Looking back on California hot rod builder Bill Osiakowski's wild 60s-inspired show rod
This article on Bill's Model T coupe was originally published in the August 2008 issue of Street Machine
MOST people recommend that when you build a car, you form a plan and stick to it. That’s good advice but we’re more than happy that Bill Osiakowski changed his mind about how this hot rod was going to turn out.
Ground-scraping stance is thanks to Slam Specialty airbags. Suspension has around six inches of travel, great for shopping centre speed humps
“I bought the rusted-out body from a man in Visalia, California, because I wanted to build a rat rod. That idea was soon abandoned and the project evolved into the car of today,” Bill says. “I get a bit of flak from some of the young kids because it’s got airbags and radial tyres on the front. Then I’ll tell them that we didn’t have ice pearl paint and all that fancy metalflake that their cars are painted in back in the 60s either.” Bill should know, he’s 54 years old and he was there — just about.
“Some people don’t get the car. I know it’s not period-correct — it’s a representation. Hell, I was just screwing around!” he says.
Considering he was ‘just screwing around’ it’s a pretty nice car, probably due to the fact that Bill and his business partner, Ron Reed, run a hot rod fabrication business called King Pin Hot Rods in San Jose, California.
Not much room for the Esky thanks to the nine-inch, fuel tank and airbags. Tail-lights are ’59 Caddy, mounted in ’37 Ford buckets and protected by custom spears that pierce the lenses
“We’ve got a 6800sq-ft shop. Most of it is customer stuff but we’ve got a few things of our own that we play around with. Most of the parts in the T were recycled; just stuff I had laying around. There really isn’t that much money in it — maybe US$30,000 — but the labour is the killer. I’ve probably got 2000 hours in the bodywork alone.”
It might not be a daily driver but Bill says it's pretty comfortable. Headlights are rare Guide cat's eye fog lights fitted with halogen globes. Sectioned '32 grille is filled with a Dan Fink insert
One of those recycled parts is the ultra-cool six-carb intake. It’s an Edelbrock X1 that first saw service back in 1955.
“I traded a GM twin four-barrel intake for it back in the 70s and thought to myself: ‘I’m going to build a car around that intake one day.’ The rocker covers are old six-fin Cal Custom units, before they started making them offshore. It’s hard to find nice ones these days,” Bill says.
Two weeks of grinding and smoothing plus Kandy Gold paint make the 283 block shine. All six carbs on the Edelbrock X1 intake work!
All the carbies work too: “It took a long time to build that linkage, so they all had to work! The carbs are Holley 94 two-barrels, reconditioned by Charlie Price at Vintage Speed in Florida.”
The motor isn’t too crazy but it has had a 60thou overbore and been fitted with a Comp Cams bumpstick. Internally, it runs forged pistons and Chevy pink rods.
How about the exhaust? Eight zoomie headers have been fitted with baffles and Bill claims they do a pretty good job of quietening it down. Imagine how far you’d get here in Oz, driving around with pipes like that? Probably about as far as the nearest gaol!
As Bill only started with a body, he had to fabricate the chassis from scratch. Starting with 3x2-inch tube for the main rails, he fabricated a crossmember to strengthen the chassis and mount the Turbo 350 gearbox.
The only way to get a rod this low is to Z the chassis at the front and rear suspension mounts. Bill raised the front around eight inches and the rear about 12 and then exaggerated the drop with Slam Specialty airbags at both ends. They’re capable of around six inches of travel but as you can see from the driving pics, Bill doesn’t lift the car anywhere near that much when he goes cruising.
Up front, the dropped I-beam axle is located with hairpins, while out back a four-bar keeps the nine-inch diff in place. Shocks are chromed Pete and Jake’s units all ’round.
Interior is wild too. Custom dash features twin pod-gauges while seats were made from bar stools. Trim is pearl white and gold metalflake vinyl
With such a wild chassis and engine combination, Bill couldn’t go and put any old Model T body on it. Model T coupes are rarely seen these days — there are few fibreglass options available and most people prefer the extra room in an A or a ’32 Ford — but nothing says 60s show rod like a heavily chopped Model T coupe.
And they don’t get much more hammered than this coupe. Bill reckons he hasn’t seen one chopped like this before.
“The top has been chopped nine inches, with the front of the slope chopped an additional three inches. All of the door tops had to be reshaped to match the roof but to keep the rear window proportional, it was only chopped three inches.
“Getting the roof chop right was the hardest part. People think they’re a straight chop but they’re shaped like a top hat and are wider at the top. The top is made from poplar and shaped to give the roof a bit of a crown, then covered with ply,” Bill says.
Bill likes to drive his car, hence the radial tyres and disc brakes. Calipers are mounted on custom flame brackets that almost cover the back of the wheel
The finishing touch is the upholstered roof, accented with five custom-made spears running down the middle.
As severe as the chop is, it’s probably the gauge pods that run from the top of the cowl and right through the windscreen that draw the most comments. “I took the cowl vent door off and needed to fill the hole with something, so I thought about bringing the gauges right in through the window. I used steel electrical conduit for the tubes and then made a completely new dashboard,” he says.
Roof chop wasn’t simple due to the flare in the stock design. Nine inches and a lot of massaging make all the difference
The tricky part was getting the windscreen glass cut. That took a couple of goes to get right as glass doesn’t really like being cut. The rest of the glass in the car is tinted bronze to work in with the exterior colour scheme.
The paint on this car looks so nice you just want to go up and lick it. Sprayed in House Of Kolor products by Joe Stockdale, at Stockdale’s Hot Rod Paint, it consists of three coats of silver KO-Seal, four coats of Orion Silver base, six coats of Kandy Pagan Gold, three coats of clear, then a flow coat with two more coats of clear. There was some sanding in there — so there might be a coat or two missing now — but to save you counting, that a full 19 layers of paint!
A crazy show car needs a crazy interior, and that’s exactly what Bill fashioned for his T. A couple of bar stools were sacrificed for the seat bases, while the back rests and pretty much everything else were custom made — including the steering wheel. Yep, Bill fabricated the spokes, then took a big hunk of Lexan, routed it out to form a ring, then hand-formed it into a nice round shape. It was then sprayed with the same gold tint as the body and topped off with a handmade centre bullet. Gold metalflake and pearl white vinyl finish the interior with the appropriate amount of sparkle.
The final pieces of the puzzle were the wheels. No, they’re not Dragways; these are Astro Supremes. They measure 15x7 and are fitted with 165R15 BFG Silvertown wide whites up front and Radir pie-crust whitewall slicks out back. Although Supremes are most often seen on lowrider-style cars, they suit this hot rod to a no-pun-intended T, and really plant the car in the 60s.
1927 FORD MODEL T COUPE
Colour: HOK Kandy Pagan Gold
Brand: Chevrolet 283ci
Induction: Six Holley 94s on Edelbrock X1 cross-ram intake
Heads: Reworked stock
Camshaft: Comp Cams
Crank: Reground stock
Oil pump: High volume
Preferred fuel: 92 octane
Fuel pump: Chrome Holley
Cooling: Custom brass & copper radiator with 14in electric fan
Exhaust: Custom zoomies with built-in baffles
Ignition: Accel dizzy, Flamethrower coil, 5mm High Energy leads
Diff: Nine-inch, 31-spline axles, 3.0 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: Slam Specialty airbags (f&r)
Shocks: Pete & Jakes, chromed (f&r)
Mods: Chromed I-beam, chromed hairpins, Zeed chassis
Steering: Chevy Vega box
Brakes: GM disc & alloy calipers (f), Ford drum (r)
Master cylinder: Corvette with 7in booster
Wheel: Custom spokes and Lexan ring
Seat: Bar stool bases, custom frames
Trim: Pearl white and gold metalflake vinyl
WHEELS & TYRES
Tyres: BFG Silvertown 165R15 wide whitewall (f), Radir pie-crust slick 8.20x15 wide whitewall (r)
Wheels: Astro Supreme 15x7 with bullet centre cap & lug nuts