Whutizzit? That's the question car builder Larry Burchett hears most often, and one that demands a longer-than-usual response. Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, Burchett has been a hot rodder all of his life (he still owns the '30 Model A coupe he built in 1977), though raising his family and building up multiple businesses took up a large portion of his time these last couple of decades.
But the love of cars finally won him over, so he sold one of his companies and decided to open his own shop devoted to building quality hot rods and street rods. A couple of years ago, in walks Tom Badgett with a desire for a '30s-era car. The basic resto-rod concept of a vintage body with all the underpinnings of a contemporary vehicle appealed to the both of them, so Larry set out to build his customer a unique, one-off hot rod.
Once they got into the project, two things became clear. One, the design that combined early MG styling with that of a '34 Ford roadster was very appealing to all who saw it and, two, they needed to look into reproducing the bodies for the kit-car market.
Having built many street rods throughout his life, Larry went with what he knew about street-rod chassis to fabricate his own for the Tomcat. Set up on a 104-inch wheelbase, the tube and rectangular frame was secured in the jig before the Heidt's independent front suspension pieces were welded in place. Out back, a Ford 8.8-inch independent rear was installed with control arms and axles made by B-Rod. A four-wheel disc brake system from Stainless Steel Brake Co. was also installed, and a set of 100-spoke wire wheels (with real knock-offs, too) in 16- and 17-inch diameters were bolted up to their respective corners.
Small-block Chevy motors have always been a mainstay of the hot-rodding public, and Larry decided on a Ram Jet crate motor (backed to a TH350 trans) from GM to power his new ride. "Standard" street-rod components, such as an Edelbrock water pump, Sanderson headers, Lokar throttle and kick-down cables, Flowmaster mufflers, a Powermaster alternator and starter, and more, all found their way onto the 350, which fits neatly under the three-piece hood.
The 'glass body is typical of what you'd find in better street-rod bodies: the suicide-style doors shut even and solid, no waves in the quarter panels, and a general impression of overall quality is apparent. Though you may also think about a Jag XK120 or even the profile of a Triumph TR3A when you see the Tomcat, the car is unique enough to stand on its own.
That unique design is carried over to the dash area, which is not too old, and not too new. The top of the dash/cowl rolls over into the door tops, like a newer street rod, but the dash has enough old flavor to make it appealing by itself. Two large-diameter gauges from Classic Instruments (who custom made a one-off set of gauges that included the B-Rod logo on the face of each gauge) are easily readable behind the Lecarra banjo steering wheel, while other controls, such as the Vintage Air A/C and heating knobs, the tunnel-mounted Lokar shifter, and the Pioneer DVD/CD changer are all within easy reach. Finished off in red leather by Steve Holcomb at Pro Auto Upholstery (Knoxville, TN), the Tomcat's interior looks both elegantly contemporary and vintage cool at the same time. Larry's son, P.J., gave the car, with its Matrix silver base/clear-coat paint job, another ingredient formulating the classy look of the car.
The Tomcat made its debut recently at the Kit and Replicar Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, but the Burchetts have been on the move. They also intend to have the car at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, too. B-Rod or Custom should have bodies for sale (entry-level kits sell for about $11,500) by the time you read this article, and a much-anticipated coupe version is also being worked on (some say there aren't enough coupes in the kit-car world). And, in his "spare" time, Larry is also working on a 'glass '67/68 Camaro body to be ready by the end of the year! You can see more of their shop at www.b-rodorcustom.com.
In a time where sameness seems to be taking over with too many clones of clones, it's refreshing to see someone has taken the plunge and brought something new to the table. We applaud Burchett and B-Rod or Custom for having the courage to create a new avenue for the kit and replicar market to drive down!
Though you might see a little...
Though you might see a little bit of an early Corvette influence in the Tomcat's interior, it is at least a clean and sano one! Red leather bucket seats (from Steve Holcomb, Pro Auto Upholstery) are a clear contrast to the silver-covered used elsewhere on the car.
A Lecarra steering wheel attaches...
A Lecarra steering wheel attaches to a Flaming River column, while a shifter from Lokar is used to select the gears.
On the dash, custom, one-off...
On the dash, custom, one-off gauges (from Classic Instruments) are lettered with the company logo.
A Pioneer DVD/stereo sound...
A Pioneer DVD/stereo sound system comes with a hideaway TV screen.
Burchett made the custom brake...
Burchett made the custom brake lights and installed a third brake light right behind the edge of the cockpit.
The 16- and 17-inch BFGoodrich-shod...
The 16- and 17-inch BFGoodrich-shod knock-off wire wheels are 100-spoke units and lend an air of elegance to the ride.
The powerplant for the lil'...
The powerplant for the lil' roadster is a 350/350 GM Ram Jet crate motor, backed to a TH350 transmission. Internally left stock, the exterior utilizes extra performance goodies such as an Edelbrock water pump, Powermaster alternator, a K&N air filter, headers from Sanderson, and Flowmaster mufflers.
|LARRY BURCHETT |
|Knoxville, Tennessee |
|Frame ||Custom by B-Rod or Custom, Knoxville, TN |
|Wheelbase ||104" |
|Rearend ||8.8" Ford T-bird independent |
|Rear Suspension ||Independent w/ B-Rod axles and control arms |
|Rear Brakes ||Stainless Steel Brake Co. disc |
|Front Suspension ||Heidt's independent |
|Front Brakes ||Wilwood disc |
|Steering ||ididit steel column |
|Front Wheel ||100-spoke knock-off, 16 x 7 |
|Rear Wheel ||100-spoke knock-off, 17 x 8 |
|Front Tire ||BFGoodrich, 225/50-16 |
|Rear Tire ||BFGoodrich, 245/50-17 |
|ENGINE & TRANS |
|Make ||GM Ram Jet crate |
|Crankshaft ||Stock GM |
|Pistons ||Stock GM |
|Water Pump ||Edelbrock |
|Radiator ||Griffin |
|Alternator ||Powermaster |
|Heads ||GM |
|Induction ||GM Ram Jet injection |
|Air Cleaner ||K&N |
|Ignition ||GM |
|Headers ||Sanderson Headers |
|Mufflers ||Flowmaster |
|Transmission ||TH350 |
|Shifter ||Lokar |
|Trans Mods ||Shifting kit |
|Manufacturer ||B-Rod or Custom |
|Bodywork ||Larry & P.J. Burchett, Wayne Hobby |
|Paint Type ||Matrix base/clear |
|Painter ||P.J. Burchett |
|Gauges ||Custom by Classic Instruments |
|Wiring ||Don Davis |
|Steering ||Wheel Lecarra |
|Seating ||Custom buckets by Steve Holcomb |
|Upholsterer ||Steve Holcomb, Pro Auto Upholstery, Knoxville, TN |
|Material ||Red leather |