“One Day” Willys

“One Day” Willys

I’ve wanted a 1941 Willys coupe since I was 10 years old. Even then, I had the formula figured out. Nose up, blown smallblock, fenderwell headers, four-speed, Olds rear, long ladder bars, radiused rear wheelwells, mags, and piecrust slicks. It would have a three-spoke Covico steering wheel, a Moon pedal, three-point roll bar, and a chrome tach on the dash. Back then, I wanted the car to be yellow. These days, I’m open to just about any color. Fiberglass or steel didn’t matter—I wanted a drag car for the street.

Twenty years later, I still think about that dream. I wonder what it would be like to take a car like that across town, or to the hardware store, or on a multi-day road trip to Yosemite. How would it be for camping? Surfing? Or Saturday morning estate sales? What changes would I make—or would I make any—to make driving it more enjoyable?

Through the years, I’ve become much more open-minded about this “one day” project. I’m not convinced that it has to be a ’41 Willys, or even a ’40-’42 for that matter. Instead, I’ve been leaning towards the ’37-’39s. They stand out.

In the 1960s, these ’37-’39 Willys often got re-nosed prior to hitting the dragstrip. As far as I know, the front ends are interchangeable, and it’s much simpler to make a fiberglass mold of the ’40-’42 nose than the earlier sheetmetal. Nonetheless, some of the late-’30s style Willys made their way onto the quarter-mile.

And that’s where today’s subject comes in. Clearly it isn’t a ’41 Willys and it isn’t yellow. It only has some of the elements I described in that opening paragraph, but that makes me like it even more.

The mesh grille is almost agricultural, and the stance—with the narrow steelies on rib-runner tires and magnesium Americans wrapped in piecrust slicks—is spot on. Under the hood, there’s a blown 303 Olds. I’d like to think it’s chain driven.

Judging by context clues, the truck was campaigned in the Pacific Northwest in the early-’60s. It looks fairly fresh in this photo. Maybe it was one of its first times out?

I don’t know when I’ll build my Willys, but that’s okay. It’s always fun to daydream about what’s next. Who knows: it may even be a pickup?

Joey Ukrop

Opening photo from the H.A.M.B.

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