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Jay Leno Drives a Homebuilt Ford Model T

The simple designs of classic cars are part of their appeal. But all too often these cars are priced out of reach for people who don’t have the resources of someone like, well, Jay Leno. However, there are still bargains out there, and enthusiasts always find a way. The star of Jay Leno’s latest video, a 1927 Ford Model T restored at home, is just such a car.

The Ford Model T almost needs no introduction

A black 1908 Ford Model T in a field
1908 Ford Model T | Ford

It’s difficult to understate the importance of the Ford Model T. While it wasn’t the first car, it was the first truly affordable car, Hagerty explains. And it only got more affordable as production continued.

When the Ford Model T launched in 1908, it cost $850, the equivalent of $24,000 today, Hagerty reports. But by the end of production in 1927, you could get one for as little as $295, or $4400 today. Plus, you could order one in a wide variety of body styles.

Ford sold the Model T as a two-seater, a four-seater, a coupe, a roadster, and a sedan, among others, Autoweek reports. And, famously, there was even a Model T pickup truck, though that wasn’t the first production pickup. That would be the Reo Speedwagon.

Still, the Model T was an adaptable vehicle, thanks to its sturdy design. One owner has been regularly driving his 1927 model since it was new. And in the 1920s, Aloha Wanderwell became the first woman to drive around the world behind the wheel of a Ford Model T, Road & Track reports.

Because most American roads at the time were unpaved, the Ford Model T is built not unlike the Jeep Wrangler in some ways, MotorTrend reports. It has 10” of ground clearance, solid axles, and has a level of articulation in-line with some modern off-roaders.

Most of the car is made from vanadium steel, a lightweight, strong, and corrosion-resistant alloy previously used by luxury marques, Roadshow and Hemmings report. The 2.9-liter four-cylinder engine isn’t very powerful, but it has a one-piece block, a rarity at the time, R&T reports. And it can run on ethanol or even kerosene.

The Model T isn’t easy to drive by modern standards, Car and Driver reports. But like the later Citroen 2CV, this was designed to be a simple, durable machine that was easy to run and repair.

The 1927 Model T in Jay Leno’s latest video is a model of young car passion

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Jay Leno has driven Ford Model Ts in the past. But the subject of his latest video, a 1927 model found in a Wisconsin field, is something special. It isn’t some expensive restoration. Instead, its owner, Brandon Fray, worked on it in his grandmother’s backyard during college breaks, Hagerty reports.

This isn’t the first time Jay Leno has tried to draw attention to the younger generation of car enthusiasts. Through his involvement in the Audrain Motor Museum’s Concours events, he helped start the ’30 Under 30’ category. In contrast to the multi-million-dollar antiques, these cars belong to under-30 owners who have spent less than $30,000 restoring them.

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Admittedly, Fray’s 1927 Ford Model T isn’t perfectly stock. There’s a different header on the engine, a replacement trunk-lid, and a few other period-style hot rod parts. And as it’s from the end of production, it has a larger Model A radiator.

But it has the original motor and the original braking system. Which is to say, a rear brake. As such, it doesn’t go anywhere in a hurry, and it doesn’t stop any quicker. Still, even after spending 20-30 years outside, it runs and drives.

You can build, restore, and drive your own, too

By the time Ford ended Model T production, it had sold over 15 million models, Hagerty reports. And according to Jay Leno, there are about a million still in existence. Plus, there’s a plethora of Model T fan clubs and parts available.

A black 1926 Ford Model T Coupe
1926 Ford Model T Coupe | Bring a Trailer

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Not only is support plentiful, but the Model T is a fairly affordable antique car as well. Even a pristine example costs less than $20k, Hagerty reports. And most Ford Model Ts go for $10,000-$15,000 on Bring a Trailer.

Making your own homebuilt hot rod, then, doesn’t have to hurt your wallet.

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