This 1923 Ford is a proper tribute to “Camfather” Ed Iskenderian

Cameron Neveu

Good luck trying to stand out at PRI. Held in the sprawling Indiana Convention Center, the annual December convention for the motorsports industry features over 3300 exhibitor booths packed with anything from prize wheels to six-figure custom cars. Gloss paint, wild headers, mail-box-sized intakes, and more shiny bits than the New York Philharmonic—these cars are designed to be bug zappers for gearheads, whether the company they advertise is selling patented rubber grommets or wall art. When a modest, black 1923 Model T draws a crowd at PRI, you know it must be special.

“Special,” in the case of this car, is an understatement. The black roadster surrounded by throngs of blue-jean-wearing, swag-toting convention-goers pays tribute to perhaps the most important car in hot-rodding.

Cameron Neveu

To celebrate Isky Racing Cam’s 75th anniversary, the performance camshaft manufacturer posed the idea of a special build and enlisted the help of notorious hot rod fabricators Dennis Taylor and his family. Hot Rods by Dennis Taylor has built plenty of old Fords and is known for its work on ’33 and ’41 Willys, with over two hundred builds in the books.

After some spit-balling about Camaros and other platforms, Taylor posed the idea of building a tribute car to celebrate the Model T owned and customized by Ed Iskenderian, the founder of Isky Racing Cams. “I’ve built a lot more complicated and faster cars,” says Taylor, “but none of them compare to this car because of its historical value.”

Ed Iskenderian Camfather holds vintage ad
Historic Vehicle Association

The T was built by a teenage Iskenderian in 1938, long before the term “hot rod” even existed. Back then, they were called “gow jobs” and other slang. Car-crazy youngsters stripped weight, added horsepower, and took their souped-up rides to cruise or burn the quarter-mile at the Santa Ana Drags in Southern California. (Side note: The track served as a primordial hotbed for hot rod culture as we know it today. Taylor, for example, grew up within “bicycle-riding distance” of the legendary SoCal strip).

Unlike the roughshod gow jobs that infested the area, Iskenderian’s ’23 was a cut above, and appeared on the cover of the June 1948 issue of Hot Rod, during the magazine’s first year of publication.

“Back in the day, that car was considered fancy, and it showed people that you could build a hot rod as a show car,” explains Taylor. “It had a beautiful leather interior.” (At waist height, it’s easy to see that Taylor’s faithfully recreated new leather interior is stunning as well.)

Cameron Neveu

“He mounted the generator lower on the engine,” continues Taylor. “And the car also had a dual-system exhaust.” Police were known to crack down on hoodlums with loud pipes back in the day, when fast cars were vilified, so Iskenderian built exhaust pipes that could be run straight or diverted through a muffler.

That level of fit and finish was carried over to the tribute car parked on the short-pile black carpet in Isky’s PRI booth. The roadster is immaculate, with a tidy presentation, confident stance, and gorgeous curves that carry from the firewall to the roadster’s turtle deck. The whole thing came together in the time it might take you or me to build a model car. “I worked 15-hour days, seven days a week, for three months,” says Taylor. “I was really honored to be building it.”

After a visit to check out Iskenderian’s original T at the Museum of American Speed in Nebraska, Taylor decided he wanted to make a tribute and not an exact copy, so he turned to the “Camfather” for guidance on what engine he might choose for the new car. Iskenderian’s answer was simple: “Use whatever is the latest, greatest motor that’s out there.”

Cameron Neveu

Taylor was amazed. “He’s so open-minded at 102 years old, that he would choose something new and not an old flathead with Ardun heads.” Marching orders received, Taylor dropped a 7.3-liter Godzilla Ford V-8 between the frame rails and mated it to a Tremec five-speed manual. Out back, he opted for a quick-change rear-end sourced from fellow hot rodder David Freiburger.

For Taylor, some aspects needed to be true to the original—the trim on top of the body, the angle of the windshield, the flying skull grille ornament. The valve covers, too.

Rather than machine the covers out of billet, Taylor opted to cast them, like Iskenderian did back in the day. That, he says, was the most challenging part of the build. “I have my own furnace and sand, but I’ve never done anything that big,” he says. Assistance came in the form of a new technology—3-D printing. Taylor’s daughter’s boyfriend Nick printed the covers used in the casting process to create the final mold. The crew poured the covers just a week before the car was slated to go to SEMA.

Cameron Neveu

“I remember thinking, there’s no chance those letters come out of the mold,” says Taylor of the complex relief script on top of the covers. “We made two, they worked, and then we looked up and said, ‘Thank you!’”

Once the car was buttoned up, the crew took it out to SEMA for its debut. Hot-rodding cognoscenti know exactly which Model T it is built to honor, though the engine might throw them off. No matter where it is, whether Las Vegas or Indiana, this T draws a crowd.

 

***

 

Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark it. To get our best stories delivered right to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletters.

Click below for more about
Read next Up next: Coolest trim of Lexus GX 550 starts under $70K

Comments

    It may not be “bug-zapper-worthy” by today’s standards, but this car would stop me at ANY show. It’s understated yet perfectly done. A great tribute to the original. The Camfather has done so much for the industry and enthusiasts that it is heartening to see this special salute to him and his legacy.

    I love the this car. I just wish they had gone more traditional with the engine vs one few will ever see.

    Ed is a hero of mine and I got to meet him years ago at the PRI show along with Smokey Yunick.

    The PRI has become the must see show now vs the SEMA. It goes back to the real thing about customs and racing.

    Ed Even at 102 the last I heard is still turning cams. We only have a couple of the original guys left.

    Go Isky! Remember reading a Hot Rod article about how active Ed was when he was a young man…of 95! He reminds me of another inventor, Tony Fox, who I had the pleasure to work with 20 years ago when he was 92. He was nonstop too. He invented…the snowmobile clutch and drive, the boat jet pump drive (sold to Jacuzzi in the 50’s), the Shop Smith (remember that?) and the forerunner to the Honda Jet. He invented a small jet engine but never finished it and had built three ‘Fox Jets’ in the 70’s. Rights were sold to Williams Intl in MI and they finished it and it now powers the Honda Jet–which looks an awful lot like the Fox. Lots of other inventions, some good some not so good. He was quite a character too. I’d love to meet Ed! He’s likely thinking up something new now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *