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.
Tom PaganoRancho Cordova, California'27 Model TRoadster Pickup
DrivetrainBruce "Wrench" Pleaston and the owner rebuilt the '56 Hemi that came with the pile of parts that became this roadster using stock 9.25:1 pistons and a PAW cam with stock heads. The original dual-quad intake and dual 500-cfm Edelbrock carbs feed the 354ci engine, and Sanderson headers carry the exhaust note right below Tom's ears. A Hot Heads adapter hooks the Hemi to a Turbo 400, modified by Xtreme Performance. The Ford 9-inch rearend runs 3.00:1 gears.
ChassisThe Model A 'rails that carried the car way back when were replaced by a 2x4-inch tube frame from the Model T Shop in Sacramento. The T is suspended on All American springs and shocks in the back, with suicide-perched leaves and custom-made reverse-mount radius rods in front at the drilled '46 Ford axle and spindles. Brakes are 11-inch discs in front, with 10-inch drums at the rear. The steering column has been replaced with a Wizard Fabrication Steer Clear offset steering coupler, invented by Tom himself.
Wheels & TiresWide whites mounted on painted Wheel Vintiques steelies with caps and rings are a perfect match for the red and white roadster. Front 15x5s are mounted with radials from Coker. The 15x7s in the back run Moon cheater slicks.
Body & PaintStarting with some badly Bondo'd and patch paneled sheetmetal, Tom and Ron Roark handbuilt the entire lower portion of the body. The floor was completely fabricated from a steel tube frame with riveted aluminum. The original plan for satin black was scrapped in favor of something a little more eye-catching. After several changes of mind, Tom decided on bright white with red scallops. Tom's son, Tom Jr., a partner in Tomz Kustoms (with Tom Sr. and Tom Leman), added the pinstriping to the grille shell, firewall, heads, framerails, rear axle, rearend housing, and elsewhere. His talent earned him the Tommy The Greek Memorial Award at the San Francisco Rod, Custom, and Motorcycle Show.
InteriorThe cockpit, built by Tom, is about as simple, and traditional, as it gets-Stewart Warner Wings gauges in a custom dash, SO-CAL Sprint Car steering wheel, and Lokar shifter and eight-ball knob. The riveted floors were jazzed up with a little more pinstriping. The custom seats are built from '27 T sedan frames with custom cushions and perforated aluminum backs riveted in place-and flip forward. When Tom debuted the car in Pleasanton last year, the backs hadn't been installed. Tom told everybody they were done anyway. "That drove 'em nuts," he says.