Ask people what makes a "real hot rod," and you'll find out that everybody's got a different idea. But let's agree on one thing: Dave Eltzholtz's homebuilt, mucho-driven, bare-metal '23 T is a no-doubt-about-it hot rod.
Dave got interested in rods as soon as he was old enough to draw them. His lifelong assortment of iron has been diverse, but consistently cool: '34 sedan, Model A rpu, '63 Corvette, '54 F-100, "Cal-Look" '64 Beetle, Austin Healy 100/4, and this most recent ride.
"I remembered seeing pictures in old sports car magazines of Italian workers pounding out car bodies in dimly lit garages with simple tools," Dave says. "I wondered what that would feel like because it looked like satisfying fun." Now he knows. He started building the T about six years ago on the floor of his garage, dividing up his work area with chalk lines and building each piece separately. By the beginning of 2002, all those separate components came together as a one-of-a-kind running roadster. "I was surprised that I had something that had to be inspected, registered, and insured!"
Dave wasted no time getting the homebuilt hair dryer on the road. The 100-mile Ranch Run in January '02 provided the shakedown drive that has never ended. The road test continued later that year with an extensive loop through California. A year later, Dave made a run to Pike's Peak, covering almost 3,000 miles in five days. In 2004, with the custom-built roof in place, he was off on another five-day blast, hitting Bonneville, western Canada, Yellowstone, and the Tetons along the way. In between the big trips, he makes local events all over Southern California. We've spotted the roadster/coupe at subsequent Ranch Runs, the Antique Nationals, the Primer Nats, and the Twilight Cruise Night at the Wally Parks Museum. It was also an Asphalt Ego-Rama semi-finalist in 2005.
After four years and 33,000 miles, Dave's itching to get the T back on the road. Where to next? "I want to collect mileage going to an event in Maine or the far Northeast and run my tires in the Atlantic Ocean!" Look around, East Coast rodders, there may be a bare-metal T coming your way.
Dave EltzholtzBonsall, California'23 Ford Roadster/Coupe
DrivetrainA 0.030-over 350 with '62 Vette heads is plenty-o-motor for a car that almost weighs less than the engine. Sonny Cook did the machine work. Dave did the rest, adding a Corvette aluminum manifold and Edelbrock 600-cfm carb with a homebuilt dual-element air cleaner. Valve covers are from a '63 Corvette and header pipes are homebuilt. The Saginaw three-speed has been swapped for an early Borg-Warner T5. In the rear, 2.30:1 gears fill the Chevy 10-bolt.
ChassisWhen designing and building the chassis, Dave welded up high suspension mounts to drop the 2x3.125 tube frame for a low center of gravity and better cornering. Wishbones are split front and rear. The '34 Ford undropped axle with '40 Ford spindles hangs on Pete & Jake's short shocks with a Model T tapered leaf. The suicide front mount is adjustable to change ride height. The rear suspension includes Monroe shocks and Mitsubishi coils. Wilwood four-piston discs brake the front wheels. Rear brakes are '78 Monte Carlo drums.
Wheels & TiresThe T bounces back and forth between a set of 15-inch Jeep steelies and 16-inch Ford wires, depending on the look Dave wants and where the car's going. For long trips, bad roads, or driver comfort, it's the steelies, wrapped in BFG radials. For dressing up, it's the wires with bias-ply Nankangs and Firestone skinnies in the front.
Body & PaintDave learned how to do bodywork on this car and every piece of sheetmetal was hand-constructed, shaped, and TIG welded by the owner. The flip-up rear turtle deck allows access to the battery and 21-gallon tank. The removable T-type top is a more recent addition. The headlights are unnamed early aftermarket products. The only paint is the green Rust-O-Leum on the chassis.
InteriorDriver and passenger ride in low-back buckets from Speedway Motors. The owner-built steel dash features Stewart Warner Wings gauges and a mechanical speedo. The 12-inch aluminum and leather wheel turned up at a swap meet. The Ansen shifter from the swap meet is capped with some guy's skull. Air conditioning and a stereo? Like this car needs them.