What possesses a man to want to build something out of the ordinary — way out of the ordinary — like a 1951 Willys Sedan Delivery? Why not build an easier 1932 Ford (in your choice of body style), because everything is available for them? Or the ever-popular 1957 Chevy two-door hardtop — no need to scrounge junkyards and pick-a-part places because there’s plenty of repro parts made these days, including bodies – Piece of cake build, right?
Aaron Rhinehart (Rolo to his pals) of Pueblo, Colorado, wasn’t having any of that easy stuff. Nope! He started off small — well, not exactly small — the wheel and tire combo he liked on Craigslist were Mickey Thompson 26×10-15LT on 15 x 7-inch Pro Star Weld Wheels (front) and 33×21.5-15LT on 15 x 15-inch Pro Star Weld Wheels (rear). Rolo’s friends gave him a hard time about purchasing the set with no idea what he was going to put them on. Wishful thinking, right?
Finding The Right Willys!
By chance, he came across an advertisement for a Willys Sedan Delivery cab and frame with no front clip, just a short 50-miles from his shop. But let’s backup a bit and find out why Rolo likes these old Willys.
When he was about 8 years old, Rolo’s dad bought a 1951 Willys pickup to haul stuff to the dump. He could sit on his dad’s lap and steer while dad worked the pedals. By the time Rolo was 12, he couldn’t see over the steering wheel, but he could drive. His dad gave it to him when he turned 16 and with his help they proceeded to fix it up. Rolo drove it to high school in his junior and senior years.
Everyone thought it was cool because it was a lifted four-wheel drive with huge tires. Rolo and friends would cruise Main street and hit all the hang-out spots. Sometime around then, he took it apart to “trick it out” but never finished it. A friend talked him into selling it as a basket case. Regret haunted Rolo, and from that point on he wished he’d never sold it.
Forward 30 years or so and he’s now self-employed as owner of Rolo Originals LLC, a machine shop located in Pueblo, Colorado. He decided to start a project using his imagination and equipment to reflect what he is capable of building. “WillFord” (the name painted on the Delivery) is Rolo’s first complete-build from the ground up by himself — making every one of the aluminum parts you see in these photos.
Rat Rod? No, Not This Time!
Rolo had visions of building a rat rod, but the frame under the delivery he purchased for $300 was rusted beyond use. So, after building a frame, narrowing a 9-inch rearend, and mounting those massive tires, he realized a rat rod wasn’t the way to go. He remembered he still had the front clip off his dad’s old Willys stashed in the barn. So, from the rusted out Willys Sedan Delivery, a bunch of Ford parts, a big pile of aluminum to cut up, and three years worth of work, “WillFord” was born.
The delivery first debuted as a Tangelo Pearl-painted version at the NSRA Rocky Mountain Nationals in Pueblo in 2017 and consequently won a “Pro’s Pick.” We asked to shoot it for a feature at the event, but Rolo declined, saying the panel needed some graphics on the sides and a few more billet pieces.
Needless to say, he got a little carried away. A little over a year later, the panel made its second debut with custom-mixed Red paint on it and the name emblazoned on the sides. The sliding tilt front clip is hydraulically actuated by two cylinders concealed within the frame rails (no screw actuators here) and can be operated while driving down the road or with the keyless remote. To complete the facelift, more interior modifications were added.
While some prefer Chevy, a 427ci Ford “Clevor” engine was built because there aren’t many out there, they run strong, and Rolo’s a Ford guy — always has been and always will be. In case you’re wondering, a “Clevor” is a Ford 351 Windsor bottom-end with Ford Cleveland heads. Cleveland plus Windsor equals “Clevor.” Rolo states he didn’t make that up, some other Ford guy did!
That’s why the delivery is a “Will Ford,” not a “Will Olet.” After we asked why he used a supercharger, Rolo went on to explain, “Why? Because to me, that’s a prerequisite for any hot rod. I considered using two twin-screw superchargers on a custom built intake, but I’ll save that for my next project.” The fully functional cam-driven Hilborn fuel pump and Billet timing cover were employed “just cuz I had it, and why not?”
Cutting Aluminum Is Rolo’s Way Of Life
“I used quite a bit of aluminum to cut for the pulleys, brackets, radiator/oil cooler mount, fuel rails, dry-sump oil pump housings, water crossover, vacuum pump, and MAF mount,” Rolo adds. Looking close, you’ll notice there are no hose clamps. The plumbing is all stainless-steel tubing or braided hose connected via Aeroquip and Weatherhead fittings. The majority of the sealing gaskets have been eliminated with the use of O-rings.”
As for the transmission, he explained everything is funneled through a Centerforce twin-disc clutch into an S1 sequentially shifted Tremec T56 Magnum six-speed. The 9-inch, 35-spline Strange rear differential sports a set of 5:13 Pro gears wrapped up in a Detroit Locker. It is all suspended with a 4-link centered by a Watt’s link, with a three bag air-ride suspension stabilized with a massive sway bar.
Suffice to say Rolo was extremely busy for three years while he built this Willys and continued to run his business at the same time. Is there a next project? Maybe, but at this time it’s a closely guarded secret.