The reasons for building a hot rod are as varied as the fingerprints on our hands. Yet a hot rod "fingerprint" tells us as much about ourselves as the "fingerprint" tells us about the car. In hindsight it's always exciting to look back and discover why something was done so long ago only to realize that its values are as fresh today as they were yesterday.

This month's Milestones is the '26 Ford track T built by Pete Chapouris for...Pete Chapouris! First, a little genealogy is in order. "Our" Pete Chapouris is the "III" and currently of SO-CAL Speed Shop fame, while Pete Chapouris, Jr. is, well, Dad. Okay, now we know the players by their lineage. Many of us recognize Pete number III as half (the other being Jim "Jake" Jacobs) of the dynamic duo that built Pete & Jake's Hot Rod Parts into an industry icon back in the '70s. (Many will recognize the Ford roadster because of its license plate "SIROD2," but more on that later.)

Pete was exposed to hot rods, and more specifically to track roadsters, as a result of his dad's passion for watching these cars run at SoCal's famed Legion Ascot dirt track. These track roadsters were the "kings of the hill" according to Pete's dad and, with that opinion, a love for this style of hot rod was born.

This early foundation formed Pete's desire to combine his literal knowledge of hot rods and his father's passion for track roadsters into a project. With that, their mutual passions were combined into something that was streetable and could be continuously enjoyed.

A little on the mechanics of the car...The foundation of "SIROD2" is based on a custom frame (2x3-inch tubing) built by Pete, which was made in 1976 after he and Jake designed the car. The frame carries a 103-inch wheelbase with a 3-inch step in the front and a 6-inch step in back. The rearend is a Ford 8-inch (3.78 ratio) with an unequal four-bar setup coupled to a pair of Pete & Jake's shocks and Corvair coil springs.

The front suspension features an original '34 Ford I-beam dropped by Mor-Drop out of the Bay Area with '40 Ford spindles, a P&J four-bar and shocks, and literally one of the first Super Bell disc brake kits with Type IV VW disc brake calipers. The Vega steering, innovative for its time, is linked to a P&J column.

The powertrain is based on a '76 Capri 2.8L V-6 (headers by Tom Vandenberg) bolted to a C4 tranny. Pete gathered up the powertrain from Tom Lieb of SCAT Enterprises. It was in the mid '70s that Tom purchased six rollover Capri automobiles and was parting them out. A phone call here and there and Pete had a powertrain.

It wasn't until early in 1978, after his father experienced some medical problems, that Pete developed a sense of urgency regarding the project. At this point, things really started to happen. (The rolling chassis was missing such items as the hood and bellypan, windshield posts, dash, and dash insert.)

Pete realized that in order to achieve his goal he would have to bring in friends who possessed expertise in other areas. Steve Davis fabricated the hood, bellypan, and gas tank, while Lil' John Buttera "whittled" the windshield posts, Pete Eastwood took a fiberglass Deuce sedan dashboard and crafted it to fit the T roadster, and Eric Vaughn (now of Real Wheels fame) machined the dash insert. Eric would also be responsible for building the steel wheels that were wrapped with 145Rx14 Michelin rubber in front and Firestone dirt track tires in back.

Another friend of Pete's is W.W. "Scotty" Scotten of Greensboro, North Carolina, who moved out to SoCal and hung out at Pete's house while completing the body- and paintwork. The A-I fiberglass '26 Ford lowboy roadster was painted in British Racing Green, a DuPont lacquer color. (Legend has it that there are two kinds of British Racing Green: Lotus and Jaguar--Lotus being the darker of the two greens and the one used on the roadster.) And, if you look closely, there is a subtle applique of lime green and silver pinstriping, which was applied by Dennis Rickleffs.

The interior was another trendsetting aspect of the car for its time. Prior to this point in rodding history street rods were upholstered in a "full" or thickly padded style. Jim Bailey came from the aircraft industry, however, and was adept at building interiors that were thin in their appearance and application (thereby maximizing available room for occupants). This appearance was gained through "tight" door panels and seatbacks that could be set back under the body panel. He then covered the bench seat with saddle-colored Naugahyde.

Other appointments include Dietz headlights, '39 Ford (teardrop) taillights, Stewart Warner gauges, and the first of the billet rearview mirrors designed by Boyd Coddington but manufactured and sold by Pete & Jake's. The grille shell was an original Deuce item cut down and fitted with a handmade insert.

Pete gave the car to his dad on Father's Day 1978 while attending the L.A. Roadsters Show at the Great Western Exhibit Center. Pete, Jr. drove the car several times a week and, in fact, his Saturday morning drives with Uncle John Chapouris (who wired the roadster) over to Pete's house in Arcadia became a ritual. The two hot rod buddies would visit for an hour or so with Pete and then continue on their trek from El Monte to Arcadia to Temple City, a drive that took three hours and was performed religiously for seven years. It was in April 1985 that Pete's father died and the car was placed on "blocks," not being driven or touched for the following 10 years.

The car has a long and storied magazine past, having appeared on the cover and been featured in Rod Action (photographed by SRM Editor Brennan) and then Hot Rod in 1978. It was also run in STREET RODDER as part of a Thom Taylor rendering in 1980. However, it wasn't until 1995 that Gray Baskerville and Jake convinced Pete it was time to bring the car out and to allow Rod & Custom to do a feature (photographed by Baskerville and Louie Mayall) that would eventually run in the July issue of that same year. To remove some of the "sting" associated with the car being last driven in its configuration by Pete's dad, Pete opted to give it a bit of a different look. At that point, it was outfitted with whitewalls and '50 Merc caps, and it remains that way today. The car can be seen from time to time at several of Pete's favorite rodding events from NorCal to Phoenix but most of the time "SIROD2" resides at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

Hot rod or street rod, it all comes down to the interesting mix of a car's metal and an owner's spirit--and each can certainly "tell" you a great deal about the other!