In the early ‘60s, noted customizer Darryl Starbird partnered with Monogram to create a series of scale model rods and customs. His first effort was a 1/8th-scale 1923 Model T Ford roadster pickup. The model was very well detailed, and the parts were so authentically fashioned that for many youngsters (and not a few adults) it felt as though they were assembling a real car. Starbird built the actual “Big T,” of course, and it was a major presence on the show circuit. After several years, the T was awarded to a lucky model contest winner, and it disappeared; its present-day location is unknown.
Three years ago, wishing he had his old “Big T” back for his museum, Starbird teamed up with Chad Vogele and the staff of Predator Performance in Dubois, PA to build a pair of exact “Big T’ replicas. Starbird planned to keep one of the T clones to display in his museum and give the other away in a Clear Channel KOOL-Radio promotion in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Influenced by the famous Norm Grabowski and Tommy Ivo TV-star T-buckets, Starbird’s original car ran a simple ladder frame; the replica rides on a similar Total Performance chassis. The original car used a real steel Model T body; the replica is a reinforced fiberglass unit from Spirit Industries. A Model A pickup bed was shortened eight inches and the rear section, like the front cowl, has been flanked with vintage Model T running lights, just like the original. After researching the old “Big T,” an exact copy of the red and white vinyl interior was made by Chris Trout. Classic Instruments supplied the gauges. A Model T wood steering wheel and a skull shift knob, made by Monogram from the original pattern, round out the little cabin. A matching tall top gives the T that classic ‘bucket’ look. And the radio antenna is frenched into the center of the cowl, just as it was back in the day.
The engine is a 283 cubic inch ’57 Chevrolet V-8 with a Tri-power manifold, Corvette seven-fin valve covers and custom four-into-one headers. The original “Big T’s” transmission was a La Salle three-speed; the present-day gearbox is a Ford top-loader with a custom shifter. Under the requisite Model A crossmember, an early Ford ‘banjo’ rear end has been fitted with a polished quick-change rear, along with late model nine-inch Ford axles and drum brakes. In front a suicide-style front end sports a tubular dropped axle, tube shocks and reproduction Wilson Welding Lincoln drum brakes. A Total Performance steering box, steel reproduction Ford wheels from Wheel Vintiques with Firestone big-‘n-little whitewalls – with slicks in back – round out the rolling stock.
The born again “Big T’s” dark red paint is an exact match of the original, and the white striping, by Dave Simmons of Neon Exposure in Reynoldsville, PA, artfully replicates the carefully applied lines on the original car. For all the kids and adults who built Monogram “Big T” models, this exact replica has to bring back fond memories. Expertly built, a close copy of the long lost original, authenticated by Darryl Starbird, the “Big T’ is once again ready for a proud new owner.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in September 2009 at the Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles, California.
Est. 275 bhp, 283 cu. in. Chevrolet V-8, with three Stromberg carburetors, external headers, tubular dropped front axle with semi-elliptic transverse leaf spring, solid Ford rear axle with a quick- change rear end, front and rear drum brakes. Wheelbase: 110.5"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel