When it comes to popular hot rodding, some cars of the past rate highly and some don’t rate much at all while some invoke a like it or hate it point of view and one such classic car is the Willys Americar! Personally, I love them but I’ve got mates who just don’t get them!
From 1912 through to 1918, Willys was the second largest producer of automobiles in America after Ford thanks to its founding father, John Willys. In 1937, Willys decided to redesign its 4 cylinder vehicles with a style ahead of its time. The newly styled streamlined body incorporated a slanted windscreen, moulded headlights in the guards and a one piece bonnet hinged at the rear. 1939 saw the mechanicals receive an upgrade to Bendix hydraulic brakes and an increase in power from 48 hp to a massive 61hp but the company was still languishing in its sales.
In 1938, Joseph W Frazer joined the Willys Company and decided a more modern looking cheap compact vehicle could be the answer to the companies’ financial woes and designed the “Americar”, a great patriotic name for the 1941 and 42 models only. WW2 and the production of the Jeep sealed the fate of the Americar.
They became the targets of young hot rodders returning from service due to their poor engines, lack of parts and lack of assistance from the Willys Company. They were so popular that it’s rare to find one today in 100% original condition and I can guarantee you Paul’s isn’t one of them either!
Paul Caccamo has sat on the favourable side of the fence when it came to opinions on the body styling of these classic cars and has done since he was a kid! The completed build on this particular 41 model got Paul right in the sweet spot and he knew he had to have it!
Now having acquired a childhood dream, it was time for Paul to add his own touches to the curvaceous model and truly make it his own.
The chassis and body had been originally built by Outlaw Chassis and Bodies in America before finding their way to our shores where it was subsequently built to a high quality street rod and ready for action. From the High gloss jet black paint, 383 naturally aspirated Chev, Turbo 700, nine inch and tubbed rear, she looked the part with a wicked note to boot!
Paul’s list of mods was short but not subtle! “You’ve gotta have a blower on a Willys and leave the bonnet off” he said so a new engine was the go. Built by Brian Cassar from …………. the new donk sported much the same displacement as the previous donk but with massive induction via a 671 blower and twin Holleys. “I wanted the same sort of horsepower but having the blower on it increased the horsepower to 640″. He had the T700 beefed up by Paul Rogers to handle the extra grunt while out back sits the full floating nine inch hung in place by four bars. Up front is a Mustang II kit purpose built for rodding a Willys. No airbags for this wild ride with ride height as you see it looked after by coil over shockers in all corners and stopping power influenced by four wheel discs.
Interior boasts many creature comforts including a Vintage Air cooling system, fully functioning heater, modern stereo upgraded by Paul, Ididit tilt column while Stewart Warner gauges and an Autometer tacho keep Paul informed as to what’s going on up front. Aesthetics include leather refurbishments as well as original mouldings and badges on the dash just to keep it in the realm of true rodding.
The theme of retaining some originality has been kept up on the outside too as Paul explains. “I wanted to have the genuine body look of the Willys less front and rear bumpers of course. All the mouldings, door handles, door hinges, the boot handle lock, lights are all genuine 41 Willys ”
Another not so subtle addition Paul had in mind was a change of wheels to which he opted for a set of custom built billet units from American Republic Wheels. Going down this path has its own issues because if you get it wrong, you won’t know until they’re bolted to the car. Paul tried photos and templates but in the end, it was a case of bite the bullet and hope you get it right and I’d say Paul nailed this one!
With 17000 miles on the clock, this Willys is a mover and shaker and so is its owner! Paul has plans of a higher horsepower engine going in her and the current power plant finding its way into a Willys pickup. “I want to do a Willys pickup identical to this car, blown engine and big arse end. If I come across a steel one, it’s a bonus otherwise I’ll do a fibreglass one. Hard to find a steel one these days”
Pauls family loves the black beast too, especially Paul’s daughter. It has taken his wife, Carmen a little while to warm to the wild looking machine but after going for her first run which was to the Queenscliff Rod Run, the car ran like a dream and she is now sold on it. “She’s got the bug. She wants a 55 Chev but the way I want to build it is with a blown engine”. You’re dicing with danger there Paul!