Sometimes with hot rods, it’s what you can’t see that really counts. That’s certainly the case with Charlie Little’s pale green 29 Ford roadster that he lovingly calls the Maserodi. It has been 17 years in gestation, but the result is astonishing.
Little is a professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center, and his patience when working with experiments has carried over to the construction of this very special car.
A hot rod is, by definition, a compilation of various car parts, and while Little’s car is certainly that, it goes beyond such a simple description. It is one man’s vision brought to life by various craftsmen. Chief among those is Jack Presse, first from the Street Rod Place in Denver and now in Stevensville, Montana.
The car began as a pair of reproduction 1932 Ford frame rails and a couple of reproduction body parts for a ’29 Ford. Presse narrowed the frame. The body was nipped and tucked here and there to get the perfect profile. Many body panels were made from scratch.
Little wanted to build a car in the style of a track-roadster. Dirt-track roadsters were simple, stripped-down, open-wheel racers built out of mostly Model T parts with a modified engine, and they raced on dirt tracks throughout the Midwest. Often called Roaring Roadsters, these simple racecars began appearing in the late 1920s and early 1930s, according to the Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Neb.
Today, street rods such as Little’s use a track roadster style that consists of a nose similar to that of dirt-track car mated to the body of an early Ford. The nose on Little’s car is handmade to resemble that of the Boyle Special, a Maserati racer 8CTF driven to victory by Wilbur Shaw in the Indianapolis 500 in 1939 and 1940.
Little pays homage to the 8CTF, and has some fun with the name, by calling his car a Maserodi 8CVTR (for hot rod, V-8 Track Roadster). Like everything else associated with this car, Little has made beautiful cloisonné medallions that resemble the Maserati logo.
Details are what make Little’s car so special. The engine is a 1956, 325-cubic-inch Dodge Hemi. “The ’56 Dodge was quicker to 60 miles per hour,” Little said, “than any other car in 1956.” The engine is topped by Hilborn fuel injection and is fired by a distributor that looks like a Vertex magneto. The fuel injection system appears to be an old mechanical system, but it has been converted to a modern computer-controlled system by local electronics guru, Brett Clow, who has spent countless hours getting the complex system to perform perfectly.
The rearend is a Halibrand quick-change, and the suspension is by torsion bars hidden inside the frame rails. The brakes are works of art in themselves. Little found an eccentric Englishman who combined bespoke cast-iron hoops with cast-aluminum housings and Lockheed-style center-plane drum mechanisms for brakes that have period looks and modern stopping power.
A late-evening ride in the Maserodi was quite a tonic for Kansas City’s run of sweltering heat. It swivels heads in city traffic because it looks so pristine. The Hemi pulls like crazy, even though Little is not quite finished tuning the injection system, and the car’s fit and finish are first rate. Makes me think that the garage of every car collector should have at least one hot rod.