It's an odd relationship between a hot rod builder and a customer. The customer is the one paying for the job, but the experienced judgment of the builder is a big part of what he's paying for. Sometimes a builder can guide the customer away from bad ideas and toward good ones. If he can't, he only has a couple of options: build the car the way the customer wants or pass on the project. When Tom Pagano, from Tomz Kustoms in Rancho Cordova, California, was approached by a guy whose ideas were, as he puts it, "horrible," Tom came up with a third option: buy everything and build the car right.

Like most hot rodders, Tom got into this whole thing as a kid, building models and reading magazines. "When I was real young," Tom remembers, "I sent away for the plans to 'Build your own Bucket T' from Bird Engineering, advertised in one of the magazines. I had big plans to do all of that, but I never did build that roadster. So, this car was really the conception of my ideas from when I was a teenager."

At first, Tom tells us, he thought about throwing everything together as a quick build, painting the chassis red, and shooting the body with some satin black and red scallops. When he started looking around at everything that was out there, he realized that's exactly what everybody was doing-which is exactly what he didn't want to do.

From what Tom has been able to learn, his '27 T roadster pickup has its place in hot rod history. The body, '56 Hemi engine, and a handful of other pieces, were once parts of a hot rod raced by an old-time drag racer in the Sacramento, California, area. After the racer died in the '70s, the car bounced from one family member to another, and was taken apart and put together so many times that by the time it showed up at Tomz Kustoms, it was a big pile of parts. But they were great parts. The '27 body was all original, and the framerails were from a Model A. The Hemi hadn't been fired for years, and the oil galleys were plugged solid, but when Tom took the engine into the machine shop to be rebuilt, the astonished machinist reported no wear in the cylinders. It was as if the engine was brand-new.

In six months, that pile of parts, plus a few newer ones, came together in the form of the traditional T shown here. The previous owner probably regrets not listening to Tom's advice, but the long-gone drag racer who ran the roadster decades ago would probably be proud of the way his old hot rod turned out.