Over the past generation it seems that every piece of hidden treasure has been discovered. Well, we're here to tell you that it's still out there.
In fact, a piece of bounty presented itself not once, but three times in the past decade. At one event it even caught the eye of a show-car collector, who dismissed it because of a detail. His racecar-trader buddy had his suspicions but never acted on them. Consequently, it went undiscovered.
What actually revealed the car was a $100 bet. Half a dozen years after the duo first saw it, the car showed up on an online auction. The collector remembered the detail but this time the trader bet on his hunch...and won.
As they soon found out, the T-bucket they bet on wasn't so anonymous; it was the Trojan, the late Harry Markiecki's show car and one of the upper Midwest's crown jewels.
Upon graduating Macomber High, a vocational school in Toledo, Harry hired on to Jim White Chevrolet. It gave him more than a steady income; "None of us ever had a real workshop," noted Jerry Halak, one of Harry's school mates. But with White's body shop at his disposal, his skills grew. "He built a '40 coupe about that time," John said. "It was basically stock, but he'd done some stuff like V-butted the windshield. That was the first time I'd heard anybody do that, at least around here."
"He was like that," observed Barbara Markiecki-Hofmeister, Harry's widow. "If he could do it with his hands, he could build something great." Recounting the streets they lived on at the time, Barbara pinpointed the birth of the Trojan as 1956.
"We went to Canada and brought back a trailer full," Jerry added. "It was funny; the customs officer asked if we had anything to declare. We said no; we were just hauling junk out and he said, 'Good. We want to get rid of that #@*&.'"
With those parts Harry built a car every bit as sophisticated as his contemporaries 2,300 miles to the west. Whether or not he copied it, the four-bar front suspension was similar to the one on Tommy Ivo's T. Just as Tommy Ivo and Norm Grabowski did, Harry welded plates inboard a V-8/60 tube axle's perch holes to serve as the bar mounts.
Like Tommy, Harry chose Nailhead power. The Dynaflow that came with it offered more than strength and convenience; it gave Harry the closed driveline necessary to use the '37-40 rear axle. Today we would argue that splitting the radius rods and mounting them to the chassis where they didn't operate on the same plane as the driveshaft pivot would cause the suspension to bind, but for the day the design was clever.
Rather than the '23-25 body, Harry used the more delicate-looking, low-hood '16-22. He too pushed the body back for more engine room, but instead of bobbing a bed he assembled bits and pieces-most obviously from the trunk of a '58 Thunderbird and the hood of a '59 Chevy-to fashion a stylish and modern-looking turtle-deck and fenders. "This was before plastic body fillers, John recalled. "Harry used to put extra strips of lead in his lunchbox and hope that the lunchbox wouldn't break when he walked through the door to go home!"
Bob Hogg at Seaport Automotive sprayed the car what the December '61 Hot Rod article referred to as '57 Pontiac Limefire Poly with a tinge of flake. Denzell Top Shop trimmed the cockpit and the rakish top, the latter another hallmark of the T-bucket movement. John laid out a flame pattern reminiscent of the one Dean Jeffries did on Grabowski's car, only with a sprayed-fade and wispier licks. Finally, the bucket was christened the Trojan. "Nope, we never knew why Harry named it that, but we always joked about it," Jerry revealed. "He already had a couple of kids when he finished that car, so it might not take much imagination."
About the time Harry started on his T, he and a few other guys founded one of the region's most notable car clubs, the Pharaohs. "It was one of the first NHRA-chartered clubs this side of the Mississippi," John Cassaubon proclaimed. "We had a Barris car and two Clarkaiser (Ron Clark and Bob Kaiser) cars." Then there was Harry's. And it ruled."
"We went to the Nationals in Oklahoma City simply because Hot Rod magazine was going to be there," John noted.
"Barris wanted to hire Harry," Jerry remembered. "He was looking at his workmanship and his abilities."
Barris' magazine connections are likely what took Harry's car national. We've already noted the December '61 Hot Rod, but the car appeared in another Car Craft story that same month. According to the May '62 Rodding & Restyling, Harry and his Trojan acquired 18 trophies-six best of show-in seven shows.
"That was quite an accomplishment in those days," John revealed. "If you lived east of the Mississippi you were really lucky to get any recognition; the big west coast magazine guys hardly ever came out this far."
Barbara guessed that Harry sold the Trojan prior to 1965, the year they moved into their new house. Nobody remembers to whom he sold the car. Later photos of the car show a Jimmy blower, a horizontal tube grille, chromed wheels with reversed rims and false knockoffs. Color snapshots indicate candy-apple red paint without flames. From there the car seemingly fell off the planet.
Fast-forward 30 years and meet Mike Guffey (the racecar trader) and Mark Moriarty (the show-car collector). "Mark and I go to Auburn every year for the Kruse auction," Mike began. "I walked up on this T-bucket in the corral. Candy red, Nailhead Buick with a 4-71 and chrome-plated everything. I'm looking at it thinkin', 'This ain't your average bear.'"
As the story went, the seller bought the car that day. "He told me that the body was polyester (fiberglass)," Mike added. "Somehow-I can't remember what it was that I saw that made me come to the conclusion that it was a steel car." He called Mark to ask if he'd seen it. "'Yeah, I didn't even look at it,' he told me.
"About six or seven years later, Moriarity calls me up and tells me that the car's on eBay," Mike added.
Mark explained, "The card that was in front of the car when it was in Auburn said that it had an ultra-rare early Poli-Form plastic body, so I didn't think anything of it. It said that in the auction too but Mike kept saying it was a steel car."
"I bet Mark $100 that the car was steel," Mike said. "There was a Ford swap meet on in Columbus, so I told him to get an appointment and we'll drive by Cincinnati and take a look at that car. By this point we're going to see this car to win a bet, not whether or not I should buy it."
"Yeah, I lost a $100 on that one," Mark lamented. "He stuck a fridge magnet on it as soon as we got there. He starts saying 'This is something good; we don't know what it is yet, but it's good!' Mike put a deposit on it and they drove home. Once there, they went straight for the ISCA Showtime book. "There it was on page four. The Trojan," Mike declared, still giddy with the find.
Enter Ralph Whitworth. Among other things, Ralph owns the Flying A Garage in Winnemucca, Nevada. The Flying A, specifically Dave Bengochea, mechanic Ken Lutzow, and painter Parker Arrien, restores and maintains Ralph's cars-mostly early hot rods and drag racers. "In late 2005, we went to look at some old A/FX cars over at Mike Guffey's place in Indiana," Dave noted.
"The T was off in the corner, so I started digging around looking at it," Ralph added. "I dreamed myself to sleep about dragging Main in a T-bucket, and it would've looked like that." A deal was struck and the Trojan had a new caretaker once again.
After learning more of the car's history Ralph knew they had to get this thing done and take it back to Detroit. With some help from Moriarty they worked up a deal with the Detroit Autorama's promoter, to create the Sixties show car display at the 2009 show.
As it turns out, Harry and Barbara's son, Scott, Googles his dad's name every so often. Early in '09 he struck paydirt: his search directed him to the Autorama press release that announced the Trojan's return. A little more legwork put the family in touch with the Dave and Ralph.
"When I found out that his family members were still around and interested, it got me excited," Ralph said. "I think we built it more for them than for Detroit, ultimately."
Though a T is a small car, its revival was no small task. "It was in really bad shape," Dave noted. "It looked okay just sitting there, but when we took the body off the frame it literally just fell apart." Among other things, subsequent owners cobbled the pipes and hacked up the body. "It was so bad that the only thing keeping that body together were the five bolts that held it to the frame," he said. "We took it all down to bare metal again-every piece to nothing-and started over.
"After we got it all smoothed out and rust-free we painted the frame black. It was fun putting it back together after we got all the chrome back from Advanced Plating. Three of us actually built the car: me, Ken Lutzow, and Parker Arrien."
"Parker deserves a ton of credit," Ralph observed. "The way he took to this project was just amazing. I'd call and ask how things were coming and Dave would say, 'Parker's not happy so we're stripping the trunklid again.' So he was really the driver of certainly the paint work, which I'm really proud of."
"He's a young kid about 24," Dave added. "We'd all sand on it but we can't take the paint credit; it's all Parker."
According to Dave, the reunion went even better than expected. "Barbara, Harry's wife...she cried like three times the first time we met her in Detroit," he said. "She told us, 'I just can't believe it; you did it exactly like Harry did it.'"
But the restored Trojan is more than a great find or a beautiful car; it's a monument to a man. Harry died in 1977. He was 42-far too young.
Just seeing the car reportedly brings back long-forgotten memories. Among them, "I can't tell you how many oil pans we went through," Barbara mused. "We used it to drive around the neighborhood whenever the sun was shining.
"It was great," she said. "Those were probably the best years of our lives. We enjoyed everything."
Hot Rod and Car Craft both featured the car in their December '61 issues. But in the Hot R
An early master of fiberglass, Harry customized this '61 Corvette for Jim White Chevrolet.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Due to the cross-section and taper, it appears that Harry made the Trojan's chassis from Model A 'rails, boxing only the front half. He narrowed the A's rear crossmember and replaced the front with a tube and forward perch. He fabricated the transmission crossmember from OEM bits and steel stock. Harry used a '37-40 axle, including part of the torque tube. He split the radius rods, welded bungs to their ends, and by way of tie-rod ends mounted them to tabs that he welded to the transmission crossmember. He also used the stock Model A spring, which just happens to match the axle's spread. Due to the geometry, rear shocks may have been an afterthought. Flying A replaced them with adjustable Pete & Jake's Alum I Shocks. Up front Harry started with a '38 V-8/60 tube axle. He removed the forward ends from the wishbone, ground them smooth, and pinned them to the axle backwards, thereby relocating the stock spring behind the axle. Then he welded plates to the axle. By way of those plates, four bars with spherical rod ends link the axle to tabs on the frame (and here you thought four-bars were '70s!). He used the entire Model A steering sector, mounting it with its mast poking straight up through the floor. Shrouded shocks mount to tubing welded to the chassis and to the spring shackles.
The 322ci Buick reportedly was a GMC commercial-truck engine that Harry equipped with higher compression pistons and sportier cam. Most recently Ken Lighthouse at Ken's Automotive Restoration cleaned it up with a .060-inch over-bore. Before Ken Lutzow buttoned it back together, the block and heads got ground, smoothed, and painted white just as it had been. Dave Bengochea recreated the once-open pipes (the originals got butchered for mufflers). Once again a Weiand Drag Star manifold with six Holley 94s threatens to foul every plug in the engine with one careless blip of the throttle. The Dynaflow's enclosed driveshaft made it an ideal match for the Ford banjo rear axle. Flying A rebuilt this one, and other than paint detail, a chromed pan and torque tube, and Harry's one-off shifter, this one's rock-stock.
Wheels & Tires
Flying A chose the most popular version of Harry's car when it came to the rollers. The combo consists of 15x5 and 15x7 steel wheels with '55 Plymouth caps. The front wheels wear 5.60 BFGoodrich Silvertown tires. The rears wear recapped 27.75x8.5 slicks from Hurst Racing Tires.
Body & Paint
Harry chose the first of the all-steel Ford bodies, the runabout with the low hood mount that lasted from '16 to '22. Other than shaving and channeling it the height of the chassis, he kept the body basically stock. The turtle deck, on the other hand, is entirely custom. Harry made it by grafting pieces of a '58 T-bird deck. He made the fenders from bits and pieces of a '59 Chevy hood. Originally the deck was solid, but at one point Harry gave it a lid and a very sophisticated sealing channel. Harry also filled and cut down a '32 passenger-car grille shell and insert. Bob Hogg at Seaport Automotive originally painted the car '57 Pontiac Limefire Green Poly with a touch of flake, but this time Parker Arrien at Flying A shot it and replicated John Cassaubon's flames. Dale Weber of Weber Graphics lettered and striped the car following the lines John Cassaubon laid down half a century prior. The headlights are Dietz-style 7-inch sealed-beam conversions, which are similar to, but larger than, the 5 1/2-inch tractor lights (probably Guide or Yankee) that Harry used. They sit on Lee's Tornado-style cast-aluminum stands. The taillights in the rear deck came from a '58 Chevrolet.
Working with similar white vinyl, Dave Martinez replicated the trim job that Denzell's Top Shop originally did, right down-or is that up?-to the top cover. Harry likely used original black-face Stewart Warner gauges with the winged logo; however, Flying A used the company's later interpretations in white. Ken Lighthouse engine turned the aluminum panel behind those gauges. Harry originally chrome-plated the sole of one of his daughter's bronzed baby shoes and used it for a pedal; however, Flying A used a Moon pedal. Ken Lutzow wired the car.