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First Dibs: 1951 M.I. Special Roadster

MI Special in barn

Last June we featured a roadster that had been built using instructions and designs from the 1951 Mechanix Illustrated magazine. We haven’t seen or heard of another one since then, but recently John K got on and posted a comment about his. So we decided to see if he still had it and if he would send us photos. He quickly responded with these pictures and more information. He has a lot of other projects going on right now, so he has decided to let this one go. Since it’s a barn find, he thought our reader’s deserved to have the first chance to buy it. It needs some work, but comes with all the pieces to put it back together. He is asking $4,200 or best offer, so if you’re interested in having this interesting little roadster, you can get in touch with John by sending him an email here.

MI Special Roadster

Here is what John had to say about this Special: I found this M.I. Special in a barn in a pile this winter and hauled it home.  I am in the process of getting it presentable to take to swap meets to sell this summer. It is built from the plans printed in the November 1951 issue of Mechanics Illustrated.  It is built on a 1935 Ford platform.  It has a 1949 Ford flathead V8 with a 1935 Ford transmission. It has a “banjo” Ford rear end with hydraulic brakes all the way around.

MI engine

The engine is not frozen. The brakes will have to be redone.  The left rear axle shaft is broken.  I will include a NOS 35-38 Ford axle shaft with the car.  There is what looks to be a good radiator that goes with it as does a 35/36 steering box, shaft and column and a set of clutch and brake pedals.  The folding top irons work.  There are side curtain remnants suitable for use as patterns. The front and rear fenders and braces are included.  Basically the entire car was there with the exception of some of the interior.  I have not bolted the fenders on; but have lined them up and they will bolt right on.

MI interior

I bought it to sell as I have several other restoration projects in the works already.  This is a cool piece of history straight from the barn.  Dust is still on it.  Who ever built it originally (somewhere in Central New York) did a great innovative job.  There is lots of craftsmanship here. It is located 40 miles east of Syracuse.


This looks like it could be a fun project and would definitely be an interesting conversation piece. Since it was custom built, we would want to go through the structure and make sure it is solid and well put together. Being a rat rod of sort’s means any modifications or adjustments made to it should have little impact on value, as long as they are period correct. There really isn’t much too these, so it shouldn’t be all that difficult to get running. We would love to see some photos of it with the fenders mounted! We can picture ourselves taking this to get ice cream and stopping by the local shine and show. How about you?


  1. Ryan

    Wow, what an incredible car, and interesting history to come along with it (and the one last June).
    If I had that kind of dough, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

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  2. Ed MacVaugh

    Does anyone have a scan of the original article in Mechanix Illustrated?

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  3. Mark E

    I have that copy of MI also, somewhere in a box. Whoever assembled this one used good craftsmanship to put hydraulic brakes in. Looks like the grille from an old Dodge too. And I like the stylish touch of the side vents behind the front wheels. The car, as assembled according to instructions, was very much like the one listed before. This car has had a lot of stylish modifications and, in my opinion, looks much nicer.

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    • Rick

      I’m not an expert, but isn’t the grille from a 38-39 Ford truck?

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      • geomechs geomechs Member

        The grill and surround, even the hood are based on a ’39 Ford truck. The ’38 is almost identical except that it has a ‘V-8’ at the top of the vertical bar whereas the ’39 is straight. I might add that the whole project could be based on a prewar Ford pickup. Chassis wise, a car too.

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  4. jim s

    it sure would be a fun project for the right person. i hope the new owner will keep us updated.

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  5. gord

    dibs… i call dibs!
    well… i hope i got dibs
    looking for that “last project” to end the search/addiction

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    • gord

      no ownership, no vin tag… darn… cannnot import into canada without those…..

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  6. Bryan Cohn

    I love cars like this and one of those days, when I am done racing and have moved on to fun projects will adopt something like this or build one myself.

    The only change I think I’d make is to the rectangular windshield, which I’d remove and save and them bolt on two Brooklands screen or a low, frameless windshield (strong curved aluminum mounting with the windshield actually made from Lexan). The car has a “swoopy” look to it save for the windshield, at least that’s my thinking.

    I also have a real love of flat head Fords for some reason. Why do I envision one of then with three downdraft Strombergs connected to a modern T5 in a LoCost of some kind? A mix of old, older, new, and funky! Perfect for spring evening drives for ice cream, Sunday drives to nowhere and daily duty for errands when the weather is nice.

    PS: Tops are for wimps!

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  7. John K

    We’ll I got the M.I. Special bolted together and rolling. Taking it to a the Syracuse Nationals in a couple of weeks. If anybody is interested, I am open to offers.

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  8. gord

    more info and pix pls

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