Maybe it was growing up standing on the running board of his great-grandfather’s ’27 Ford woodie wagon. Maybe it was his involvement at age 10 in its restoration with his dad, John. But one thing’s for sure, Street Rodder’s Road Tour wizard, Jerry Dixey, has spent a lifetime under the magical spell of Ford’s Model T.
It’s interesting, in fact, that a guy who has crisscrossed the country countless times over the past 15 years in some memorable hot rods, amassing over 375,000 miles would want nothing more than one of Henry’s earliest offerings. To put it mildly, Jerry has pretty much seen it all, done it all, and knows what spins his crank when it comes to his own cars.
Nothing tracks the evolution of hot rodding better than studying all the subtle changes the hobby has experienced as the decades have passed. With each era personifying different facets of taste and style, the ’70s sure raised the bar when it came to retro. No we’re not talking about disco, bell-bottom jeans, or eight-track players, however, it certainly was a transitional time for rodding. With the resurgence of hot rods infused with daring designs and innovations, the ’70s was an era that always appealed to Jerry.
The 215ci Buick Nailhead was...
The 215ci Buick Nailhead was cleaned up and treated to an Offy two-pot intake capped with Rochester carbs tuned by Dan LaGrou. Power spins through a custom 700-R4 by Gearstar Performance Transmissions while spent gases are dumped through a 2-1/4-inch stainless exhaust by Stainless Works of Chagrin Falls, OH.
This is where our story shifts to where a young machinist named Bob Gutzke from Detroit began to gather parts in 1970 to build an era-perfect ’27 Ford T roadster. After corralling a low-mile Buick 215ci Nailhead V-8 and early ’60s Jaguar XKE suspension components, he fabricated a 2x4 rectangular steel frame to support all of the critical parts and topped it with an original Ford ’27 roadster body. With the car in mock-up form, he suddenly got the urge to start construction on a ’27 Ford coupe so the roadster project was moved to the back of the shop. The innovative T coupe went on to win the coveted Ridler Award in 1975 while the little roadster still managed to gather parts living under a veil of cobwebs.
Flash forward to the Road Tour at the NSRA Southwest Nationals in 2003 when Jerry just so happened to strike up a conversation with Bob Reynolds of the NSRA who mentioned the subject of Bob Gutzke recently selling off his Ridler-winning coupe. Reynolds then mentioned that Gutzke had relocated to Florida and that he just so happened to still have his unfinished T roadster project. Enthused by hearing of the 30-year-old project, Jerry contacted Gutzke and in the course of the conversation made a deal to buy the car sight unseen. Excited didn’t even come close to the level of enthusiasm surrounding the new purchase since the car was born in the ’70s and Jerry was determined to keep the car era-correct for the remainder of its build.
Starting with a pair of vintage...
Starting with a pair of vintage Triumph TR2 seats, Matt Baldwin at Woody’s Hot Rodz trimmed the interior of the tiny T to perfection using yards of soft golden tan vinyl complemented by saddle brown carpet. A stock dash supports dials from Classic Instruments while a Lobeck’s V8 Shop steering wheel sets the course along with a Lokar shifter.
Once the project was picked up and delivered back to his Classic Automobilia shop in Youngstown, Ohio, every patina-covered part was laid out and evaluated prior to getting started. Sifting through all the goodies was like stepping back in time, and while items like brakes and steering would be updated, the majority of the components would be retained. Jerry wasted no time enlisting the help of Tony Stanko to undertake the arduous task of glass beading 30 years of grime off all the steel and aluminum parts, as well as tidying up the frame to prepare the roadster for its next stop. At the same time, the body was sent out to American Metal Cleaning in Cincinnati, where James Taylor prepared it to be dipped and stripped, revealing whatever dirty little secrets lurked under its surface. With everything tidied up, the chassis was reassembled and along with the body, was delivered to BMS Engineering in Youngstown, for Brian Mulichak, Mark Lucicosky, and Sam Tufaro to begin work. The talented team got busy by first clamping the body, fenders, and running boards to the rolling chassis to establish and fabricate all of the needed mounting brackets. From there, the Buick mill and transmission were set in place along with a Walker Radiator “cooler,” and custom mounts were fabbed to anchor them to the chassis.