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Model T Sedan Hot Rod

2/17/2020
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Ryan Henrickson built this whole car by himself with a little help from his friends.

Believe it or not, that photo on the cover of our street rod catalog is only a few months old. But it looks like 1948, doesn’t it? It’s worth noting that in the late 40’s, this car’s builder was about 35 years away from being born. How is it possible that in the age of smartphones and electric cars that a young guy is building something like this?

Meet Ryan Henrickson. He’s a soul from a different time, doing his best to get by in the 21st century. An architect by day, his passion for making things and making them right informs everything that he does.

This car has been on the road for a couple years now and it shows some evidence of the miles that have passed under it, just as it should.

While he was in college, he found a crusty Model T sedan body sitting in a field. Most 20-year-olds would have walked past the rusty heap, but Ryan saw an opportunity. In a series of rented garages, he taught himself to weld, shape metal and fabricate everything necessary to revive the old Ford.

The body was rough, and Ryan taught himself to weld and shape metal while bringing it back into shape.

This is a remarkable car for several reasons. First, you don’t see a lot of Model T sedans built into wicked looking hot rods. There are a ton of sneaky details in this car that don’t stand out by themselves, but combine to make it a knockout. The top was chopped 9 inches and the cowl was raised a couple inches to look less puny. The passenger door that came with the car is actually from a Model A truck, and Ryan fabricated his own hinges to make it work on the T. The header panel above the windshield was sectioned to he could actually see where he was going in spite of the wicked chop.

Yes, 9 inches is a lot to chop a car, but Ryan pulled it off, and the wicked profile is what makes this car a knockout.

There is a lot of hot rod trickery on the chassis, too. The Model A frame was pinched at the front so its sides are even with the sides of the grille shell. The front spring sits behind the un-dropped ’33-’34 front axle to bring the nose down. That perfect rake is the result of a lot of planning, trial, and error. The Model T rear crossmember was sliced and diced to work with the Model T rear spring to achieve the perfect altitude. A ’40 center crossmember was sectioned to fit in the confines of the Model A frame and looks like it grew there at the factory. The cowl-steering is actually a 60’s Mopar box hung from a tube structure that Ryan built from his own CAD drawing. The list of cool details goes on and on.

There's not a bad angle on this car. T sedans are not supposed to look this good.
This shot shows the cowl steering setup as well as some of the trick chassis fabrication.

Amenities are sparse inside the car, just as they should be in a hot rod. Ryan is not a short guy, but he fits comfortably in spite of the gnarly chop thanks to some careful planning. ’32 Ford seats are upholstered in tuck and roll with real cotton batting, just as they would have been in 1948. The dash is full of vintage and reproduction Stewart Warner gauges, complete with a mechanical tach. Ryan built a trick bracket to mount the tach drive on the front of the crank. An original ’40 Deluxe wheel directs the cowl-steer setup, and a WWII surplus ammo can hides the battery.

The original dash has been dramatically reshaped to house the array of Stewart Warner gauges.

And we can’t forget that flathead mill. Ryan built the engine himself with a little help from his grandpa (how cool is that?). And it’s no pokey little vintage engine. Using a bored 8BA block, Ryan added a 4” stroke Merc crank to end up with 276 inches. The Isky 400 jr. cam, block-letter Edelbrock heads (early heads adapted to the late engine), Navarro intake and owner-built weed-burner headers combine to make this car sound like a full-boogie Bonneville racer. Spark comes from a vintage Ronco Vertex magneto that was machined to work in the flathead. When it first hit the road, the flattie was backed up by a ’39 transmission, but Ryan wanted an overdrive for road-tripping, so a T-5 was swapped in to make life a little easier.

The Isky cam, big bore and stroke and Edelbrock heads make for a nasty flathead that looks and sounds just right.

Wait a minute, road-tripping? You read that right. It’s easy to build a period-perfect time capsule that’s just going to spend its life as a garage potato. It’s something different entirely to actually drive the thing. Ryan commutes across Omaha to work, and it’s quite a sight next to all the econoboxes on the freeway. It’s been to the HAMB Drags, where he beats it like a rental before hopping in it and driving it home. He’s even driven it to Bonneville. That’s a 2000-mile trip in a flathead powered Model T with no creature comforts. Only a well-built hot rod can do all of that.

Here it is on the drag strip, just before being driven five hours home. There are late models that aren't this reliable.

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