The Model T Ford is where it all began. Not just hot rodding, mind you, but pretty much automobiles altogether, as the general public has come to know them. While not the world’s first “horseless”, Model Ts were the first people’s car in America, affordable means of transportation that, unlike other luxury mobiles of the time, would be handed down from one generation to the next, often serving as many a teen’s first car (or that which he or she learned to drive in the first place) decades down the road. As well, some of the earliest forms of racing were done in stripped-down and souped-up Ts, which only naturally lead to the grassroots of hot rodding each and every one of us owe a debt of gratitude to. And when hot rodding morphed into street rodding, it wasn’t the venerable Deuce that propelled our hobby into the second half of the 20th century.
The earliest forms of T-buckets, such as Norm Grabowski’s (rest his soul) “Lightnin’ Bug” to the Ivo T, opened the door to what would eventually become the Fad T era, a niche of street rodding that still to this very day has a huge cult following supported by an industry within an industry, thanks in no small part to companies like Speedway Motors and Total Performance. And just as so many Americans credit the Model T as their very first, so many of us credit T-buckets as our first hot rod, myself included. Just as they were when Henry first rolled them off the country’s first assembly line, T roadsters are super affordable, easy to build, and just cool as all get out. Those are all facts that will continue to stand the test of time.
George Goodrich is no newcomer to hot rods, and his ’23 T is the furthest thing from his “first”. Like myself, George loves all things associated with Ed Roth—but unlike me, he’s had the great fortune of actually owning more than one of Ed’s fullsize creations … with and without wheels! George had embarked on resurrecting Roth’s “Surf Angel”, though he says since Roth’s death, he’s not had the inspiration to finish the project. He did, however, manage to whip out this Tweetie Pie–inspired T after selling the Joe Barnett Touring he’d restored, filling a void and providing him with a car he built, not someone else.
And when I say “he built”, I mean that in every sense of the word—George spent more time fabricating and piecing together than he did assembling the roadster. The frame is totally built from scratch, while the body is a puzzle of various components ranging from ’23 Touring to Model A. With slight exception, George performed the majority of the labor himself, and in the fairly short span of three years, was able to go from literally nothing to what you see pictured here!
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1923 Ford Model T
The phrase “hand built” gets thrown around rather loosely for the most part—in George Goodrich’s case, however, that’s the only way in which to describe the chassis lying beneath his hodgepodge’d T. Working much like his mentor, Ed Roth, George penciled his ideas on paper, possibly of bar napkin nature, prior to fabricating and assembling the 109-inch wheelbase square-tube chassis platform. Features include Model A rear and custom-made round tube front crossmembers, the latter incorporating a spring mount “cap” to conceal the leaf spring hardware. Suspension consists of a ’37 Ford V8-60 front axle located with modified radius rods and ’40 Ford hydraulic shocks; a ’46-48 factory open-drive truck rearend has also been fitted with a split wishbone-type setup, albeit accompanied by a pair of homemade torque bars to help prevent ‘bone breakage! A reversed Corvair box handles steering.
An early (undetermined vintage) Chevy 283 V-8 (rebuilt and assembled by George with help from friend Dennis Roach) powers the T roadster dutifully with the help of an aluminum two-speed Powerglide trans. Other than a little hand polishing and the addition of a Gennie shifter, the tranny’s OE as-is; the engine, for the most part, is as GM intended it to be eons ago as well. On the exterior, the small-block has been addressed accordingly: aluminum Vette valve covers flanking a vintage cast-iron four-barrel intake of similar origin, Delco generator, and Sanderson weed burners with integrated glasspack mufflers.
Wheels & Tires
In classic ‘50s T-bucket style, George’s roadster utilizes the earliest form of bigs ‘n’ littles: Genuine Ford steelies (16x4 fronts circa ’40; 15x7 rear circa ’48 Ford truck) shod in wide white bias-plies—5.60/8.20, respectively, the rears having substantially “less” tread, for reasons we’ll leave to the imagination.
Body & Paint
As noted in the story, it probably took as much—if not more—time to gather the various body parts as it did assembling. Starting with the front half of a ’23 Touring, George fashioned together by hand what many others have done by simply picking up the phone and placing an order: fabricated an iconic “Bucket T” roadster body. The back half—or bobbed pickup bed in literal terms—features handmade side panels united with Model A stake pockets and tailgate—again, a laborious effort most others avoid by taking the ‘glass route. Nestled between a pair of Guide 682C headlamps is an original Deuce grille shell, which obviously gave up quite a bit of stature in order to fit the build. A two-piece, tall-stanchioned windshield, ’37 Ford taillights, military surplus “auxiliary” tank (feeding custom aluminum main fuel tank between ‘rails), and owner-applied two-stage black paint rounds out of the package.
T-bucket innards are sparse at best, but George had Armando’s in Hemet, CA, utilize what limited space there was to work with to the best of its potential—in the appropriate style of the era, of course. While black-pleated Naugahyde wraps the wood-and-foam bench seat and perimeter interior panels, purple angora fur aptly covers the available flooring areas, the latter nicely complementing the detailing of the engine block, in case you haven’t noticed!