Rod & Custom Feature Car

Vance AlexanderNew Sharon, Iowa,'25 Ford Model T


The frame was built by the owner using boxed, folded U-channel, which he formed to fit the body, adding front downturns and a rear kickup. Thirty-two through-frame fittings were used to fasten the 'rails. Frontend components include a stock Deuce axle, '39 spindles, Deuce springs, early F-1 brakes with handbuilt air scoops, and homemade hairpins. The steering system, built from a modified Volkswagen bus box extended to fit to the Pitman arm, draws a lot of interest. In the rear, the early Culver City Halibrand quick-change presently runs 4.68:1 gears, with mid-'60s pickup axles and brakes modified to fit, and suspended by Model A springs, with lower rear trailing arms and triangulated upper arms. Vance built his own friction shocks. He also built the custom bellypan using '70s Chevy pickup fenders and 16-gauge sheetmetal. A pair of agricultural-use 8-gallon polyethylene fuel tanks is mounted within the pan.


Vance calls it "the little engine that thought it could." A PerTronix ignition lights the '63 215ci aluminum Oldsmobile bored to 219 ci (machine work by the Drurian brothers at Haines Auto Parts), and running a mild Isky cam. Ford Y-block valve covers were reshaped to fit the Olds. The original Rochester 4GC carb main shafts were rebushed in hard plastic, and feed an original manifold. The air cleaner was handformed using homemade tools. The exhaust manifold is from a Buick, with slide-in baffles in the pipes. The T50 five-speed from a small-block-powered Monza was a $30 swap meet find, and the modified Vega driveshaft was a dollar.

Wheels & Tires

The perfect rims for this '40s-style rod are original 16-inch Fords (4-inch '40s in front and 4 1/2-inch '46-48s in the rear) dressed up with Deluxe caps from Bob Drake. The 450/475-16 and 700-16 Firestones are from Coker Tire.

Body & Paint

Building the roadster body meant repairing some ancient collision damage and replacing a mission door with one from a touring car. Vance widened the body 2 inches to increase foot room and raised the firewall and cowl an inch to improve the hood line. The turtle deck and rear panel were handformed, maintaining the original width, and the decklid was framed with square tubing. The frameless windshield is sandwiched between two pieces of rectangular tubing. King Bee headlights and taillights sit on forged stands. Vance shot single-stage Dupont Centari Black with no hardener; the medium compound leaves a finish that looks worn and rubbed on.


In the tradition of most early hot rods ("unfinished and in transition"), Vance is sitting on a school bus bench until he finds a more suitable seat. An upholstery tack strip of native maple was steam-bent using a homemade steamer and bending forms. The dash, modified from a '32 closed car, was created from 26 pieces of sheetmetal and features widened oval housing instruments out of a '35 Buick. A '39 banjo wheel is mounted on a column built from an exhaust tube. Surplus Boeing 737 honeycomb flooring strengthens the footwell, which extends farther forward than the firewall.