- Built by Dick Williams in 1952
- 1953 America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award winner
- SCTA Bonneville timed speed of 123 mph
- Featured in Hop Up magazine, June ’53
- Entered in the inaugural Historic Hot Rod Class at Pebble Beach in 1997
|Vehicle:||1927 Dick Williams Ford Roadster|
|Number Produced:||342,575 (1926 and 1927)|
|Original List Price:||$345|
|SCM Valuation:||$149,500 (this car)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$300 (estimated)|
|Chassis Number Location:||N/A|
|Engine Number Location:||Cast into bellhousing|
|Alternatives:||Other ’50s-era hot rod competition roadsters|
This car, Lot S63, sold for $149,600, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s Monterey, CA, auction on August 17, 2019.
In the early post-war period, the fastest hot rods at California’s dry lakes, excluding purpose-built lakesters, were modified Model T Ford roadsters. The narrow T body could be lowered, fitted with a track nose, belly-panned and streamlined to be very competitive.
Reg Schlemmer’s ’27 T made the cover of the first issue of Hot Rod magazine by virtue of its prowess at the dry lakes; Randy Shinn’s T won the 1946 SCTA lakes Championship, and 18-year-old Don Waite, an employee of Vic Edelbrock Sr., set many lakes records in his center-steer ’27 T. Although the first Oakland Roadster Show (AMBR) winner was Bill NieKamp’s Model A, for the next five years, from ’51 to ’55, Model Ts swept the AMBR trophy.
Early AMBR winner
This car, owned by Dick Williams of Berkeley, CA, won the AMBR in 1953. The late Blackie Gejeian, who owned it for years and had a mean-looking AMBR-winning 1926 T roadster himself, opined that the Williams T was the first hot rod with a hand-built, chrome-moly tubular chassis.
This sophisticated build packed a lusty 286-ci Mercury flathead with Belond “W-Type” headers, four Stromberg carburetors on an Edelbrock manifold, and Navarro high-compression heads. Williams built his own Kong-style distributor with twin Echlin ignition coils. A 3-speed Ford toploader shifted the gears. The tubular chassis had rare Kinmont disc brakes on all four corners, a “suicide” front end, and a Halibrand quick-change rear. Twin cross-fed 9.5-gallon fuel tanks were mounted under the car.
Hall’s Top Shop in Oakland did the rolled and pleated black leatherette upholstery, which must have looked great with the original pale Powder Blue lacquer finish. Nine Stewart-Warner instruments, a Bell Auto Parts three-spoke steering wheel, frenched ’46 Ford taillights, a full belly pan, a rolled rear pan and chromed reversed wheels with ’50 Mercury caps were just a few of this car’s many features. It took two and a half years to build. Everything was buffed and chrome-plated — even the oil pan — to a fare-thee-well. This car was state-of-the-art for its day.
Changed, but not for the better
In 1974, Dick Falk acquired the roadster and unfortunately, “updated” it in a tacky ’70s idiom. He painted it candy maroon, installed bigger rear and smaller chromed reversed front wheels, added rear hairpin radius rods, installed a conventional gas tank, fitted rear coil-overs and did a new interior. Fortunately, the big Merc V8, the Kinmonts and nearly all the other chassis details were left alone. The roadster was featured on the cover of Rod Action in December 1974, then painted Candy Apple Red. Blackie Gejeian acquired the car and didn’t alter it again from Falk’s updates, other than painting the engine white. It was offered for sale with other cars from the Gejeian Collection, including the George Barris/Chuck Krikorian roadster “The Emperor.”
The $149,600 result was dirt cheap for a very well-built historic feature car that, despite its modifications, could easily be returned to its 1953 AMBR-winning configuration.
As a rule, Model T roadsters are not wildly expensive. But last year, the Kookie Car was an exception, selling for $484,000 at a Mecum sale (ACC# 6869994). After a comprehensive Roy Brizio restoration, Kookie’s T won Best in Class in August at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. I thought that the $300k to $400k Mecum estimate for the Williams T was optimistic, but figured it would go in the low $200s.
Gone to a good home
Ross Myers bought this off the block, post-sale. His 3 Dog Garage Collection includes the former Frank Mack, Detroit Autorama-winning T, the Spurgin-Giovanine Chevy lakester, and several significant channeled deuces including the ex-Fred Steele ’32, “Ricky Nelson” ’32, Jack Lentz’s “Golden Rod,” the Paul FitzGerald ’32, and the “Kookie Car.” This roadster was a natural for his collection.
“I heard about this car years ago from (noted Pennsylvania hot rod builder) Jim Cherry,” Myers told me. “It was always one of his favorites. For its time, with all the modifications, that AMBR win and its Bonneville racing history, it was remarkable. We took it to Roy Brizio’s,” Myers added. “He’s going to restore it back to the way it looked when it won the AMBR in Oakland in 1953, complete with skinny chrome wheels and Powder Blue paint, and then we’ll take it to Pomona.”
It’s a mystery …
How do you reconcile nearly $500k, plus restoration costs, for the Kookie Car, and substantially less than that for the more sophisticated Dick Williams T? You don’t.
The marketplace can be fickle. The Kookie Car’s TV reputation meant that it had crowds surrounding it at Pebble Beach. It had huge exposure in its day, and then was hidden for decades. That’s a big draw. Obviously, people were drawn to it.
On the other hand, despite its stellar specs and AMBR history, the Dick Williams T proved to be a harder sell. It took a knowledgeable hot-rodder to step up — and Ross Myers did. I’d call it a good deal, and I can’t wait to see it at the GNRS in 2021.
(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)