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Classic Car Corner - Another Willys

  • Written by Tom Berg, Windermere

As previously written, I was searching for a Willys pickup to replace the one I sold several years ago but found and bought a 57 Willys Forward Control pickup instead, a totally different model.  Two weeks later I accidentally discovered a 1954 Willys pickup just like I had been looking for in Olympia and couldn't resist buying it also. I’m now building an extension to one of my buildings to house both of them. My new pickup is a bit rustic looking.  It appears to have original green paint (what’s left of it) that’s protected by a layer of what looks like yellow pollen and a white roof that’s missing a few chunks of paint. The body is mostly dent free and not rusted through  (it spent most of its life in dry Eastern Oregon) which is a priority for me. I will probably just clean it up and call it good, the patina look is very popular these days. Another reason I had to buy this truck was that it appears to be completely original. Most of these 4-wheel-drive trucks get beat up offroad and have lift kits and newer, bigger engines installed. I prefer original condition and that’s what this truck has. As they say “It’s only original once.”
My new Willys pickup had not been used much in the last few years.  When that happens the first thing to go is the brakes. When I test drove this truck they were bad enough that I almost crashed. I budgeted myself enough to get the brakes done and buy a new set of tires but the brake bill came in at double my budget so I guess the antique tires will have to do for now.
The brake system required virtually all new or rebuilt parts and these old trucks don’t come apart too easily. My thanks to Mike for his great work on this one.  Now if it will start I can be confident it will stop.

willys 54Courtesy photoThe Willys Overland company started producing cars in 1908 and from 1912 to 1918 was the second largest producer of cars only to Ford.  When World War II began the U.S. government asked Willys, Ford and American Bantam to produce vehicles for the war (all civilian vehicle production was stopped).  American Bantam made the vehicle that best suited the government specifications but they weren’t a large enough company to produce the quantities needed so Ford  and Willys ended up with the contracts. Over 600,000 military jeeps were produced, about half of them by Willys.  After the war, in 1945, Willys came out with a civilian model Jeep and the 4-wheel -drive proved popular with buyers. In 1947 they came out with the pickup which they produced with very few changes until 1964. In all they ended up producing about 200,000 of this versatile little truck. My 1954 was the first year for the 115 horsepower “Super Hurricane Six” flathead engine in the pickup which replaced the little 75 horsepower 4 cylinder overhead valve engine. They also made the back window bigger and reduced the bars on the grill from 5 to 3. As with the other smaller car makers they were having a tough time staying in business so changes were few. Since I already have a 57 forward Control Jeep and a 1970 Jeepster Commando and used to have the Jeep Wagon as well perhaps I have enough Willys’ for now. We’ll just have to wait and see.

In closing, a hearty thanks to the nice lady with the cool 1980s Wagoneer that I met in the Post Office parking lot. She actually recognized me from my monthly Woodinville Weekly ad, said she enjoyed it and reminded me it was time to write another column. One of these days I’ll get over to her place to admire her collection and who knows, that visit might even end up in this column.

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