One thing we found out for sure while walking the grounds of the 47th Annual NSRA Street Rod nationals Plus was that there are lots of niche builds. There is the Tri-Five group, the Deuce crowd, and what seems like an endless showing of classic pickups, and the list goes on. But one for sure is the “MacDaddy” of them all…the Willys gasser. When it comes to brute power the Willys crowd has it in triplicate.
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So, it follows that if the 1932 Ford is the king of hot rods, the throne for gassers belongs to the Willys. The cars were originally designed as an economy car and while the 1933-38 cars may have had some cosmetic challenges the 1940-41 cars are downright good looking. Two major factors contribute to the Willys success on the drag strip. Light weight and enough room in the engine bay (which often includes a portion of the interior) for big bad V-8 motors. In the ‘60s these cars were generally seen as race cars but slowly a street movement was underway and the world of street gassers was born. Generally speaking the street version is strikingly similar to the race version. Big rear tires ‘n’ little front tires, lots of horsepower under the hood and plenty gauges and two bucket seats fill the interior. These cars have developed an almost cult following, and much like the 1932 Ford the availability of reproduction bodies, grilles and chassis makes it entirely possible to build a brand new Willys and then you too can become a member of a cult.
Many times around the Street Rodder offices we chuckle that entire generations have grown up thinking that all ’41 Willys hot rods came with blown Chrysler Hemis from the factory. While that may be an over exaggeration the fact is when it comes to the hot rodded Willys blown motors of every description can be found under the hood. One thing is for certain the proper Willys should always have a mega-dose of “big-block” envy whether it be a Chrysler (preferred) but at the very least a Chevy or for the “dare to be different crowd” a Ford. But it must be a blown with dual fours or possibly nowadays with twin throttle bodies representing EFI. Ah, horsepower to burn at the touch of the throttle…now that’s hot rodding.