Glen Roth and Johnny Ronnow were members of the Pasadena, California-based Coupes Car Club and raced with the Russetta Timing Association. Around 1948, these two friends bought a '27 T roadster that had been built in 1941 by Bob Maven of Victorville, California. They'd been dreaming of running a roadster at Bonneville, but wanted a high-quality car that they could also take to shows and drive on the street; by any measure they got it right with this one. The overall construction of the Roth and Ronnow roadster was impressive. In fact, California Bill (Fisher) thought so much of the car that he featured it in his book, Ford Speed Manual, 1952 Edition (Floyd Clymer Publishing).
In August 1952, the duo made the journey to the great white salty expanse to race at the 4th Annual Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) Bonneville Speed Week. The roadster was painted maroon and competed in the C-Modified roadster class as car No. 543. Ronnow handled the driving duties and completed several runs during the week. The fastest speed on Wednesday, August 27, was 118.57 mph. Ronnow pushed the car to 119.04 mph the following day before the car recorded its best run of the meet on Friday with a speed of 121.95 mph.
Around 1957, the Roth and Ronnow '27 T roadster was painted yellow and driven on the street. It was later parked in Ronnow's garage until 1966, at which point Roth transported it to his Southern California home. For the next 40 years, the roadster remained in dry storage in Glen Roth's garage.
In early 2006, the car came to the attention of SoCal hot rodders Mike Griffith and Jeff Halsch. After much discussion Griffith and Halsch were able to make a deal with Mr. Roth to buy the car. Several months later the car was offered to Houston-based racer/collector Mark Brinker, who had been looking for a historic '27 T. Mark says, "The Model T was not only a seminal car for Henry Ford, it was also the roadster of choice for land speed racing due to its relatively small frontal area. Although many of these cars were raced at the dry lakes and Bonneville, a high percentage of them are gone or have been modified into extinction. So when I heard about this original example that was bought out of Glen Roth's garage, I got really excited."
Mark asked his friend Chris Wickersham of Pasadena to perform a pre-purchase inspection. Wickersham has been in the car restoration business for nearly 50 years and is an active member of the Pasadena Roadster Club. According to Wickersham, "This roadster was a rare find. When I got there and they took the cover off, I was literally looking into the past. Not only was this car undisturbed for nearly half a century, it still wore its '57 California license plates and the owners had the matching '57 California DMV registration card-still in Roth's name. There was also a large box with period stereo Easymount slides, photographs, and even the original towbar that you can see in the '52 photos of the car at Bonneville. Mark and I had a really short telephone conversation. I told him if he didn't want it, I'd buy it!"
Mark quickly got the deal done but Wickersham did get to keep the car for a while. With a little arm-twisting, Mark was able to convince his longtime friend to freshen the car up and get her running. "The trick on this car," Wickersham says, "was to get it sorted and running while preserving its originality. I went through the mechanicals, disassembled the engine, and, with the help of Blair's Speed Shop, the engine was once again made ready to run. I did a lot of cleanup work on the chassis and other components and got tendonitis in my elbow from bringing back much of the chrome! The builders really got the aesthetic details on this car right and many of the components were plated. Mark wanted to retain all of the original chrome, so that's what we did."