Ramona man's custom rod is too hot to handle

News editor

As Billy Alcorn watched 250 drag racers square off at Herington airport in April, he knew his 1923 Ford Model T replica hot rod had more than enough horsepower to compete.

The 71-year-old Ramona man also knew enough not to try.

“They’d love for me to, but I know how dangerous that thing is,” Alcorn said. “You get on it and she’s going to want to get off the ground and go sideways. You’ve just got to know how long you want to live. I’ve pushed it enough.”

Alcorn picked up the car seven or eight years ago and spent more than a year restoring it.

“My wife always wanted one,” he said. “It’s all fiberglass. It was made back in 1970 by some old man in Oklahoma.”

While the car is a 1923 Model T in style, it’s not in substance.

“The only thing that’s actually Ford on it is the windshield, the foot feed, and the emergency brake,” Alcorn said.

Multiple paint jobs had left a half-inch layer of paint that had to be stripped before painting it bright yellow. The interior was totally replaced.

“They had to fabricate and make that in the car; they can’t do it outside,” he said.

He chose a Chevrolet 350 engine, popular among hot rodders for its low cost, adaptability, and parts availability. The car also has a Chevrolet positraction rear end.

Stock engines in the hands of hot rodders don’t remain stock, however, and Alcorn’s is no exception.

“The motor is a 350 bored out, 355 to a 383, someplace in there,” he said. “We never did check what it came out to. I just know it’s way overpowered. It’s an oversized go-cart with a lot of horsepower.”

The car isn’t fit for racing because of its short wheelbase, Alcorn said. Racing Model Ts distribute weight over longer wheelbases, which increases stability.

Alcorn enjoys taking the car on short drives, as long as the route is relatively smooth.

“They’re worse than a Corvette,” he said. “You don’t have much suspension underneath.”

The car doesn’t have a top, which was a problem when Alcorn drove the car to Hillsboro last year for a car show.

“It rained on us all the way there,” he said. “They gave me an award for stupidity, I think; they felt sorry for me.”

Alcorn’s interests include antique and modified tractor pulls, and he’s involved with Throttle Jockeys, a Herington-based hot rod club that his brother, Jerry, restarted a few years ago.

“It’s a bunch of old men trying to relive their younger days,” he said. “It’s a pretty active, civic-minded club. All the money we make we donate.”

Alcorn had some advice for prospective hot rodders.

“You’re going to lose money on every one,” he said. “If you’re going to get only one, find one that’s already done and make minor changes. When you get rid of it, you might break even.”

Alcorn’s wife, Rohani, has a new interest, a black 1966 Mustang GT in need of restoration.

The Model T is on the market, and whatever Alcorn makes from it will go into restoring the Mustang.

“She doesn’t get sunburned in it,” he said, laughing. “Will you let your wife go or your car go? I’ve got a pretty good wife.”

Last modified July 13, 2016

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