Work is fun's co-pilot in rat-rod roadster

April 25, 2013 

— Somewhere along the line I heard the old saying you're not supposed to have fun at work. I'm not sure where that maxim came from, but once in a while duty becomes a delight.

Don't tell the boss, but I had more fun than should be allowed a couple of weeks ago.

I got a chance to ride in Jim Glidden's 1927 Ford roadster and that was a thrill.

One might call Glidden's open-air Model T a "rat rod," but it's much nicer than that. The workmanship that went into assembling a variety of unrelated parts into a running, drivable car is top-shelf.

It goes to show you what old-school resourcefulness can produce with the right motivation, while using what's available and affordable.

The two-seat roadster is painted flat black, with the wheels an orange-red color. You can't miss the 271 cubic inch Chrysler Hemi V-8 engine. It purrs like a kitten but leaps like a panther when you step on the gas.

Riding in the roadster is pure fun. The car simply is cool. It has a chopped or shortened windshield, and my head sticks way above the glass. That means the wind blows your hair and face, which is not a concern for a guy who regularly has bad hair days.

The roadster rides smoothly on most roads, but your posterior soaks up most bumps. The engine seems docile moving along but slams you back in the seat when you step on the gas. You could be going way too fast way too soon without much effort.

Glidden hand-formed the doors and welded them in place, meaning you have to step over the door to get seated. The trunk lid was hand-formed and the lower tail panel merges seamlessly with the trunk.

This was budget building. The body and the engine each cost $100 and the transmission was 50 bucks. A Jaguar rear end with disc brakes set Glidden back another Ben Franklin. Four used tires were $125 and the Ford Model A frame was another $50; the seats are from a garden tractor. The Pete and Jake's aftermarket front suspension cost $1,400 but came with disc brakes.

Glidden said he has been a gearhead all his life and has put together cars, trucks, tractors and street rods for much of his 60 years.

I'm not sure the roadster would be very comfortable as a long-distance road car, but it's sure a fun cruiser around town, and that's all that matters. Being able to enjoy your ride has to be a prime goal in building just about any old car or truck.

Glidden says he learned his skills by welding and repairing car parts at Merced High School. He was inspired by a friend's roadster that was named America's Most Beautiful Roadster at the 1955 Oakland Roadster Show. Ray Anderegg of Winton chopped the top off a Ford Model T coupe, and Glidden did the same thing more than four decades later.

Yup, getting a ride in an old hot rod while on the clock certainly qualifies as fun, but mum's the word when it comes to the boss.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or

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