This article on Dave Wright's Model T coupe was originally published in issue 14 of Street Machine's Hot Rod magazine, 2014
WITH a vision of a yellow polka-dot bikini in his mind, along with inspiration from the surf rods and show rods of the 1960s, Dave Wright, or Fiddy as everyone calls him, screwed together this sweet little T coupe. It’s the real deal too, made from Henry Ford’s personal-collection of sheet steel, although, by the time Dave got to it, most of it had turned to rust. “I bought a body off a local hot rodder which was a rusty piece of crap and then I ended up having to buy another one from the US to repair what I had. Then I ended up buying new door skins, new boot lids and new beavers anyway,” Dave says.
It doesn’t look chopped, but what Dave did was make the roof the same height as an unchopped Model A. All up he removed 67mm, or just over 25/8 inches in the old money. The original Model A chassis has been kicked up eight inches in the rear and the front has a Bob Bleed sweep, which gets the car another two inches lower at the front
For Dave, this was a pretty slow build, all up taking about four years, whereas he normally knocks a car out in six months. There is a reason he can do it so quickly — having his own hot rod shop, Fiddy Customs, definitely helps — but he also likes to get all his ducks in a row before he pulls the trigger on a build: “I waited until I had all the bits I wanted and I knew what I wanted to build, which is why I went hunting for it. It all started with an Eddie Meyer fuel block that I found at the Bendigo Swap Meet around 1999. I spent a fortune polishing it and painting it to make it look like an $85 reproduction one!”
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Dave fabricated the visor out of steel using a Model T truck version as a guide. He then punched it full of holes so that when you looked down into the car through the visor it was reminiscent of a yellow polka-dot bikini. The grille is from a ’34 Chev and that cool badge in the middle is from a ’64 Oldsmobile Rocket 88
The whole car is peppered with parts that Dave either had laying around from a lifetime of playing with cars — including a heap of 5-6-7 Chevs — or stuff he had hunted down more recently. We’ll get back to the Tri-Five Chevy affliction later. If you’ve read ahead to the specs box, you’ll see the running gear in the coupe is Chevy from front to rear, including the diff! It once lived under a ’56 Chevy sedan — which, in a twist of irony, probably got a nine-inch stuffed under it!
Tough to beat a ’50 Pontiac tail-light for style and simplicity. Those exhaust tips are genuine cast Corvette units and tie in nicely with the Corvette-spec engine
Parts from the GM family tree are prevalent throughout the car and not just limited to the driveline, but that’s not because Dave is biased towards any particular marque. The grille is from a ’34 Chev and has been chopped and sectioned while the badge in the centre is from an Oldsmobile Rocket 88. At the rear of the car, the tail-lights are ’50 Pontiac and the exhaust tips are from a Corvette. Even the interior features a ’60 Corvette steering column.
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The yellow polka-dot bikini theme is carried through in the boot where the holes in the inner skin have been trimmed in white vinyl
“The engine came out of another hot rod brought in from the USA because he wanted more punch. I checked the casting numbers and found that it came out of either a ’56 or ’57 Corvette,” Dave says. The original owner ticked the box for the Power Pack option, but Dave has stepped that up a few notches with a pretty cranky cam and an early Edelbrock Tri-Power intake topped with three 9 Super 7 carbs. By now you’re probably expecting to read about Muncie 4-speed, but due to limited foot space and the fact Dave’s got a bit of a dicky leg, a Turbo 350 was bolted up to the early small-block.
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Dave used 16x6 and 15x5 steelies with 7.00x16 and 5.60x15 tyres to get some extra hot rod rubber rake
The bones of the project is an original Model A chassis that has been boxed and then modified considerably to get the desired stance. At the rear there is an eight inch kick up which gets the top of the 7.00x16 tyres just below the top of the quarter panel. The front features a Bob Bleed sweep, which involves a pie cut on the top and bottom of the rail to raise it up around two inches to get that front end down on the ground. To help get the proper hot rod rake, Dave not only used much smaller 5.60 tyres, but he also went down to a 15 inch wheel on the front. Those changes combined with a four-inch dropped axle gets the front down without having the chassis dragging on the ground.
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The 265 small-block has been punched out 30-thou and came from the factory with the Power Pack option. Dave has hopped it up a bit more with a lumpier cam and an old Edelbrock Tri-Power topped with 9 Super 7 carbs. The Corvette rocker covers were on the motor and already had the breathers attached, complete with lock-wired screws. To keep the 60s theme, Dave opted for a Powergen chromed alternator
When it came to wheel choices, Dave kept it pretty simple. A set of red painted steelies dressed with ’42 Ford caps and dress rings suit the car perfectly, but you could quite easily throw a set of chromies on it or even some polished mag wheels. I reckon you could even rock some full hubcaps for a bit of an east coast look, and knowing Dave, they probably will change at some point.
Dave modified a seat from a Mazda 626 coupe by widening it about 500mm. It reclines and tilts forward to allow access behind the seat, which is about the only place you can store anything in a Model T coupe
A mechanical fitter by trade, Dave’s been messing with cars his entire life: “It started with Holdens and it’s just gone from there. As a kid we used to go to all the council auctions and I was buying XY Falcons and HT Holdens for two and three bucks, then getting them running and selling them through the papers or wrecking them out. Then my old man made me get an apprenticeship, became a mechanical fitter, got my licence and it was just cars, cars, cars.”
The shifter knob once took pride of place on someone’s front door in the 1930s. Dave found it in an antique shop in Yeppoon, and yes, he was actually looking for a shifter knob!
And that ‘Fiddy’ nickname, well, there’s a pretty good story as to how that came about as well: “Fiddy came from my young bloke. We had 5-6-7 Chev wedding cars and when he was about two people used to come around to the house, and him being the natural born salesman at two years old, he would go: ‘That’s the fiddy five, that’s the fiddy six, that’s the fiddy seven and it stuck. People started calling me Fiddy Dave after that.”
BACK TO THE FIDDYS
In the past 10 years or so, Dave has become quite a prolific builder in the West Aussie hot rod scene, and as you’ve read in this story, he has spent most of his life playing with 50s, 60s and 70s cars. “I had a shitload of 5-6-7 Chevs and the turning point for me was, on one of them we spent $50-60,000 around the year 2000, which was sort of unheard of back then — and no one looked at it, they just walked past it. It was just another Chev. As soon as I built my A Model — for under $30,000 — everybody just freaked out over it.”
One of Dave’s other hot rods, his Nash roadster, has already been in SM Hot Rod – well sort of. If you look back through your archives to the 2009 issue, unfold the centrefold — if you haven’t ripped it out — and not only will you see the lovely Miss Nadja Lenehan again, but you’ll catch a glimpse of Dave’s Nash roadster. If Nadja seems familiar, it might be because she went on to become the first Snap-On Apprentice of the Year.
But back to Dave and Fiddy Customs. They’re busily pumping out hot rods for customers, and Dave admits even on his down time he still heads out to the shed to work on cars. The difference is, he doesn’t take his phone with him.
1927 FORD MODEL T COUPE
Paint: Christmas Custard and Coconut Cream
Type: Chevrolet Corvette 265ci
Inlet: Edelbrock Tri-Power
Carb: Triple 9 Super 7
Heads: Power Pack
Valves: 1.72in (in), 1.5in (ex)
Cam: Hydraulic, 244 duration
Exhaust: Twin 2in
Ignition: Pertronix distributor, Taylor leads
Box: Turbo 350
Converter: 2000rpm stall
Diff: 1956 Chevrolet
Front end: Super Bell, 4in drop, four-bar
Shocks: Pro chromed tube shocks (f), QA1 coil-overs
Steering: HQ box with Corvette column
Brakes: HQ discs (f), ’56 Chev drums (r)
Rims: Wheel Vintiques Gennie with ’42 Ford caps; 15x5 (f), 16x6 (r)
Rubber: Firestone wide whitewall; 5.60x15 (f), 7.00x16 (r)