1926 Ford Model T Boat-tail Speedster Build

Diary of a Speedster Build: 
A journal of the build for those who share the interest and passion. 
Comments and feedback are welcome!  

Keith "Kraz"   k.kraz@verizon.net


Dec. 2009: Boattail Fabrication - Welding, Grinding, Hammering and More Welding

With most of the rough fab finished the boattail is complete minus the lower-center filler and trunk lid.  In order to improve the lines between the rear section and the body, the top-rear section of the body was cut down 2-1/2" where the rear boattail blends in.   Without a sheet-metal roller, a piece of exhaust tube was used as a mandrel to form the filler along the upper-center section.  This was actually fabbed in three pieces to accommodate the compound curve.  

Some of the detail work, including flares for spring clearance and the recesses for the mounting bolt access, have also been completed. 


This project started in the fall of 2008.  Actually, the idea of building a boattail speedster was conceived a year or so prior to that.  My initial concept was to build a speedster based on a Model A chassis and running a flat head, straight-8 of some flavor.  However, a close friend and avid "T" fanatic was also building a speedster and talked me into basing it on the "T" chassis and drive train.   The project "officially" kicked off in September of 2008 when a complete 1926 Ford Model T roadster "barn-find" found its way into my garage.  The intent now is to maintain as many original and period correct components possible.    However, the plan for a boattail remains....


This is car number 3 for me, but my first ground-up project.  My first car was a '63 Nova back in the college days which never made it past the primer stage.  After a prolonged sabbatical from the hot-rod scene, I acquired a 1930 Model A coupe a number of years ago.  Much effort has gone into building and customizing the coupe to my liking.  However, I really wanted to build a car from start to finish.

The added challenge of this project is that this is an amateur, home-garage build.  "Weekend warrior" sums it up best.  Basic garage tools, a small MIG welder, and handful of Harbor Freight tools are about all of the resources I own with limited access to a few machine shop tools.

Build Diary

Sept. 2008: The Beginning

Pictures of the 1926 Roadster as we pulled it from a barn in Bremerton, Washington.  It was complete car with turtledeck and pickup bed, '26 motor, and Ruckstell 2-speed rear end.  It is unknown when it was last run. 

Oct. 2008: Disassembly

Beginning of the tear-down.  The body is in decent shape though there is some rust and thin spots in sheet metal.  A couple of patch panels had been previously (and poorly) installed and will likely be cut out.  The frame is rough, but usable.  Drive train is complete.

Dec. 2008: Rear-Frame "Z" Mod

Model T's sit surprisingly high off the ground.  Since the intent is build a 1920's era racer, a lowered stance is desired.  The critical consideration is maintaining ground clearance for the engine/transmission drain plug.  After some research on the internet, I settled on an 8" drop.  This is very aggressive and will leave only 5-6" clearance on on the transmission.  If needed the rear spring can be shimmed to raise the rear of the car. 

The z'd section of the frame was accomplished  using a section from another frame and welded in place.  

Here the Ruckstell 2-speed rear axel has been rebuilt and painted (however, the color scheme has since changed....a couple of times).

Feb. 2009: Front Axle Mock-up

To lower the front of the car to match the drop in the rear, the front axle is pushed forward of the radiator and stock position by about 7 inches--suicide style. 

The original intent was to use the stock, transverse mounted spring.  However, after seeing a quarter-elliptical spring setup on another speedster (and is a stock setup on some very early Chevy's) I changed the approach.  The springs were custom fabricated by cutting down aftermarket Model A front springs.  

May 2009: Front Axle Fab

The hope is that quarter-elliptical front suspension and split wish-bones will give the front a clean look.  The down side of the suicide front end is that the manual starter crack will not be accessible--making the electric starter a necessity. 

Here the stock wishbone has been split and attached to the frame rail using Model A steering ball joints.  The dropped bracket was necassary to keep the caster at about 5 degrees.   Gussets will be added later.  The custom spring mounts have also been welding in place.

Jun 2009: Steering & Tie Rod

The tie rod was a challenging engineering hurdle.  It is a Model A tie-rod cut and shaped to clear the frame cross member, springs and axle.  The spindle attachment arms are a hybrid--Model T lower arm with ball welded for tie-rod and a Model A upper arm for the drag link attachment.  A Model A steering box is planned. 


August 2009: Body Placement

In attempt to give the car a stretched and sporty appearance, I moved the body aft 12".  I started at 18" back, but liked how the rear wheel complimented the natural body lines a bit further forward. 

This picture is actually a bit later, showing the start the boattail which will be built using the original turtledeck.  Since I don't own an english wheel or plannishing hammer for doing the compound curves of the boattail, I decided to utilize existing sheet metal. 


Sept. 2009: The Boattail Begins

The first step was to separate the rear quarters of the roadster turtledeck.  Next, the recess and reveal of the wheel wells were cut out and will be replaced with smooth panels.  Some cancer spots were also removed. 

The stock deck curves down, but ends at an angle.  Since I wanted the rear curve to end vertically, the quarter panels need to be reshaped.   This was accomplished by using a die grinder to slit the sides of the quarter panels in about 8 places, reshaping the curve as desired, and tack welding the slits together.  This resulted in the desired curve and shortened the overall length about 3 inches. 

Next, the two quarter panels were mounted on to the body and positioned with some temporary bracing.  The overall shape of boattail can now be seen. 

It was at this point that I decided that I wanted to maintain the joint between the body and the rear section.  Since I am using an original body, I figured that maintaining the body lines and joint would keep a bit of originality and show off that this is based of an original roadster.



Oct 2009: Boattail Mock-up

Mockup of the soon-to-be boattail using poster board to get the overall shape.  The paper pieces will then be used as templates for fabricating the sheet metal. 

Nov. 2009: Boattail Fabrication

Sheet metal construction begins.  The rounded corners of the rear deck give it a clean look.  However, with just a basic metal brake and shrinker/stretcher this was quite a challenge.  The first several attempts were disasters but perserverance paid off.  Though, the realization of how much work is ahead is starting to become very daunting.