Hot rods all have to start somewhere. Some of us start our new project when we pick up a long-forgotten relic, others find someone else's unfinished project and breathe new life into it, and another group of rodders starts with almost nothing. Tim Van Pelt's T modified started right at the front.
"When I was 12 years old, I was at a swap meet with my dad and bought the T radiator shell that's on the car now," Tim said. "The seller was asking $15, but I only had three or four dollars, so the seller came down to $10 and my dad chipped in the rest. I hung the shell on my bedroom wall. I never thought I'd build a car around a grille shell."
Tim and his dad built a couple of hot rods while Tim was in high school. At 14, Tim bought a '49 Chevy and swapped in a 235 straight-six with a Fenton cast header and aluminum intake. It didn't prove to be as reliable as he wanted, so he started on a '47 Ford coupe. This time he went with a 327 small-block and Turbo 350, but he stayed with a straight-axle up front. Tim still has the '47 and is planning to treat it to a body-off rebuild someday.
When it came time to build the next project, Tim decided to do something with the old shell that had been hanging on the wall. He found a '26 T touring body on a ranch in South Dakota for $100. It was fairly straight, had all four doors and the dash, and the rot was confined to the sills. He gathered some of the other parts he'd been hoarding, along with some recycled parts from his '47 build, and started laying out the modified. "I started out cutting the touring body in half and then tracing the bottom of the body onto a sheet of plywood. I then cut my 2x3 steel to this shape to begin the frame. I tack-welded pieces together, wired parts on, and propped parts on 2x4 blocks of wood until I got the look I wanted," Tim explained.
As fun as the T is, Tim told us that one of the best parts of the build was working with his young sons out in the garage. As I said at the beginning, hot rods all start somewhere, and the Van Pelt boys now have their start.