A Fresh Spin On Hot Rodding
Making An Impression

Speedhunting’s greatest perk is that the job never gets old. What we uncover on a daily basis usually has the potential to fill us with amazement, catch us off guard, and leave us in awe.

Occasionally, we get super lucky and stumble upon a build that does all three in the very same instant. That’s an accurate way to sum up my ‘WTF’ moment as this sunburnt orange 1927 Ford Roadster blasted past me during the finals of Rotary Revival‘s main straight drag race element.

Whoa! A T-bucket at rotary-only event? What the heck?!

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Compounding the surprise was the fact that I’d already spent half a day at the track, but not seen this car. After hours spent walking up and down pit lane, passenger laps during the main parade, and even after stopping for lunch, somehow this creation and I hadn’t crossed paths.

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It was almost as if the ’27 was waiting to create maximum impact, choosing to make my acquaintance at full throttle, full speed and full noise. Well, it worked. My attention was captured. It was time to arrange a private viewing of this orange fireball.

I don’t recall ever seeing a rotary-powered hot rod before. I’m certainly not proclaiming that it’s a world first, but this was all news to me. The concept is pretty simple though, and seeing it executed so well made me wonder why I hadn’t seen one before. It’s like one of those blindingly simple combinations that instantly makes complete sense.

Japanese Heart, American Body
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This Frankenstein of a machine, better known as Rotor Rod, was brought to life by mad scientist Troy Heywood and his two sons. After a quick chat with Troy, it was clear this guy had a long history of shirking the status quo to create unusual machinery. His motivation for throwing a Mazda 13B turbo engine into a 1927 Ford Roadster was as simple as never having seen it done before.

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The twin-rotor engine was sourced from a Series 6 FD3S RX-7, but before finding its way into the ’27 it was sent off to local rotary expert Matt Russell for a performance rebuild.

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The 13B was bridge-ported and fitted with upgraded apex seals, and its twin-turbo setup ditched for a single Garrett unit. As it sits now it’s sending 280hp to the rear wheels, but there’s plenty of scope for an increase if it was ever deemed necessary.

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Troy is pretty adamant that it’s powerful enough though, reminding me the chassis only weighs 800kg (1763lb). After seeing the Rotor Rod win Rotary Revival’s drag challenge against some pretty wild builds I’d have to agree with him.

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One feature that no doubt would have captured your attention straight away is the custom fabricated grille radiator and intercooler arrangement that create that very recognizable T-bucket front end we all love.

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The 13B is mated to a Ford C4 transmission equipped with a 3500 stall converter, and power is transferred to the enormous 15-inch-wide Mickey Thompsons through a 9-inch diff and Truetrac billet axles.

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Staggered 15-inch Weld Racing Rodlite wheels complete the clean and classic look.

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The front steers and stops through an independent suspension and brake combo that was pilfered from a Mustang and customized to fit the build, bringing a modern level of control and handling to the 90-year-old chassis.

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Not unlike the rest of the Roadster, the interior is clean, simple and well executed. There’s nothing surplus to get in the way of driving, just a crocodile skin-finished billet steering wheel, a stick shifter for the auto, some pedals and a clear set of Auto Meter gauges to report back all the important information.

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The color of the leather blends in seamlessly with the Arancio Atlas paint – Lamborghini’s beautiful shade of metallic orange. I’d never known how badly I needed a crocodile leather interior in a car, but unfortunately I don’t see it working in the Evolution IX. Perhaps my next project…

I’d love to build a project as far-out and well executed as Troy’s Rotor Rod. One day it’s going to happen, but that day is a long way off in the future. For now though, I’m enjoying living vicariously through the hard work of others and continuing to look forward to the next surprise build I get to share with you.

Matthew Everingham
Instagram: matthew_everingham
matt@mattheweveringham.com

The Cutting Room Floor
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25 comments

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1

Have to agree, that croc skin dies it for me (on this build). Quite like the centre console.
nice article

Author2
Matthew Everingham

How do you think it'd look in an Evo IX? ;)

3

maybe in black, any other colour would be weird on the evo anyways

4

*does

5
Mike Donnelly

If Crocodile Dundee built a hotrod..

Author6
Matthew Everingham

:d

7

All for this. That must be a proper mindf*ck when it drives by. Expecting a dirty Vee only to see a minuscule lump and brapping exhaust note.

Author8
Matthew Everingham

It sure made me stop and look twice.

9
Patrick Peebles

Throw away the fenders and running boards and swap out the steering wheel with something vintage. Otherwise cool.

Author10
Matthew Everingham

I don't think vintage was a priority here.

11
FunctionFirst

Nice to see an article where you're not shitting on other rotary cars.

12

Love that T and the Duvall style windshield. Great look! T's just don't get enough love these days. Anyone out there watch Spiritcars live at 11:05 in Facebook? They feature t's and T builds fairly often?

13

That's not a T-bucket, it's a roadster. A T-bucket would be missing the turtle deck, which leaves only the "bucket". There's also the full fenders, which you wouldn't see on a T-bucket but are not uncommon on a roadster.

It's a cool roadster. I wish they would have kept the original style grille and radiator shell instead of using that weird bare radiator. Rotary swap is definitely different.

14

Definitely concur re: Original radiator shroud, the bare radiator/intercooler setup just looks...incomplete. And that's a shame, because it is otherwise a nicely executed build.

I personally would swap that steering wheel, maybe not in OZ, but at least here in the States "Batwing" steering wheels died off about the time Boyd Coddington kicked the bucket. Love the 13B in the car though. A+ for engine originality with respect to building a street rod. Also, the color is excellent.

And none of this rotary love is helping me at all. I'm (im)patiently planning and waiting for a 12A to swap into my 1963 Sunbeam Alpine.

Author15
Matthew Everingham

Sounds like a fun conversion. Be sure to let us know when it's all together!

16

What a unique creation! I also was drawn to the alligator inserts and wheel cover, VERY interesting and fit very well with the car color and interior finish.
Pretty sure that period-correctness wasn't a huge priority given the different engine swap, so I am not bothered by the other features that don't necessarily fit the "normal" roadster build pattern...except I also thought the rad looked too out of place when the stock front end treatment probably could have been worked in instead, given the obvious talent and creativity expressed in this build. Maybe cooling priority was given since they drag race the car?
A huge thumbs-up from me!

Author17
Matthew Everingham

Tradition was pretty low on the priority list here. I love the exposed cooling but i can appreciate how it might not work for everyone.

18

Love this to death..especially because we dont get so many of muscle cars and hot rods in this part of the world..would love to watch and hear a video of this in action

Author19
Matthew Everingham

Where are you from, Rock?

20

That looks like a modern fiberglass reproduction, correct me if I'm wrong but I'm nearly certain she isn't 97yo

21

I have my doubts as well. There are lots of these still around in original metal, but (on this one) the very simple style of firewall and firewall setback is very common for fiberglass bodies as it's really easy to make. That's the one thing that flagged it for me. It's actually one of the things that I think ruins the look of many of the fiberglass bodies out there for T, Deuce, etc.

22

I love the intercooler for some reason.

23

Front end pilfered from a Mustang?? No. That's a "Mustang II" front end, but it didn't come off a Mustang.

24

2 years ago I saw this thing randomly at a rotor meet on my birthday. I thought nothing of it in a parking lot of rx3s,rx2s and r100s. Damn cool car such a suprise

25

Andy Brizio did a twin-rotary-engine-powered Deuce back in the 70s. The car survives to this day, but very sadly, its powertrain has been replaced with something far more common.
Also, and as usual, Speedhunters does an article about a street rod and half the things it says are wrong because the guy that wrote it doesn't know about the culture, EVEN THOUGH a guy that knows about hot rods works with Speedhunters now. You really should get Keith to check stuff like this.

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