During the early ’60s, famed car customizer, Darryl Starbird teamed-up with Monogram to create scaled models of custom street rods, model rods that were so detailed with such quality accessories that many children and adult model-car builders felt like they were assembling real, steel-bodied street rods. Starbird went on to create the real, functional version of his very first model car, a ’23 Model T pickup roadster known as “Big T.” The original Starbird Model T pickup was a 1:8 scale model; several years ago, the model was given to the winner of a contest, and its current location is unknown.
About three years ago, Starbird realized that he longed to have back his original “Big T” street rod. Looking to build a pair of exact, “Big T” replicas, Starbird got in touch with Chad Vogele and the staff of Predator Performance in Dubois, Pennsylvania.
What Starbird really wanted was a life-sized version of the “Big T” for his museum, and Vogele and the staff of Predator Performance helped Starbird to build a Model T pickup roadster that was as real to life as Starbird’s original, functional version of the Model T roadster that was once a hit in the show circuit.
The original “Big T” was an actual steel-bodied, Model T; this high-quality reproduction from Predator Performance features a reinforced fiberglass body from Spirit Industries.
The original roadster used a simple ladder frame, but this fiberglass replica rides on a chassis of similar construction from Total Performance. Also staying true to the era on this Model T is a pickup bed from a Model A that’s been shortened 8 inches, and the pickup’s rear section has been flanked with Model T running lights.
Just as old-school as the rest of Starbird’s street rod, “Big T” is powered by a Chev 283 that puts-out around 275bhp, a small block from a ’57 Chevy that uses a tri-power intake setup, along with Corvette, seven-fin valve covers and custom, four-in-one headers. While the original “Big T” used a three-speed from a LaSalle, the transmission in this replica is a Ford, “top-loader” with a custom shifter.
Though slightly modified from the original, Darryl Starbird and Predator Performance’s “Big T” is a journey back to the roots of hot rodding, and Predator Performance has worked with Starbird to make that journey just a little bit better this second time around.