Historic Racer: 1923 Ford Roadster

Update 3/6/20 – This cool little hot rod is still on the market after two years. The price has been dropped $2k since we featured it last. Find it here on Facebook where the seller is now asking $7,500. Are we getting closer?

From 11/2/18 – Who knows when drag racing actually began, but it is a sport that has probably been about nearly as long as motorized transport itself. Speed gains are always incremental and are measured in thousandths of seconds. However, speed gains over decades are significant. Our feature car may have been competitive in its day, but its value now lies in the ever-growing culture of historic racing machinery. You will find this 1923 Ford Altered listed for sale here on Craigslist. It is located in Kingston, New York, and comes with a clean title. The owner has set a price of $9,500 for this historic racer.

Apparently, this car competed during the 1950s and 1960s before it was retired and placed into storage. It sits largely as it would have been prepared for its next race meeting. The only thing missing would be the wider wheels and tires. It’s hard to believe, but the parachute is still packed and in the trunk. As far as body and frame restorations go, this has the potential to be one of the least complicated that you could find. It appears that the body is fiberglass and that it isn’t painted, but has been wrapped. The steel frame appears to have a coating of surface corrosion, but it seems to be solid. Reviving both the body and frame look fairly straightforward.

The interior is all about go, not show. The only upholstery present is a bit on the seat, but otherwise, it’s pretty bare. That makes it a pretty easy job. The one thing that I did notice is the scatter-shield on the floor. With the tail-shaft running back down the center of the car (and between the driver’s legs) to the rear end, a sudden tail-shaft failure is going to send shrapnel flying in all directions. That shield doesn’t look like it is going to stop much, but I guess that it was deemed appropriate at the time that this car was competing.

The business end of proceedings is the engine, and this one is a 392ci Hemi that drives via an automatic transmission. The engine runs 2 x 4-barrel carburetors and drank alcohol rather than gas. There is no word on whether this engine turns freely. However, it is quite probable that following a race meeting, the owner would have squirted some form of lubricating oil into the cylinders and intake system to protect precious components from the acids present in alcohol. Therefore, it is possible that the engine still turns freely.

The value of this car as a drag car is negligible, as it would not comply with current safety regulations, and modifying it to comply would be prohibitively expensive. The value of this car lies in its historic past, and the window it provides into the world of drag racing in the 1950s and 1960s. The owner states that the car saw duty at Niagara Falls Raceway, and the Glens Falls Dragstrip. It might be possible to trace the car’s history and to return it to the specifications and look that it sported back then. Its value lies in its historic roots.

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  1. SlickB

    Now this would be scary to drive… I want it.
    And I have to say when the picture first came up the first thing I saw and kinda yelled out was ” its a HEMI !!!!!!!!!! ”
    This is an awesome machine

  2. Steve R

    You are right, it is cool and will never race again.

    I hope someone finds some pictures of the car when it was racing and eventually restores it to that condition. As for now, bring it to some nostalgic oriented races and show it, many of the cars that are in display at “cackle fests” are newer builds, it would be nice to see an original car included in that mix.

    Steve R

  3. ben dobreuenaski

    The thing 18 year olds dream of in the 60’s. Safety HAH, fire it up, wind it up and turn it loose.

  4. Gaspumpchas

    From an old grey hairs point of view this thing is scary- and that’s how they built them back them. Yah if the driveshaft let go it would get ugly pretty quick. Most of these cars didn’t have front brakes, and you straddled the rear end on a lot of them. If you could get the race history and display at a show after sprucing it up a little, that would be cool. Wonder if this baby had a name or a number??


  5. Brad

    That’s just old school cool! Took a pair to race cars like this back then.

  6. Chuck

    The 392 could be a very potent engine in its time! Altereds were not known for their good handling to begin with. What’s really scary is the buggy spring front suspension! NOW, on the flip side, I’ll bet it would be a real hoot to chauffeur this down the 1/4 mile!

  7. Terry Bowman

    The story is not totally correct on the time of it’s racing years. The steering wheel came from possible a E Body 70 – 74. Mine came from a 73′ Cuda.

    • triumph1954

      That steering wheel never came stock on any production car! If this car raced much at all probably mid sixties or later. Not historic, just old parts welded together You could build something like this now for less than 3500.00, but you could not race it anywhere!

      • Steve R

        It’s mid to late-50’s, look at the vertically mounted bar in the back, that’s for push starting it.

        There is no way someone could come close to building a turn key car like this from scratch for $3,500. This car is impractical to bring back as a race car, it’s futurs will be as garage art or nostalgic show car.

        Steve R

  8. Joe Haska

    If this car has a racing pedigree ,it certainly wasn’t close to the condition its in know. Plus, the parts are not a match for the time frame. As Terry mentioned the steering. The Fiberglass body, probably not, although the T roadster was one of the first re popped, and they were junk, so it could be. The price, are you serious, if I had 500 bucks to throw away ,maybe but it wouldn’t be too hard to find a better use for it. I guess I should defer to Uncle Bob, he might see what I am missing. There’s Old School and there’s Old Junk, take your pick!

  9. Jon

    I think it’s just a cheap Grant steering wheel.

  10. RNR

    Take another look at the wheel, Terry…it’s a three spoke. The “three hole” E body wheels I’ve seen are two spoke. This wheel looks like a Cal Custom special, bad chrome and all .

    • triumph1954

      Or a JC Whitney popular in 70’s.

  11. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    cool…should be gone already……..

  12. Terry Bowman

    I stand corrected. After further looking, it is also deep dished and mine is also 2 spoke, but I thought Mopar also had a 3 spoke as an option at the time.

  13. Roland Via

    Adam, certainly you jest. The first drag race was when the very first car met up with the very second car!

    Rear wheels/tires must be the trailer tires to replace the large slicks that would not fit on the trailer.

    As for the steering wheel, if we could see the backside it probably shows very deep grip marks.

  14. DavidL

    Watched cars like this race in an old closed down army base cement street track in White City Oregon. One almost like it A Fuel Dragster pull up to the starting line one bright Sunday, revved up and promptly had the clutch/transmission explode out the bottom gouging the cement track. I was about 15-20 feet away sitting on a berm that marked the starting line on the pitt side of the track. Nobody hurt. Happened too fast to get scared until afterwards. Can’t get over how casual they were about safety those days. Good times.

  15. Patrick Shanahan

    Very dangerous. I doubt id would be allowed on any sanctioned track today.

  16. KawiVulc

    The first drag race probably predated motorized transport! Two guys driving hot rod chariots & wearing togas!

  17. Dennis M

    Just imagine the sound of that hemi when you cracked the throttle while running alcohol with those zoomie headers! Worth the price of admission right there!

  18. Joe

    I think Glen’s Falls was an 1/8 mile track, making this thing a touch safer….

    • Junior

      Gonna stick my neck out here & say 50% safer.

  19. Fran Carpenter

    South Glens Falls Dragway was a 1/4 mile strip. They have a Facebook page and may recognize this car. Safety regulations weren’t as stringent as the ones of today and very few professional shops, so this was probably someone’s backyard build. Big engine, small car, perfect racing combo!

  20. RNR

    Still like it….

  21. John S.

    Yep, like Henry said” Automobile racing began 5 minutes after the 2nd automobile was built!”.

  22. ArchitectureOnWheels

    Its often said “they’re only original once”. Reading further into this, its current build and condition speaks volumes of its history. You can imagine a group of individuals building their dream in someones garage, scavenging pieces of steel and iron, cannibalizing other projects, and piecing it all together. Safety? Well…. probably not a major consideration. The thrill of its first ignition and drag race were probably the only thoughts and dreams in their minds at the time. Very fun. The best course of action to the lucky owner would be convert it to driveable condition, retaining as much of the originality as possible.

  23. Terry Bowman

    Reminds me of one of Don Garlits projects, with the 392 Hemi. He has several of his and other cars as this in his museum in Ocala.

  24. Bruce

    There was no Starbucks back then so we would drive crazy to moms house cause she had coffee. She had SANKA.

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