Ron Meis' 1927 T Roadster
Living Dead T
Are street rods dead?
Muscle cars and scruffy old pickups are all the rage. You can’t go more than a few feet at a Goodguys show without running into both, but as these “newer” models grow in popularity, it feels like the street rod segment is shrinking. Street rods dominated the car scene all through the 1970s and well into the ‘90s. It seems they hit critical mass toward the end though, a culmination of billet, tweed, and pastel splash graphics brought down the mighty street rod. Also playing into their demise was the ever-rising cost of admission and a younger segment coming onto the scene that grew up lusting after muscle cars.
This isn’t to say ‘rods dropped off the map. There are still a ton of them out there, with supreme examples being built every year to go after prestigious awards in the hobby, and companies like Factory Five and Shadow Rods are helping people build a ‘30s car that fits their modern-day desires. Case in point, this T roadster built by Kindig-It Designs in Salt Lake City. Owner Ron Meis wanted a little contrast from his ’59 Invicta, something small and sporty to liven up the weekly trip to the grocery store; this fits the bill!
Larger than a stock ’27 Ford by a few inches in every direction, the Shadow Rods XL27 bodies offer Model T styling with a much roomier interior. With a fresh body on the table, the wizards at Kindig-It Designs handmade a hood and smooth hood sides, then capped them with a smooth, plus-sized grill shell. To finish off the T’s face, huge headlights reminiscent of the old commercial lights rodders used back in the day are mounted on custom stanchions. Taillights are from Greening Auto Company; the smooth bullets look like ’39 Chevy lights, also a common addition to roadsters in the ‘50s. The paint color is a custom mix from the Kindig-It shop called Bubbly.
We typically see the headlight perches doing double duty as upper shock mounts, but “typical” isn’t the way of the Kindig-It team. Instead, a cantilever front suspension lays the coilovers on their side, minimizing the visual impact while retaining full control over the drilled I-beam axle. The XL27 is designed to fit a ’32 chassis, and that beautiful style line can be seen just before the healthy kick-up at the rear tires. Keeping those tires in place is a polished Currie nine-inch housing located with a pair of truck-arm style control arms and sprung with more coilovers. Rolling stock is tall and thin; custom billet rollers (16” and 17”) echo the solid Halibrands from the early days while polished knock-off caps finish it off. The very old-looking tires are Coker Excelsiors.
When it came to a powerplant, Ron had no time for a four-banger, so a 480-hp GM LS3 was crammed between the rails. Custom air cleaners flank the Harrop fuel injection system with two narrow filters feeding into a common plenum. Small block Chevy valve covers and a polished billet front accessory drive set off the custom bronze paint on the engine making this LS3 both a beauty and a beast. A GM 4L65E transmission offers quick shifts and overdrive for long blasts down those lonesome Arizona highways.
Inside the plus-size body is a ’32 style dash which has been fitted with a ’33-4 style instrument cluster. Starting with a Dakota Digital VHX-33F system, we created a custom face based on color samples provided by Kindig-It, and changed the font for a more vintage feel. The mini ’49 Ford steering wheel is perched atop a tilt column, while Kicker stereo bits are craftily tucked out of sight. Terracotta leather covers nearly everything, with JS Custom Interiors taking credit for the expert stitch work.
Ron’s ’27 is a thoroughly modern take on a nearly 100-year old design. Some purists may balk at the added girth in the Shadow Rods body, but what is the alternative if you love the T? Cram yourself into a stock body and hate every minute you’re behind the wheel? What’s the point of having it if you don’t enjoy it? Besides, is two extra inches really worse than those heavily chopped, channeled and sectioned rods? Here’s hoping Ron’s roadster helps kick start the next chapter for these old soldiers. Once folks catch on to the feeling only an open-wheeled roadster can give, these types of cars will start to emerge from their eternal slumbers in garages across the country; will street rods make a comeback?