When encountering an old friend and the conversation wheels around to a person we once knew, it feels so good to find that, decades later, he continues to produce magic.
This has been the smile generating case during a conversation with my long time friend, David Tookmanian. As a long tenured Parts Manager pre-Y2K for the performance oriented Brahms Chevrolet in Palisades Park, New Jersey, David stood tall as the “Go-To” parts guru for hot rodders and street racers across North Jersey and beyond.
In speaking with David the name of a great hot rod designer from back in our youth came up. Whatever happened to Randy Bianchi I asked? David with a proud smile replied that Randy just finished a 21-year long hot rod build that had just been invited to show at the 2021 Greenwich Concours. Indeed, Randy had continued to produce magic.
Meet retired Parts Manager extraordinaire David Tookmanian and Hot Rod legend Randy Bianchi.
Randy the Rodfather and his Green “T” hot rod
With names like Sunkist, Moonkist and Tuff 32 among many of his hot rod creations, Randy Bianchi has maintained a status as a visionary designer and fabricator of landmark hot roads for decades. During that period he also outfitted, spec’d and at times restored offshore racing boats from Donzi, Magnum and Fountain.
In pursuing his hot rod passion, Randy had a voracious appetite for performance parts and engineering solutions to satisfy his Chevy powered creations. In fulfilling that need, Randy developed a strong relationship with David Tookmanian that has lasted 50 years. Though David left the parts business at the turn of the century, their friendship and mutual admiration have endured.
Randy laughs as he says, “Dave enjoyed a great reputation among the go fast guys as “The Man” when it came to dispensing Chevy performance parts answers. Ya know, you’d inflict grievous harm to your big block Rat motor on Sunday and be at the Brahms parts counter on Monday.”
Invited by the selection committee to show at Greenwich and to appear in the glossy program, Randy’s visually compelling Green “T” hot rod started life as a solid but weary 1927 Ford Model “T” sedan. The inspired vision that would earn entrée TO the Greenwich field took shape in 1999 with a sketch that, 21-years later, came to life as a Lamborghini green radical reality that remained quite faithful to Randy’s original concept.
Randy says, “I have kept it as close to the original sketch as possible.” Wild side pipes were drawn on the car initially. To keep them that way Randy says, “It required me to incorporate releasing panels in the doors to accommodate the pipes while allowing the doors to open so you could get in the car.”
“Yes,” Randy admits, “it is slightly impractical, but that was the plan and one of my building principles is to stay with your initial idea regardless of the challenges, curve balls and problems that could arise to get there.”
David in reflecting on Randy’s Green T says, “Randy took a classic old school look and applied his DaVinci genius to elevate it to a ten on the outrageous scale.”
David noted that Randy will focus on certain parts that are personal expressions that go to his core and integrate them into the build. An example on Green T are the 1956 Oldsmobile Starfire taillights. Randy believes the year of the taillights should match the year of the engine. A 1956 Oldsmobile V8 powers Green T.The inspiration for Green T originated with his, then, young son Randy, suggested doing a hot rod together. Working on a tight budget, as it always seems to be for hot rod builds, Randy decided to go non-traditional. Instead of a 1932 Ford coupe or convertible, Randy selected a 1927 Model T sedan as the canvas for his masterpiece. By selling off all the parts he would not need, Randy was able to recoup the $1500 cost of the car. Always thinking that Randy.
Randy confesses to Green T enjoying a cartoonish flair. He acknowledges that he often strives for the outrageous. He says, “A lot of my builds are very overstated high-impact vehicles. I like to design outside the traditional design box so that the end result stands out.” He laughs self-deprecatingly saying, “My stuff is mostly impractical and outrageous. That’s what makes them what they are.”
Randy believes in remaining faithful to the old school roots of hot rod building. In no place in Green T’s build does this evidence itself more than in the powertrain.
That 324 cu. in. 1956 Olds engine that deserved matching taillights has been seriously worked to put out a conservatively estimated 400 horsepower. It benefits from a custom ground Engle cam, 11 ½ to 1 compression and a very rare Weiand high rise intake manifold that took Randy years to find. Carburetion comes courtesy of six Ford 94 carburetors.
A 1937 LaSalle Transmission and a Halibrand 301 quick change rear end qualify as “Unobtainium” (Hard to find:) but Randy located them to nicely round out a true old school execution.
Green T sits on a 1932 Ford chassis narrowed in the front, widened in the middle, narrowed in the back and Z’d to lower the back 13 inches.
When asked about how many hours went into the build Randy says, “There’s no clock when you’re building a car of this caliber.” There are never-ending but necessary lost hours demanded for me to design in the beauty or function of a part. Randy says, “First you find a way to make a part better. You spend a month to bring it to life. Then you get a better idea, throw this one in the garbage, and start over. It happened all the time.”
No matter how much time we have to do something, life always seems to bring us up short when the deadline arrives. So for all of the 21-years spent creating Green T, it had not yet been driven when show time arrived. Randy says, “It was a grind at the end. It still isn’t exactly finished but I had made sure it was mechanically perfect. No time for trial and error. My son fired it up. I timed it and he drove it around the block several times.” Randy asked his son how their 21-year project performed. His son responded, “It’s perfect dad.” Randy says, “That made everything worthwhile and perfect for me.” Next stop, The Greenwich Concours.
Genius does not come without what might politely be called personal “character.” Viewers of an episode of Jesse James’ Monster garage witness Randy expressing himself when he felt his work was not being respected.
James had five all-star East Coast hot rod builders join him for a build based on a 1929 Ford Model A sedan.
Randy says that a steady elevation of tension between he and Jesse developed over how the project should be carried out. With the tension becoming palpable, Randy found a way to resolve the issue. He says, “I felt he displayed no respect for other craftsmen and the talent they brought to the project. I had enough. So I faked a heart attack to get off the show.”
Whether it is his hot rods or his television persona, if it involves Randy, clearly, the results are heart stopping.