Some say you would’ve had to live through the ’60s to understand what Bo Jones’ modified-style T meant when it came out. I say otherwise.
First, I’ve seen the pictures. Stance and wheel fit were the most common shortcomings with rods of the era, but more than just tires stuck out. At odds with the cars’ upright and conservative body shapes were the wild colors and psychedelic motifs often applied to them.
Second, I’ve seen Roy Rockwell’s modified. Cast in the same mold as Jones’, it has all the right distinguishing features: the colors, the pizza-cutter wheels, the jaunty stance, and an old-timey flavor that stops just short of clich.
One of the defining things...
One of the defining things about Bo Jones’ car was its generous forward axle placement. Roy Rockwell copied it with split wishbones fashioned from rear radius rods, a Super Bell axle, and Posies quarter-elliptic springs.
But that’s not to say one’s a clone of the other. Roy found creative space within the design’s narrow confines--quite literally, in fact. As Jones did, Roy started with the front half of a late Model T touring--at least parts from three tourings, anyway. Mike Smith at Fosses’ Hot Rods and Cool Cars narrowed that body. Only instead of cutting it down the foot or more that Jones did, Smith stopped at a passenger-friendly 8-1/2 inches.
Fosses fabricated a chassis in the likeness of a T, parallel from rectangular tubing. From the cowl forward it’s open to the elements; however, behind that it disappears behind a mock bellypan. The framerails emerge at a steep angle immediately behind the cab and meet at a round-tube crossmember.
The rear suspension is fairly conventional: shortened ’35-36 radius rods bolted to similar-vintage axle bells but split to meet the framerails. Only the rear spring doesn’t mount on the radius rods behind the axle. Instead it mounts spring-over style to homespun perches welded atop the axlehousing ends a la Model A.
These cars owe their charm...
These cars owe their charm to equal parts whimsy and irreverence, which explains the less-than-conventional speedometer. Classic Instruments did this specifically for this car although Rockwell originally asked for a slightly saltier phrase (which we can’t print).
The front suspension is a little less than conventional. Like the rear it consists of ’35-40 rear radius rods, only these have front wishbone perches welded to their ends. The spring arrangement is every bit as unorthodox: It consists of parallel quarter-elliptic leaf springs tucked into the chassis on one end and pinned to the axle vis--vis shackles on the other. Jones used a stretched and chromed Deuce axle, but given their rarity and relative expense nowadays Roy specified a painted Super Bell. All said and done, 100 inches separates the front axle from the rear.
At face value the 1.8L Mazda engine Roy employed seems an odd choice for a hot rod but then again the car that inspired him ran an engine just as unlikely in its day: a Chevy II. But it made a bit of sense: At the time Model Tpowered cars similar to Jones’ were thriving as hill climbers. Only to get them to produce the 90 hp the Chevy turned out in stock form required exotic obsolete parts, speed secrets to fill a book, and a guardian angel to help not if but when it broke.
The Mazda engine, on the other hand, makes 133 hp. If you’re into irony, get this: that’s 43 more horsepower than the Chevy II despite a 43ci handicap. In old-world bragging rights that’s about 1.2 hp per cubic inch.
Mike Smith at Fosses’ Hot...
Mike Smith at Fosses’ Hot Rods and Cool Cars narrowed the T touring body 8-1/2 inches, which lets the car accommodate two occupants, albeit rather intimately. Smith also made the aluminum seat pans, which Charlie Rowell at Holcomb Upholstery trimmed in distressed tobacco-colored leather.
The matching transmission has five closely spaced gear ratios that promise to exploit that engine’s powerband to a far greater degree than the Powerglide in Jones’ car could dream of. And if that isn’t enough, consider that Roy bought his the same way Jones did: for peanuts from a wrecking yard.
Once Smith fabricated the aluminum hood and false bellypan sides, Jason Hill at Fosses shot the car in its trademark orange, only this time in PPG Concept-Series urethane. Smith also fabricated the seat pans before turning the car over to Charlie Rowell at Holcomb Upholstery for distressed-leather trim.
Roy is quick to point out that he didn’t clone Jones’ legendary T modified. That much is obvious in the specific parts he used; the two cars are different.
At the same time they’re incredibly alike. Both cars were built from authentic parts where visible and convenient ones where not. Both builders nailed something so many people overlook when they endeavor to clone a car: its spirit. Jones’ car wasn’t so much a clone of a particular car as it was a recreation of the jaunty cut down that made prewar racing exciting.
In that sense you wouldn’t have to have lived the ’60s to understand what Jones’ modified meant. Roy’s version sums it up perfectly
A 2:1 gear reducer behind...
A 2:1 gear reducer behind the dash gives the 8:1 Schroeder steering box an effective and manageable 16:1 ratio. Butch Jobst relocated the shifter 5 inches forward for the current placement.
The three plates in the Posies...
The three plates in the Posies rear spring testify to the car’s diminutive weight. It mounts to brackets welded to the axlehousing ends a la Model A. The bells came from a ’35-36 but the quick-change center came from Winters Performance.
If you wondered why Roy didn’t...
If you wondered why Roy didn’t choose V-8 power, here’s your answer. To make this fit Butch Jobst narrowed the intake manifold and relocated the throttle body. Tricky, yes, but the result is 133 effortless horsepower and a close-ratio five-speed gearbox. In a 1,500-or-so pound car, that’s saying something.
The wheels started as ’35...
The wheels started as ’35 Ford pieces but the rears boast 2 more inches grafted to the wheel’s rims. They wear 4.50/4.75-16 and 6.50-16 Coker/Firestone Deluxe Champions.