Tight fit is right fit for island hot-rodder
Alfio Arcidiacono has but one regret about building a 1923 T-bucket roadster.
“I wish I had driven one first,” Arcidiacono, 55, of Galveston, said.
He likes the car, the problem is a matter of fit, he said.
“There are no doors,” he said. “You have to climb over the side to get in.”
And once you’re in there, there’s not much there to be in.
Arcidiacono is no small man. He stands more than 6 feet tall and they don’t call Model T hot rods buckets for nothing.
Behind the wheel, which is very small because there wasn’t room for a bigger one, he resembles a long-legged man in an old-fashioned washtub — folded in tight with his knees up near his chin. He’s not so much behind the wheel as wrapped around it.
Despite the tight fit, the thing he likes best about the car is driving it, he said.
The very first hot rods were built from Model T Fords and many were built for speed, stripped down to the most essential components needed to go, to stop and maybe, when necessary, to turn a little.
T-buckets are a particular subspecies, however, tracing their lineage more directly to fiberglass molding and metalworking shops of the 1950s California hot-rod scene than to Ford Motor Co. Their modern engines, often huge and frequently supercharged, overpowered their light frames and rudimentary suspension systems. They always have been more about show than go. For that reason, Arcidiacono doesn’t drive his often or far. He’s only put 177 miles on it since he finished the build in 2010.
And when he does drive it, he takes it pretty easy, he said.
“You get up to about 60 and it starts to float on the front suspension,” he said.
In keeping with T-bucket engineering, the front suspension consists of a single small leaf spring running across the front end, buffering both front wheels.
Arcidiacono could stop the rolling with some shocks, but he’s not interested in putting much more into the T, he said. The car does most of its traveling on a trailer, he said.
What he’s most proud of about the car is that he built it himself, he said.
“I turned every nut and bolt in it myself,” he said.
The car is the result of his second attempt to build a ’23 T-bucket. The first attempt began in about 2007. By August 2008, Arcidiacono had assembled all the parts and was ready to get the build underway. Then Hurricane Ike arrived.
“I lost everything but the body,” he said. “I was able to save that but I had to scrap everything else.
He bought a new frame from Arkansas-based Spirit Industries to carry the body and a slip-in interior from California Custom Roadsters, based in Chino.
The paint and very fine pinstriping were done by Creative Custom & Collisions in Dickinson, he said.
The 350-cubic-inch Chevy V8, from a 1969 pickup, drives a Turbo Hydra-matic 350 transmission and 10-bolt rear end, Arcidiacono said.
In keeping with time-honored hot-rodding tradition, he got all those from junk yards, he said.
The engine, which has been tweaked a bit, is fed through a Holley 650 carburetor and produces about 300 horsepower, he said.
Arcidiacono calculates he’s got about $20,000 in the car and is ready to move on to a new project.
“Next, I want to build a 1932 Ford sedan, something with doors and air-conditioning,” he said.