Practice Pays Off – Bryan Fritsch Learned by Experience as he Crafted his ’27 Model T Roadster Pickup
The best place to learn any craft is through experience and on-the-job training – hands down. Just ask Bryan Fritsch, the owner and builder of our Goodguys Feature Pick from the 39th Grundy Insurance All American Get-Together. Bryan has helped train plenty of rookie police officers on the job throughout his 25-year law enforcement career. And he assumed the role of trainee throughout his five-year journey building this ’27 Model T roadster pickup, learning to weld, form metal, and even sew as he saw the project through to completion.
“There were a lot of do-overs along the way,” Bryan says. “But I was lucky to have access to the right tools and the right direction thanks to my friend Ben York, Jr. at Roseville Rod and Custom. For years we’ve gone to breakfast on weekends, and I would bring different parts of the ’27 to the shop to work on, then take them home to see if they fit right.”
Bryan had messed with a couple Harleys over the years and fiddled with his first car, a ’63 Corvair, so he had some experience and knowledge about general wrenching and mechanicals, but that was limited to maintenance and bolt-on parts. About six years ago he was looking for a project car, but really had no idea what he was getting himself into when he pulled a ’27 Model T roadster pickup cab off its perch atop a shipping container where it had been languishing for years.
Bryan was undeterred by the rusty cab and saw it as a perfect opportunity to get his hands dirty and learn a bit about the art of metalwork. There was no rush, it was a challenge, and it was something completely different to clear his head from the work week. By the time the cab was finished, he had stretched the quarters five inches, chopped and narrowed the grille shell, formed a shorter bed, chopped the tailgate, and fabricated a bed floor that exposed a rare aluminum Halibrand 101 quick-change rearend.
The cab came with a couple crusty, tacked-together frame rails that were far from capable of forming a solid foundation, so Bryan sourced some .120-inch wall square tubing and got to work. With the advice of Ben and the Roseville team he worked up a new set of rails supported by a V8-60 dropped axle and a set of Posies springs. He even got a geometry lesson in building a Watt’s link rear suspension that secures the rearend with quarter-elliptic springs. A set of ‘39 Ford brakes was incorporated along with Ford wide-five wheels wrapped in Auburn Deluxe treads.
To power the vintage pickup, Bryan chose a 59A Flathead pushing 265c.i. topped with Offenhauser heads and a three-pot intake with a trio of Stromberg 97s. A T5 transmission was sourced from an ’84 S10 so Bryan could enjoy the mechanical connection to the roadster with the benefit of an overdrive gear. With his newfound capabilities of operating a lathe, he enjoyed chocking up the beehive oil cleaner, crank pulley, engine mounts and other engine components for a custom spun treatment.
Once everything was mechanically sound and fit properly, Bryan blew the truck into pieces and passed the body over to the capable hands of Chris Barnes at Roseville Rod to spray the PPG Nardo Grey, a modern Audi shade that certainly fits the style and era of the ’27. After the paint was applied, Bryan realized that he may have made a mistake by not filling the holes for the four original roof stanchion mounting points. “I wanted to leave the holes so people would know this was a real Ford cab, but once it was painted, I wasn’t sure what to do with them,” Bryan says.
Bryan credits Ben York, Sr. for coming up with the idea of using the holes as mounting points for a clever bracket assembly to secure a custom tonneau cover over the cockpit. This chromed afterthought has become one of the coolest focal points of the car as it secures a cloth half-cover finished with leather button straps.
Peeling back the tonneau reveals a pair of Speedway Motors bomber seats that Bryan relinquished to Paco’s Upholstery to cover in Relicate leather. Keeping an eye on the driveline vitals is a Model T dash with Stewart Warner gauges. German square-weave carpet keeps the driveline heat at bay and looks just right with the custom metal door panels. A close look atop the shifter is a Saint Christopher pendant that Bryan’s father wore while serving in Vietnam, a heartfelt tribute.
With five years of learning, planning, starting again, and kind of winging it at times, Bryan cruised the ’27 Model T Roadster Pickup into the Alameda County Fairgrounds and instantly caught the eyes of the staff. It goes to show you what a lot of practice and patience, plus some good friends, can help you achieve!
Photos by Todd Ryden