1927 Model T “Rat Rod”
The term rat rod really has no precise definition. It’s generally used to describe traditional hot rods based on Fords from the 1920s and 1930s, and built more with an eye towards performance than appearance. Boyd Coddington, of course, is a stickler for both, and for any car he builds, the word “rat” has to be taken with a grain of salt. But the Rat Rod he and his team put together over the course of four episodes of American Hot Rod-and drove to the Street Rod Nationals at Louisville, Kentucky-is as much of a tribute to the old, bare-bones days of hot rodding as AHR has ever chronicled.
The project got started when Boyd visited his friend Bob Bowder in Crestline, California. Recalling that a Ford Model T was the basis for one of the first hot rods he ever built, Boyd purchased a 1927 T from Bowder and began to consider its possibilities. The car was in phenomenal shape for a vehicle pushing eighty years old-in Boyd’s estimation, it was “a beauty–0ne of the nicest cars we’ve ever started out with. Too bad we’re going to tear it apart”.
Aside from being in drive-away condition, the T had remarkably little rust; just about the only corrosion on the body was found by the late Roy Schmidt when he went to work replacing the wheel wells. But that near-museum-quality body was in for a transformation. Once taken off the frame, it was hand-stripped, using a chemical stripper, and sanded down to the bare metal beneath Henry Ford’s ubiquitous “any color you want, as long as it’s black” paint scheme. (In rat rod fashion, though, it would be painted black once again.) Boyd wanted a wedge look to the overall body profile, which meant a six-inch chop that would leave the roofline higher in the rear. The windows, too, had to be modified to create the wedge shape.
As work progressed on the body, and on the replacement of the old Model T four banger with a Corvette V-8, the build developed into a competition between Boyd’s crew and a team of his staff members to see who could finish their hot rod first-after a false start, the opposition had settled on a 1929 Ford pickup truck for their entry in the impromptu derby-and win a “race” to the Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky. Boyd came out ahead in the 2,500-mile overland haul, but the pickup won an audience vote at the meet, based on looks and styling. No matter-“We’re all winners,” Boyd beamed, having proven that you can make a silk purse out of . . . well, that near-mint ’27 T wasn’t too much of a sow’s ear to begin with, but with its new lines and Corvette mill, it had to be an improvement on the utilitarian people-mover of a lifetime ago, and a “rat rod” with quite a pedigree.