1927 Ford Track T Roadster "Gunslinger" - SOLD
     
  • Overview & History
  • Specifications
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The whole idea behind Gunslinger was to merge the design ethos of the classic Model T track roadster with craftsmanship that borders on art without losing sight of tradition.

To fully understand this incredible 1927 Ford Model T roadster, we need some historical context. In the ‘30s, dirt track racers were already building some pretty impressive machinery, and nothing worked so well as a stripped down Model T roadster shell: minimal weight, therefore maximum performance. Following the war, GIs came home duly influenced by what they’d seen in Europe, both on the streets and in the air, and the performance revolution that followed has its roots as much in aviation as in automobiles. Track roadsters continued to be a popular form of motorsport, but with the surging popularity of top speed runs such as Bonneville, the game changed quite a bit. And, of course, there’s the whole hot rod phenomenon, which was all about street cars that could be raced (or were they race cars that could be driven on the street?). With all of that firmly fixed in your mind, please take a good, long look at Gunslinger.

Gunslinger is ostensibly a 1927 Model T Ford roadster, and yes, the body tub is 100% Henry Ford steel. Every curve, relief, and molding is as the factory did it, albeit about 900 times more precise and beautifully finished. That’s your minimalism part. The deck lid is fiberglass, but that’s the only non-metal body part on the whole car and most folks wouldn’t notice anyway. The pointed nose is a familiar look for those folks who were on the salt flats in the ‘50s, a way of helping the boxy Model T slip through the air. It’s beautifully fabricated from scratch using aluminum and stainless steel to create a unique beak for this incredible car that’s both traditional and all-new. The rest of the nose, including the hood sides, top, and fairings along the chassis are hand-formed aluminum for minimum weight and punched full of louvers to both help with cooling and to allow the air to pass around and through the car as easily as possible. More than one visitor to our shop has marveled at the beautiful little roadster and commented that it looks very much like an antique airplane, which I’m sure is a very high compliment to the builders because that’s design and function in its highest form. In short, there’s nothing on the car that is merely cosmetic in nature, and while it’s all beautifully built and finished (which is absolutely cosmetic), it’s all completely functional, too.

Gunslinger wears perhaps the most spectacular black paint job we’ve ever seen. There’s not a single ripple, wave, or patch of orange peel anywhere on the car, suggesting a huge amount of time was invested in getting all that hand-fabricated bodywork super straight. Heck, punching a louver in a piece of flat steel causes distortion, but you’ll see none of that on this car. It’s like the louvers were born in the metal rather than violently punched into it. It’s got an old-school vibe with leather windlace between the panels and quick-release fasteners hold all of the fairings in place so you can have almost instant access to any of the car’s mechanicals. And it all fits together exquisitely well, a task that probably required hundreds of man-hours all by itself, tediously filing, smoothing, and tweaking the body parts into alignment. The result is a show-quality rod in every way (we’ll talk more about the shows in a moment).

The whole idea behind Gunslinger was to merge the design ethos of the classic Model T track roadster with craftsmanship that borders on art without losing sight of tradition. So that means superior modern urethane paint was used, but at the same time, vintage (or vintage-looking) parts were used throughout. Check out the Deitz headlights perched on their own beautiful little stands, the chrome windshield stanchions holding a beautifully shaped cut-down windshield that actually does work to keep things pleasant inside, and the ’39 Ford taillights that are as minimalist as you can get without losing all sense of style. Then there are the functional bits like the scoop under the nose that actually force-feeds cool air into the radiator, the cool reverse scoops in the side panels that look like the exhaust ports on a Mustang P51 fighter plane but actually add clearance for the headers, and the exposed steering mechanism that’s the essence of simplicity. Out back, there are neat little push bars that replicate those used on salt flats racers for decades, and while they probably don’t offer much protection, they do give it a finished look. Tradition reigns supreme on Gunslinger but it’s so beautifully executed and done with such technical mastery that you almost forget to look for it.

The interior is again a nod to the past, with distressed-looking gray/green leather that might have been weathered by the sun and elements back in the ‘50s. It’s nicely fitted to a fresh bench seat that’s contoured just right so even real-sized human beings can fit behind the wheel and enjoy the drive. Pleated door panels use brass rifle bolts ("Gunslinger" remember?) as door latch handles and check straps for a vintage look and there are carpets on the floor, which definitely help control noise and heat. And again, they’re beautifully made, fully bound and including a heel pad for the driver, ensuring that it’ll stay looking good. An engine-turned instrument panel is a race look from the earliest days of motoring and houses a complete array of simple white-on-black gauges with most of their identities erased in the quest for tradition. A quick-release sprint-style steering wheel makes it easy to jump in and out of Gunslinger and the pedals are arranged in such a way as to make driving comfortable and high-speed shifting and braking easy, not challenging. It’s got nothing but the basics: gauges, ignition, headlights, and a turn signal toggle, plus a hand-operated windshield wiper arm just to make it legal. Even the Hurst shifter for the 4-speed Muncie gearbox has a beautifully stitched leather boot with a neat little leather tie to snug it up. It’s simple, but simple doesn’t mean crude or poorly finished.

The trunk is outfitted with a modern fuel cell for safety and aircraft-quality fuel lines feeding the small block V8 up front, so no worries about safety. The battery sits back here too (where else would it live?) and offers good service access and a master cut-off switch just underneath the rear of the bodywork. And, of course, like the rest of the car it’s expertly finished with tailored carpets and a neat little aluminum prop rod that holds it at just the right angle.

With a look like this, you know you can’t phone it in in the horsepower department, but the engine itself isn’t really the point. The technical specs are impressive (ZZ3 Chevrolet 350 cubic inch V8 with aluminum heads and a wicked Comp Cams “Mother Thumper” roller camshaft inside and a big Demon carburetor on top) but the point wasn’t WHAT was making the power, but merely the power itself. And with more than 400 horsepower on tap and a full-race idle that cackles and snorts, this car sounds like a predator before you’ve even got it out of the garage. Simplicity was the name of the game under the hood, so it’s exceptionally clean and tidy with vintage-looking finned valve covers and a simple black open-element air cleaner. They skipped the usual chrome nonsense and focused on function, which is where this car’s appeal really lies. Check out the oversized alternator pulley for high-RPM operation, the wrapped header tubes, and the lightweight aluminum radiator up front, all of which were designed to work properly without getting in the way. Turn the key and the HEI ignition system sparks it to life, but remember, this is a race motor for the street, so the idle bucks and snarls and you’ll have to baby it a bit until it warms up. It doesn’t get hot in traffic thanks to an electric fan hidden in the nose and yes, it’s pretty content to sit in rush-hour traffic if that’s what you’re really going to try to make it do. With those removable panels, service access is easy, but this isn’t really the kind of motor that you’re going to want to show off. Instead, you’ll pull into a show, let a crowd form just by hearing the exhaust, and then let the car speak for itself. As I said, the engine’s actual identity is irrelevant, it’s what it does that’s important.

So what does it do? It makes far away things get really close really fast. 400 horsepower in a package that weighs perhaps 1700 pounds is shockingly fast and in the first two gears, anything more than half throttle will result in massive wheel spin and a cacophony of exhaust pulses that sound like the rantings of a very angry and very large predator. Keep it aimed straight and you’ll probably find that it can spin the tires in any gear at just about any speed, but used judiciously, Gunslinger will outrun virtually anything else on the road. The Muncie 4-speed manual gearbox has the right ratios to make the most of the engine’s minimal inertia and it’s a joy to bang it through the gears in fury, as the car seems to beg for more every time you punch a shift. The exhaust system was completely hand-fabricated with special “noise boxes” and mufflers to create just the right sound that isn’t like anything you’ve ever heard before but seems exactly right for this particular car. The front suspension is traditional hot rod fare, with a dropped I-beam axle, hairpin trailing arms, and stubby shocks, but it’s set up right so it’s not twitchy at speed and tracks like a cruise missile on the highway. In back, it’s a little different, offering a vintage independent suspension, and with drum brakes on either end it’s got to be from a ’63 or ’64 ‘Vette. A car this light and low doesn’t need sway bars, yet the ride quality is pretty darned good, particularly with the reasonably tall tires. Drum brakes at all four corners are more than adequate with the flyweight body and everything underneath is as exquisitely detailed as the top. Heck, they even gave the rear shocks a shot of patina to create just the right vintage look. And you’re puzzling over those wheels, aren’t you? They’re 1937 Ford “wide five” artillery wheels, fully restored and powdercoated black and shod with big-n-little Firestone dirt track tires that give it the perfect stance.

Awards? This car has already won some big ones. The paint was barely dry when it rolled off the trailer at the 2013 Goodguys show in Columbus, Ohio and was promptly awarded the “Terriffic T” award, which was followed by a “Fab 5” award only two hours later. Out of more than 10,000 cars, the pros, the enthusiasts, and the press decided this was one of the best. This simple little black Model T simply blew everyone away with its looks, quality, and attention to detail, the very essence of traditional hot rodding.

Gunslinger has less than 200 shake-down miles on it, so it’s still ready to show at the highest levels. It’s also fully sorted mechanically so you could theoretically drive it across the country without worries, too. That’s what you get with no-expense-spared professional builds. So if you’re an old-school guy who’s sick of plastic rods full of catalog parts, then a car like this must be on your short list of thrills to experience. No disappointments, no excuses, no stories. But don’t say we didn’t warn you: this car is extraordinarily fast and it’s really easy to get in over your head if you’re not at the top of your game.

Living on the edge? Yeah, that’s definitely how the old school guys did it.

Vehicle: 1927 Ford Track T Roadster "Gunslinger"
Price: SOLD
Stock Number: 111108
Mileage: 192
VIN: T3041625
Engine: 350 cubic inch V8
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Gear Ratio: 3.42
Wheelbase: 101 inches
Wheels: 1937 Ford "Wide Five" steel wheels
Tires: Front: 5.00-16, Rear: 8.90-16 Firestone
Exterior Color: Black
Interior Color: Green leather
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