Each person’s motivation to build their project car is different. Jay Johnson was motivated by his father’s influence, his desire to build a car that paid tribute to his mom, and some west coast inspiration. The final result is Johnson’s take on a street-driven Bonneville salt flats car, a 1927 Model T roadster named “Suzy Q”.
Johnson’s father was an old-school car guy that was always tinkering with something in the family’s garage. Naturally, Johnson was curious about what his dad was doing and hung out with him in the shop while he spun wrenches. When Johnson was in grade school, his dad took him to see American Graffiti and he fell in love with Milner’s yellow coupe. From that point forward, Johnson wanted to build a hot rod just like his dad.
Johnson’s career in the military and federal law enforcement hindered his ability to build a car of his own since he was always on the move. After Johnson retired, he finally had the time to start the build he’d been dreaming of. Johnson built a roadster because his mother always liked them, and he used the inspiration from his father to make it happen.
Suzie Q was Johnson’s first build, but he wasn’t afraid to take on a challenge. Johnson found the Model T literally buried in mud and muck in a field. The car was eaten up with rust, so Johnson had to replace a lot of metal himself. A Speedway Motors drop front suspension and 4-link rear suspension was added to the frame that Johnson fabricated himself. The 292 cubic-inch mill that powers Suzie Q is backed by a Muncie three-speed transmission and a Ford 9-inch rearend with 3.63 gears.
“I’m from the west coast and guys used to run at Bonneville and that’s the look I wanted. I didn’t want to cut the firewall, so I stretched the front and the frame out and put the larger ‘32 grill on the car like they used to. I also added the canvas as they did for aero when they raced these cars on the salt. It’s my take on a Bonneville street car,” Johnson says.
Suzie Q was a very emotional build for Johnson since it was inspired by his late parents. Johnson enjoyed spending three years building the car himself and applying what he had learned from his father to the classic Ford. Johnson’s build just proves that you’re never too old to learn how to build your dream hot rod.