Car Restoration Projects
E pluribus unum – a Speedster is born
‘One from many’ is the motto of the USA and it’s a fair description of Rob and Sandy Patterson’s Ford Model T Speedster build. Many Model T and custom parts were incorporated in this magnificent project.
The Speedster craze swept the USA in the early 1920s, as car enthusiasts took advantage of Model T parts and sports bodywork kits that converted a mundane transport vehicle into a cheap sports car. We’ve covered the Speedster epidemic in the Car Features section of this website.
The story of ‘Evangeline’
Back in 2012, NSW South Coast residents Rob and Sandy Patterson were long-term Ford Model T enthusiasts, having already done a beautiful restoration job on a standard ’T’. However, Rob had a longing to build a Speedster, just as many Yanks had done back in the 1920s.
The Pattersons gave their project the name ’Evangeline’, after Henry Ford’s mistress, Evangeline Cote Dahlinger. This 35-year affair was well-hidden by the Ford family, despite a mansion, seaplane and many lavish gifts bestowed on the beautiful, dark-haired and extremely accomplished Evangeline.
Having already dabbled in things Model T, Rob had a useful background in where to access parts. The project started when he found a suitable pre-World War I chassis. He then went on a quest to find a post-1924 engine, with a generator and electric start. Three purchases finally yielded a block in excellent condition.
Virtually all Speedsters had hotted-up engines and Rob weighed up the possibilities of fitting a warmed-over head to the Model T block. There are still some vintage OHV or OHC heads from Frontenac, Roof and Rajo available in the US market and Mark Chaffin makes replica Rajo OHV heads in California, but all these options are very, very expensive.
Budget constraints dictated a middle-ground decision to buy a second-hand Waukesha Ricardo aluminium, high-compression-ratio head and retain the factory side-valve layout, albeit with larger valves. However, Rob did lash out on a Chaffin-made ‘Scat’ counter-weighted crankshaft and a high-lift camshaft.
While the engine was being rebored to accept 20-thou oversize, aluminium pistons and assembled with the new crankshaft and camshaft, Rob set about the chassis mods. To produce an ‘underslung’ Speedster, with a chassis height reduction of 120-150mm, he fitted Laurel underslung front spring brackets and rear spacer brackets.
The original Hyatt wheel, diff and drive shaft bearings were replaced with modern roller bearings and seals.
Model T wire wheels were rare and very expensive, so Rob compromised by using more readily available early-Model A wheels, along with adaptors, to accommodate the Model A’s larger PCD.
With the chassis painted, in went the rebuilt engine, highlighted by its bright red cylinder head and finned aluminium sump and side cover. New friction shock absorbers were fitted and the red-painted wheels were shod with Lucas tyres.
Rootlieb in California still makes Speedster body kits and Evangeline’s flat-fender version arrived in 2016. After some hiccups, a new brass radiator also arrived.
The bodywork went into place and the bare bucket seats were upholstery in marine vinyl, rather than leather, in the interests of durability in what is a completely open two-seater.
Nice touches include a Chaffin steering wheel, a stylish rear brake light bracket and a varnished coil box that’s made redundant by a Texas distributor, but looks the part and doubles as glove box!
The rubber floor matting and mitre-cut brass surrounds proved challenging.
Rob had to rebuild the generator and starter motor, using bits from several spares and he also had to modify the throttle mechanism to suit the lowered steering column and rearward-set firewall.
The foregoing is a brief summary of the Patterson Speedster project and much, much more detail, additional photos and a comprehensive ‘thank you’ list are easily viewed on his website: