Text by Pete Schow, Photography by Trent Sherrill, Additional Specs and Information by Joe Babiasz
Model: Rachel Starr
Clothing: Pin Up Girl Clothing
Hair and Make Up: LaDonna Stein
Tradition: an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom). In the culture of customs and hot rods, setting your car apart from the crowd is the key element in the design and build. But certain combinations have stood the test of time and have become traditions in the world of custom car-building, accepted as standards in a world built around designing unique, one of a kind works of rolling art. One of the most traditional and iconic formulas for an award-winning rod is that of an open-air T-bucket, with a bench seat, open fenders and an exposed, chrome-laden V-8. The famous Trojan T would follow this formula and set the standard for early T-bucket styling for those that came after it.
Built in 1961 by the late Harry Markiecki, in Toledo, Ohio, the car is a textbook build for early, radical T-bucket rods. Beginning life as a 1916 Ford Model T – a car Henry Ford designed and produced for the masses – the Trojan T would become a far cry from Ford’s original design. Harry found the pieces in Canada. The body and other scrap “junk” was loaded onto a trailer and brought back to Toledo.
With a pile of scrap body and frame parts and without a build blueprint or assembly sheet, Harry began the project that would define his legacy as a visionary car builder. While most custom builders of the day were found in Southern California, Harry knew the majority of the design and build would rest in his hands. First order of business was to modify the frame to accept the modern drivetrain and give the T a classic rod stance. The wheelbase was shortened to 96 inches and the body moved further back on the frame to allow more room for the engine. To power the T-bucket, Harry chose a 322ci Nailhead V-8 from a 1955 Buick. This is a popular choice for early hot rodders, as the Nailhead’s vertical valves and upright heads positioning made for a narrower engine design, perfect for mounting between the narrow frame rails of a Model T. The engine design also created exceptional torque, which only increased its attractiveness to rodders. For additional power, Harry installed a set of higher compression pistons, a more aggressive cam and a Weiand Drag Star intake manifold. The manifold was then topped with another staple of traditional hot rods: six Stromberg 94 carbs. In order to keep the potent mill cool, custom brackets were fabricated to mount a compact yet efficient Jaguar radiator. Stretched exhaust pipes shod in chrome were added, protruding from the engine bay before bending 90 degrees and traveling down the side of the car and extending just past the door seams. A Buick Dynaflow transmission was selected; a common choice for early, Nailhead-equipped rods, as Dynaflows were original equipment on Buicks and came equipped with a manually engaged low gear that significantly increased acceleration. Rounding out the drive train is the ever reliable Ford banjo style rear-end. For an improved ride and increased handling, suspension on the Trojan was upgraded with front and rear components from a 1937 Ford, and a 1938 Ford tube axle was mounted in front of the leaf springs. Brakes were also upgraded using 1948 Ford drums.
A gifted metal worker, Harry custom fabricated the rear deck and fenders of the Trojan out of a 1958 Ford decklid and a 1959 Chevy hood. The door handles were shaved, and the body was channeled slightly to sit lower on the frame. The rear of the T was graced with 1958 Impala taillights wrapped in chrome bezels. Up front, a pair of headlights were pulled from a tractor and chromed before being fitted to the sides of a modified 1932 Ford grille. All the bodywork was completed by Harry himself. For paint as unique as the radical exterior, Bob Hogg of Toledo, Ohio was commissioned to spray the body in Pontiac Limefire with metalflake paint. Then John Cassaubon added custom yellow and orange flames down the side of the body. Cassaubon also applied the finishing touches, striping the grille, deck lid, and fenders in black and white pinstripe. After more than a year of cutting, welding and fabricating, the Trojan T was complete. Shortly after, it was inducted into the Midwest chapter of the famous Pharaohs Car Club. Harry’s story truly captures the essence of hot rodding: a car built by its owner using a list of parts from various automobile manufacturers. And when parts were not available, they were fabricated. The total build set Harry back about $3000, even with him performing the majority of the work. It was an expensive build at the time, considering a 1961 Corvette could be purchased for under four grand, but a small price to pay for a timeless classic.
The finished product became an instant hit on the car show scene. Harry and the Trojan T racked up 18 awards in just seven shows, capturing six Best of Shows. Its increasing popularity caught the attention of legendary car builder George Barris, and a multitude of magazine appearances would follow. Car Craft would feature the Trojan on the cover of its December 1961 edition, and Hot Rod magazine dubbed it a “Space Age T.” Harry’s vision and quality craftsmanship would continue to pay dividends, as the Trojan would become one of the most recognizable T’s on the scene and one of the most memorable rods of the era.
Over the next few decades, the Trojan would change hands several times and eventually find its way into the hands of famed car collector Mike Guffey. In 2006, Ralph Whitworth of Winnemucca’s Flying A Garage would purchase the car from Guffey. Although at the time the Trojan was in several pieces and exposure to the elements had taken their toll, Whitworth knew he had something special on his hands. Further research revealed the Trojan’s storied past, and Whitworth decided immediately to launch a complete restoration of the Trojan to return it to its original glory. Chronicled in several period magazines, its documented history would aid tremendously in the rebuild of the legendary rod. Flying A handled the restoration of the sheet metal, frame, engine and drivetrain of the Trojan, paying meticulous attention to the smallest detail in honor of Harry’s original vision and craftsmanship. As with the first incarnation of the Trojan T, outside assistance was brought it to ensure the paint and interior restorations were equally as impressive as the Nailhead mill and custom bodywork. For interior duties, famous SoCal upholstery shop Martinez Custom Upholstery was called upon to recover the bench seat and matching folding top in white naugahyde. After 45 years since its original build, the massive amounts of chrome that accented the Trojan had begun to show their age. The guys at Flying A called upon Advanced Plating of Nashville, Tennessee to restore the luster to the faded chrome. For the engine, new chrome was applied to the valve covers, fuel lines, carburetors, and breather caps. Suspension components such as shock housings, trailing arms and the banjo rearend were treated to new chrome as well. New side pipes were created, as the originals had long since been removed by one of the previous owners. After taking the body back to bare metal, the Trojan’s signature Limefire metallic paint and yellow and orange flames were restored by Parker Arrien at Flying A’s facilities. With the Trojan back to its true form, custom black and white pinstripe was added by renowned striping artist Dale Weber of Sparks, Nevada, retracing the gorgeous accents that originally graced the Trojan’s grille, fenders, rear deck, and bucket. Keeping the period-correct and original theme, black steelies wheels with chrome 1955 Plymouth hubcaps were added and wrapped in Firestone whitewalls up front and Hurst whitewall slicks out back. The magnificent restoration was enough to bring tears to the eyes of Harry’s widow Barbara Markiecki-Hofmeister at the unveiling of the resurrected Trojan T. Making its debut at the 2009 Detroit Autorama, the reincarnated Trojan picked up right where it left off 40 years ago, winning a Best in Class award. Awards continued to accumulate on the 2009 car show circuit, including another Best in Class in Boise and a “Terrific T” award in Del Mar.
A full 50 years after its original build, the Trojan’s recent collection of awards serves as a reminder that a traditional styled T is a timeless piece of hot rod history. That period-correct and traditional styling, not passing trends or fads, is a winning formula as relevant today as it was in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Harry Markiecki passed away in 1977 and would never see his historic T-Bucket brought back to life, but his mark on the custom car culture lives on today.
Stock 1916 Model T Ford
Number built – 734,811 total production, 98,633 Runabout
Construction – Body-on-frame
Engine – 176 cubic-inch valve in head four-cylinder
Power/Torque – 20 horsepower/83 lb-ft torque
Transmission – Two-speed planetary
Suspension front and rear – Solid axle with transversely mounted semi-elliptical leaf spring
Steering – Planetary gear at the top of the steering column
Brakes – Contracting band in transmission
Length/width – 128 inches/66 inches
Wheelbase – 100 inches
Weight – 1,395 lbs. shipping weight
Top speed – 40 mph (Ford advertisement)
MPG – 20-25 mpg @ 35 mph
MSRP – $390.00 (Runabout)
Fuel For Thought
At its peak, Ford’s Highland Park, Michigan plant was producing 9,000 Model T’s per day
First year for magneto powered horn
Brass trim on headlamps deleted mid-year
New steering ratio improved responsiveness
Blackened radiator replaced brass radiator mid-year
Insurance cost is $196/year for a stock 1916 Ford Model T valued at $15,000. For a modified vehicle, insurance cost is $250/year. This is based on 3,000 miles per year of pleasure driving.
*Based on a quote from Heacock Classic Car Insurance, www.heacockclassic.com
1916 Dodge Model 30-35 roadster
Number built – 71,400
Top speed – 45 mph estimated
MSRP – $785
1916 Chevrolet Model 490 roadster
Number built – 62,898
Top speed – 45 mph estimated
MSRP – $490
Crankshaft - $1,300.00
Front leaf spring - $263.00
Steering wheel - $325.00
Radiator - $550.00
Front fender - $350.00
Windshield - $255.00
*Based on information from Snyders Antique Auto Parts, www.snydersantiqueauto.com
The Model T Ford: The Car That Changed the World by Bruce W. McCalley
Model T Restoration Handbook by Les Henry
Ford Model T: The Car That Put the World on Wheels by Lindsay Brooke
The Legendary Model T Ford: The Ultimate History of America’s First Great Automobile by Tom Collins
Model T: How Henry Ford Built a Legend by David Weitzman