While admiring the Clayton’s Hot Rods Tipsy-T in the Suede Palace at the 2022 Grand National Roadster Show I got that strange feeling again. It was the same feeling I had when viewing Eric Geisert’s 1926 T the same day.
This 1915 T roadster was a real stunner, with the unmistakable look of a true 1960s show rod. And I mean that in a good way, because many of the 60s show winning hot rods were also street driven back then. Such as Tom Booth’s “Torsion T”, Danny Eichstedt’s “Leg Show”, Mickey Himsl’s “Moonshiner” and many more.
Sure, the Clayton’s Hot Rods Tipsy-T was mounted on a turntable with mirrors underneath but even still the display itself was just like one you would have seen in the mid-1960s.
The traditional details on this T-Bucket were awesome! Case in point, the bolt-on, cast front radius rod brackets which were one of the late ’50s-early ’60s speed shop cool items. And you can’t beat a Buick nailhead with three deuces for truly nostalgic motivation. And as I was gazing at that nailhead I realized it was that engine and those straight out exhaust headers that had me saying, “Hey, I know I’ve seen this car somewhere in the past.”
I’m a fan of bobtail T-Buckets like Bob Johnston’s Tweedy Pie that Ed Roth bought and made famous, meaning those without a pickup bed or turtle deck but just a fuel tank in back of the bucket. Then it hit me where I’d seen this T before, but with a less polished look: Marcus Edell‘s 1915 T-Bucket! And I don’t mean the John Gates 1915 T roadster that Marcus also owned.
Yes indeed, it was the same 1915 T that I last saw Marcus had for sale back in 2016! NOTE: What appears to be a funky-looking rear radius rod is in fact a single torque arm. The car ran split wishbones front and rear.
In fact, the ad Marcus ran to sell the T roadster back in 2016 read as follows, but first, check out the trailer hitch because you’ll see it again:
1915 Ford Model T For Sale: Real True 1960s survivor Hot Rod. Steel 1915 Ford Model T Roadster Body on a Model A Chassis. 1955 Buick 322 Nailhead V8, Chromed Zoomie headers with baffles. Engine rebuilt in 2008. T-89 Three speed manual transmission, 40 Ford Rear Axle, split bones front and rear with custom made torque arm. F1 Steering Box, Dropped Axle. Built in 1961 out of the California Central Valley originally. New Charging system, new carburetor, rebuilt vintage 60s Mallory Distributor with Pertronix. Chrome Reverse Rear Wheels, non reverse Chrome front wheels, bias ply 8.00-15 Rears and 5.60-15 fronts. True Hot Rod.
Besides the engine detail a couple of other items that made me realize that the Clayton’s Hot Rods Tipsy-T was Marcus’. The twin master cylinders on the firewall were one thing, but the real confirmation to me was how the steel 1915 T body mounted to the frame at the firewall.
Because the cowl on a 1915 T is narrower than that of the more popular 1923 style T, if one uses a Model A frame it’s necessary to notch the cowl back a few inches so it can be channeled over the frame. And on the T that Marcus owned as well as on the Clayton’s Hot Rods Tipsy-T the same very unique lower firewall design was used to permit that. The engine-turned treatment on the aluminum firewall in the Clayton’s Hot Rods Tipsy-T is one more period correct, very cool touch. Take a close look at those cast front radius rod brackets if you haven’t seen anything like them before.
Those brackets were made by a company called Speed Products in the late 1950s and are a very rare item today. For Clayton’s Hot Rods to use them in this build it was a really nice detail, because when polished or chromed they really look cool.
Back in 2016, Marcus Edell noted that he’d owned this particular 1915 T roadster two times. It was built in the Fresno area about 1961 and likely went through numerous owners. Although most of the history I’ve seen on this T puts it in Northern California I could swear I saw it some 10-15 years ago at a small car club gathering in the San Diego area when I was impressed to see a steel body T with a nailhead — and it looked kind of rough when I saw it then. Be great to know if anyone can confirm whether or not it was ever that far south.
Anyway, after Marcus sold the car in 2016 or so it ended up at Clayton’s Hot Rods and at the end of 2019 they posted a graphic of a new build project they would be taking on in 2020.
In 2019, Clayton’s Hot Rods had already started disassembly of the T at their shop in Santa Cruz.
That included taking everything down to bare metal, but in the above photo you can see the Tipsy-T theme start to develop in the wine glass shaped support for the fuel tank.
The bodywork was beginning at Clayton’s shop and this is a nice view of the body that helps to illustrate how much more narrow the 1915 body is than the ’23 T style. You can easily visualize that by noticing how much longer the reveals on the cowl are because they have to swoop down for the smaller cowl.
I should also mention that this T went through numerous changes during Marcus Edell’s ownership and in the above you’ll note the Moon or Grant style steering wheel with a cool chrome bullet in the center. Nice pinstriping, too.
But I’ve got to say that I’m a big fan of the mid-50s Ford steering wheel Marcus ran at one time, because they were a popular hot rodder choice for their clean, deep dish design. Through the windshield you’ll also see a single quad carb intake, while in other Marcus photos a twin two barrel adapter was run.
The Clayton’s Tipsy-T rebuild of the interior, though, ditched the deep dish Ford wheel in favor of a smaller aftermarket wheel with a very nice cover that matched the upholstery that replaced the old red roll and pleat.
Once the paint and pinstripes were applied at Clayton’s Hot Rods the Tipsy-T theme really starts to come home. What kind of blows my mind, though, is the choice to keep the trailer hitch which had been previously added to the Model A frame. Who knows? Maybe a creative companion trailer will follow. Also note the bolt-on chromed shock brackets very much in keeping with the front radius rod brackets and the engine turned panel below the fuel tank.
And the front suspension treatment is a very tasteful blending of chrome, paint and pinstriping.
Another notable change was to replace the Model T grille shell with a chopped ’32 Ford shell in the Norm Grabowski vein of T-Bucket inspiration. Speaking of pioneer T-Bucket builder inspiration, props also go out to Tommy Ivo who had the confidence to paint his Buick nailhead white. And those white Stromberg 97’s take just as much confidence.
The twin master cylinders were replaced on the firewall with a more modern, nicer looking dual unit. In the bright light of this photo you’ll also notice yet another element of the Tipsy-T theme: the unique paint shade, which could be likened to a Syrah, which is darker than a Cabernet Sauvignon wine, but I’m no oenophile. In any event, if the hot rod T was built in the Fresno area in 1961 that’s an area likely to have Syrah grapes.
To me, this is a perfect blending of chrome, cream white and whatever they choose to call that dark reddish purple paint shade. To complete the Grabowski-inspired chopped deuce grille shell, of course you’ve got to have windshield stay rods.
Prominently displayed on a front row corner in the Suede Palace, Clayton’s Hot Rods Tipsy T was a breath of fresh air to me, although maybe less appreciated by some more into the rat rod world. But that’s ironic since only a few short years ago this 1915 T-Bucket would have fit into the rat rod category quite comfortably. It just goes to show again that a T-Bucket is the perfect canvas for expressing one’s hot rod creativity and personal style.
And wouldn’t you know that the Clayton’s Hot Rods Tipsy T captured the 2022 Suede Palace “Best of Show” award.
No more appropriate accompaniment to the Tipsy-T.
I’m sure that Marcus Edell is proud to see how one of his former hot rods has evolved and the crew at Clayton’s Hot Rods can be justifiably proud of their Tipsy-T build, which no doubt will receive more appropriate visual treatment through the lens of Trent Sherrill, as in the photo above.