Mystery Hot Rod Find

Mystery Hot Rod

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It must have been an interesting experience when the seller of this custom built hot rod discovered it. Other than one emblem that reads “Hot Rod”, there isn’t any form of identification on it. I can imagine it left the seller excited yet confused. If I hadn’t ever seen one of these before, I know I would have been incredibly confused as to what it was. For those of you who haven’t ever run across one of these odd looking machines, I’m guessing it’s a Mechanix Illustrated Roadster. In the November 1951 issue of the magazine, they documented how to build your own sports car for less than $500. As with most home-built cars, many were started but few were finished. This one was completed, but has been parked for many years. It has been pulled out of storage and listed here on craigslist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Thanks goes to Randall N for the tip!

M.I. Roadster Interior

This M.I Roadster looks a bit different from the majority of the ones I’ve seen, but each one tends to be unique as they were all custom built. Since each builder had to source their own chassis and drivetrain, dimensions, body shape, engine, and interior all vary wildly. Unlike the others I’ve seen this one isn’t powered by a V8, but by an inline-six instead. The seller claims it is a flathead 6, but doesn’t state the size or make. The interior is clearly home built, but whoever fabricated it did a decent job. It will obviously need a complete overhaul, but hopefully some of the original parts can be reused.

M.I. Roadster

The “Hot Rod” emblem is a fitting touch to this Roadster, as Mechanix Illustrated and cars like this played an important role in the hot rod movements. While I love the idea of building a fun sports car on a shoe string budget, these old roadsters typically appear to be death traps to me. This one looks surprisingly well built and with a little work, could be a fun machine. I am curious as to why the previous family parked it and left it for 50 years though. So do you think this would be a good project or an early trip to morgue?

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  1. Mark E

    Sadly I’m going to be within 50 miles of Park Rapids this weekend. I say sadly because I have no interest whatsoever in looking up this car. It almost certainly is an MI roadster – the similarities to the black one in ‘related finds’ is clear. What is disappointing to me is the poor build quality (reversed strap hinges on the doors) and the fact the buyer feels he has a one of a kind classic and is looking for $5k plus. I personally could not see spending more than a couple thousand for it because you’ll need to sink lots of money into it before you ever get it on the road again. Kind of sad…

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    • Shaun

      It’s quite similar to the ‘Swiftmobile’ in the original English film called ‘School for scoundrel’s with Alastair SIM and Ian Carmichael.

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    • Old man

      This is a ranballberd type 50

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  2. paul

    5 G’s, ha that is a good one.

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  3. Mark

    It is priced high IMO as well, but I’d be proud to drive it. Big problem would prob be parts, I imagine you’d have a machine shop on retainer……

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  4. John D

    I thought beauty was skin deep until I saw this . . .

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    • Blake

      Beauty is skin deep, but ugly goes all the way to the bone. Not that this car isn’t interesting, but it has neither a nice profile nor a “hot rod” engine. Flathead sixes are cool, in their place, but here it’s just an old hodge-podge of parts. Historically worth saving, but not at $5000 or more.

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  5. Dirty Dingus McGee

    Looks like the builder combined a car and truck front clip. A trar?

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  6. L.M.K.

    He’s using the ‘best offer’ above $5K theory which is an instant turn off for me…Know what you want and say so when listing an item. Do your own homework on the value. I don’t appreciate my offer being used as a barometer. When I throw an offer I want to know where I stand . I come to buy not bid…For that , I go to an auction….
    I feel better now……

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  7. DolphinMember

    Agree with Mark that it’s a version of the Mechanic’s Illustrated build, and that it’s a poor one. About the only uses for it would be Show ‘N Shines, parades, or sunny Sunday afternoons where the sky’s the limit on the stories you could make up about it. But first there would be a lot of work to get it roadworthy and safe. Then you’d need a pretty sympathetic safety inspector and insurance company to get it on the road, and those might be in real short supply where this car is concerned. I wouldn’t be surprised if in many jurisdictions it would not be insurable or given a plate.

    It’s got a bit of historic interest since it’s one of the Mechanic’s Illustrated builds from a time when interesting cars were thin on the ground in the US and people were building their own. Unfortunately it has limited interest now that 60+ years have passed and there are all kinds of other choices.

    I also think the over-$5K ask is way high, but what do I know? That Fiat Spider with Abarth logos on it from a guy with no feedback history sold for $27K the other day, so anything’s possible.

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    • paul

      27 G’s for a Fiat 850, just shows you some people have more money then brains, but I was at a B/J auction about 5 years ago & saw a very fine, very straight, light patina interior, E type coupe unrestored one owner with documents go for 45 G’s while at the same auction a big Healey fully restored go for 80 G’s. I have driven both many times & that E type coupe was not worth half of that Healey, in fact to me the Healey should have gone for half the E type.

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  8. Robert J

    My favorite Mechanix Illustrated roadster of all time is the wooden Speedball Special:

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  9. Other Josh

    The price of this car kind of reminds me of the Nackardbaker, which unsurprisingly is still on Ebay at $10,000.

    That being said I love these types of cars!

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    • Jesse Mortensen JesseStaff

      Yep, I spotted that one up in Montana over a year ago! The seller must really think he has something special.

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      • mtshootist1

        Jesse, that one was still next to the interstate between Bozeman and Belgrade until recently, there were a bunch of cars at some makeshift car dealership and now they are all gone, the building is empty I don’t know what happened, but my guess is that they didn’t go far.

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  10. Wiley Robinson

    Nope, this one’s a dud. Somebody made A’s in shop class. This was built by the other guy.

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  11. bcav

    Fugly (noun). Def. Not one single line appealing to the eye.
    sorry, not all creativity is good. jmho.

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  12. tom999p

    Why not just keep all the negative comments to yourselves. I’m sure that not everyone would care to have whatever it is in your garage either…

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  13. jim s

    why would this be just on CL. if it is a MI homebuild it needs to be on this site and ebay. it also needs a lot more photos. people who wanted to but could not build one ” back in the day” might be interested. a very interesting find.

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  14. DT

    I assume its a 1946- 1953 dodge,I think thats what the steering wheel is.That would explain the flathead 6. I had a truck and it really rode nicely, nice steering,dependable. very roadable. Id drive that thing as fast as it could go.

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  15. Clay Bryant

    Not my cup of tea but I’ll bet you one thing.If it was at an indoor car show and it was smack dab in the middle of 10 T-buckets,this one would have more “linger value” then the other 10.Hell,I bet 90% of those who looked at it on here spent over a couple minutes looking at the pics.

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  16. John

    Lots of luck getting this beast an inspection sticker in the state where I live.

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  17. The Chucker

    Put a Chevrolet big block in it, nicer rolling stock, and paint it silver. Viola!…your own Blastolene clone. :-)

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  18. Bryan Cohn

    I think each of us here appreciates the effort, the enthusiasm and the family grief the gent that built this must have endured, even if it only cost $500 in 1955.

    If it could be bought for $2000-$2500 it would be snapped up, refreshed and enjoyed. For about $10k one could have a weird, wonderful ’50’s hotrod with all kinds of uses besides Cars & Coffee. Vintage charity rallies are quite the rage in the MW lately and this could be a fun car for that. Man up and take your wife on a weekend getaway in the spring or fall. Drive one kid to school in the coolest thing their classmates will ever see.

    Its all about perspective.

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  19. thefatkid

    It looks like something Homer Simpson would have built in shop class in high school. I wish I could like it but it looks like it is main fasteners would have been bubble gum and duct tape. BTW Clay Bryant, I agree with you. I did spend time looking over the pictures. It is like a train wreck, it horrible to see, but yet you can’t look away……

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  20. Rancho Bella

    Welp………….I reckon I’m odd man out with a couple of others here. I like it. Notice the old picture in the CL ad. It has full front end and body length bumper that doesn’t appear on the car now. That is the same car, right? or am I confused?

    Having been a kid in the 50’s………..I can just see this being fabricated by a guy in coveralls.
    The more I look at the pictures, the more I wonder where the sheet metal was formed.
    As for driveline and frame, that should be easy to determine just by casting numbers and symbols. Fast? no, odd? yes,

    But think about the time it was made. Men rebuilt generators in their garages, built their own block walls, fixed their own lawn equipment. It was a different time where the average guy needed to know how to do things. And, it wasn’t all that long before, this country was scraping as much metal as it could to fight a war…….then another.
    Certainly not everyone’s cup-o’-tea but points for the builder for sticking with it.

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  21. Charles

    It’s definitely fuggly, but it would also be loads of fun at the hot rod shows. There are some pretty ugly cars that show up at those events, and those one of a kind builds that look like someone used all of the unwanted left-over parts to build it always seem to generate a lot of interest. The price is steep for what amounts to a patchwork quilt of a car that most of us could assemble out of the stuff laying around in the corners of our garages.

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  22. Michael

    The Hot Rod car was purchased in Ada Mn. by a friend of my father. Built in Macintosh Mn. in the fifties. The Hot Rod was sold to my father and he put it in the garage and just took it out on occasion for short rides. His son was 12 at the time and never drove the car just played in it. My father passed away and I had no time as I worked in AK for 20 some years. Planned to rebuild the car but just to much else in life to put the time and money into the car. So I offered it for sale maybe asking too much don’t know as I could not find anything to compare it to. Sorry to those I offended with the high price. One guy said this car is too valuable to the Hot Rod world and should be given to the AHRA as it should not be one person’s car it should be in a museum I said too late I already put it up for sale. I did email the AHRA to see if they wanted the car but no response. Since the CL ad the car was stolen and the individual who stole it finally paid the court $3575 and is now reselling the car. He started out asking $6850 and changed the ad to $4850. Those who took a negative approach to the car didn’t see it in the day and through a 12 year olds eyes. It was in showroom condition when purchased and over the years lost its shine. To the guy that thinks he could build one of these with left over parts in his garage, I say do it and send a picture so I can comment on your craftsmanship. Oh you must be Jesse James right? Oh lets keep it fair and use only parts this guy had to work with and his technology of the day. Anyway the car is back out there somewhere on CL and hopefully a guy with a vision will buy it and restore it to its one time glory. If you do find it and buy it and want the two piece glass windshield, the spare tire and metal surround, the ignition key and the 1962 license plates let me know as I still have them. Thanks to all for the positive comments, much appreciated.

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