked to a 700-R4 overdrive automatic with a custom "column" shifter.
Chassis: The "roller" package from Zipper Motors included a custom frame with all the fixin's. On Carl's car, that means a polished aluminum independent quick-change rearend with inboard Wilwood discs and friction shocks. It's paired with quarter-elliptic springs, a Super Bell axle, four bars, and more Wilwood brakes up front. The chassis also incorporates a Wilwood master cylinder and Vega-style steering box.
Wheels & Tires: Mehelich Cruzers, sized at 14x6 and 15x10 inches, are the wheels seen here. They're wrapped in BFGoodrich 185/70R14 and 285/70R15 rubber. Carl recently bought some American Racing Salt Flat wheels and Firestone dirt-track-style tires that he can swap on when he wants to change the car's look.
Body & Paint: Believe it or not, this is Carl's first serious paint job. It's tough to tell looking at the great PPG white finish with red scallops and black graphics. There are two noses for the car-the track-style version that runs with E&J-style lights and a Model A-style grille with commercial lights. Jake Hudson did the pinstriping on the rear, and Jesse Mabe built the polished grille insert, nerfs, and kick-off bars.
Interior: Narrowed Sheel seats cradle Carl and his wife June in comfort, while a custom rollbar by C-FAB and So-Cal belts keep them safe. You'll find Auto Meter gauges keeping tabs on the mechanicals and Ron Francis wiring delivering the juice throughout the car. Mike Elliott handled the few pieces of upholstery that Carl didn't do himself.