Joey Shortino is well known across the country as a premier horse trainer. He and wife Patty have owned and operated Showcase Farm in Lutz, Florida since 1979. Together they have trained and shown multiple American Quarter Horse world champions, National High Point champions, All-American Quarter Horse champions, American Quarter Horse Supreme champions and a horse named Unforgettable, an American Quarter Horse world champion superhorse.
Although Joey is best known for his skills as a horseman, he also has an affliction for the mechanical type of horsepower and his unique 1922 Essex T-bucket roadster … which is truly exceptional.
This Essex is the direct result of Joey’s desire to build a hot rod that he, and any other motorhead, could consider as being different. “I wanted to do something different. I didn’t want to build another ’34 Chevy or the standard ‘32 five-window coupe. I wanted to build something that would draw attention, something that would make folks stop and look.” he related.
After weighing his options Joey decided that an early model Essex would certainly fall into the category of being different. With this in mind, he contacted long-time friend — and renowned rod builder — Cecil Taylor to ask for assistance with his vision.
NSRA Giveaway Car
For the 35th consecutive year, the National Street Rod Association will award one lucky rodder in attendance at the 47th Annual Street Rod Nationals a complete, turn-key 1932 Ford Woody from Cecil Taylor’s Hercules Motor Car Company in Tampa, Florida.
The 47th annual NSRA Street Rod Nationals will be hosted from August 4- 7, 2016 at the convention center in Louisville, Kentucky. For additional information on the NSRA and the Top Participant Prize Package visit the website at www.nsra-usa.com.
After throwing a few ideas around concerning different suspension packages and drive-train combinations, the duo was satisfied to be on the same page, and like any project of this type, it started from the ground up.
Joey’s Essex sits on a hand-fabricated, 2×4-inch steel tube frame with a four-link, leaf spring front suspension and includes a Super Bell, four-inch dropped axle. The rear suspension consists of a four-link adjustable coil-over system with a Ford 9-inch differential and 3:23 rear gear.
Rear shocks are from QA1 Performance. With GM 10-inch , single piston, disc brakes on the front, and 9-inch Ford drum and shoe on the rear, the T-bucket quickly comes to a halt. Everything on the frame and suspension that is not chrome was powder-coated by Pro Coat Performance Coating in Tampa, Florida.
Joey has future plans to install a set of QA1 Hollywood Hot Rod Series shock absorbers on the front end, “That’s just something I haven’t gotten around to yet.” he grinned.
The body started life as a 1922 Essex Touring car. The most popular model of the era, the Essex enjoyed immediate popularity shortly after its introduction in 1919, due mostly to the fact that the car was designed to be durable and was moderately priced.
Joey’s Essex is all steel and is a true testament of Cecil’s fabrication skills. The body displays no unfinished edges, unsightly rivets or spot welds, and its rear box has been completely hand-fabricated with a form and fit that is second to none. A 12-gallon stainless-steel fuel tank is mounted directly to the bed, which is made of hand-fitted, stained and treated pine boards, as well as the antique Coca-Cola cooler that Joey said “is still very functional.”
The beautiful red and white leather interior is the handy work of Mike Payton, owner and operator of Mike’s Mobile Upholstery in nearby Lutz, Florida. Mike is responsible for everything inside the car related to upholstery, including the carpet, door and side panels, interior trim, and seats. Even the shifter boot is a direct result of his outstanding leather work.
“That little car was a lot of fun to work with,” Mike recalled. “The storage pouches on the bottom of the door panels were a bit of a challenge, but other than that, everything else went pretty smooth.” He also remarked about working with the old bomber seats, stating he could not recall any other instance where he was asked to upholster an old aircraft jump seat. As you closely examine the interior of this little hot rod, it becomes very evident why Joey entrusted Mike with this task … nothing short of a master craftsman would do … and he certainly fits that description.
The interior also features, a handcrafted instrument panel with a full set of Omega Kustom gauges that supply the vital signs for the small-block Chevy bolted between the frame rails. The remainder of the interior could be considered as “no frills.” There is no mega-watt sound system or built-in GPS with an 8-inch touch screen.
There are no power windows, or six-way seats. In fact, there are no side windows at all. The top of the car is actually two Totora epoxy-bamboo round-pin surfboards Joey decided to use in lieu of a traditional canvas top. “I wanted to stay with a Florida-type appeal, and wanted the car to look like it belonged in Florida, so the surfboards were just perfect in maintaining that beach boy image,” he said.
At the National Street Rod Association (NSRA) Southeast Nationals held in Tampa earlier this year, many patrons were overheard commenting on what they saw as a little white beach cruiser. Two gentlemen stood near the front of the car and remarked, “This thing is a definite Florida ride, it’s made for sunshine and warm breezes – it doesn’t even have windshield wipers.”
Powered by a Chevrolet 350/290 crate engine, the motor was sent to United Speed World in Tampa for minor adjustments and modifications. Junior Joyner, one of United’s master builders stated, “Shortino’s motor was a pretty standard build, the crate motors are pretty much ready to go. There’s not a whole lot that normally needs to be done. We did install an Offenhauser, three-deuce intake manifold with two-barrel GM carburetors to bump the horsepower a bit, and we added the chrome Offenhauser valve covers to add a little bling, but that was about it.”
Junior also explained the lack of mega-horsepower was by design. “With such a lightweight car and a 350 GM transmission, the goal was to build a motor that would provide more than enough power, without tearing anything up,” he said. This engine and automatic transmission combination has proven to be a sturdy and reliable, and so far, Joey reports no problems with the drivetrain.
The car rides on Coker Tire reproduction B.F. Goodrich wide whitewalls mounted on Coker’s Smoothie Steel wheels with chrome beauty rings and moon hub caps. Exhaust duties are handled by aluminized, ceramic-coated, Sanderson Limefire Headers. MSD is responsible for the ignition. The paint is Sherwin-Williams Bright White, and was applied by Justin Fontan and Jesse Letchworth of Florida Custom Paint FX, in Lutz, Florida.
There are also several very unique parts on this car that you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere; the jeweled headlights are unique to the Essex, and the small coach lights mounted on each side of the car came from an old CSX caboose. The owl-faced, jewel-eyed auto-meter atop the Speedway Radiator is one-of-a-kind, and the tag/third-brake light on the rear of the car is from an early model Indian Motorcycle side car. Lastly, we have to mention the steering wheel on the car … it’s off a ’40s era Chris Craft speed boat. The center cap mounted on the steering wheel is an original center hub cap cover from the wire wheel of an 1922 Essex Touring car.
When Joey set out to build something he could consider different, what he had in mind, and what his finished product turned out to be cannot be disputed. This pretty little 1922 Essex is not only different, but it is truly unique and exceptional.