Trucking along on our Top 9 countdown, we hit number 4, the Willys Coupe. Officially known as the Americar, the Willys was much like many of the vehicles on our list. Cheap, light and underpowered. The combination made for the right base for some of the baddest hot rods on the planet.
While the world was going to war, Willys-Overland was trying to make a name for itself in the United States. The company was struggling and when Joseph W. Frazer joined the team, it was decided a modern-looking and cheap compact car was the way to go. Early models had a very much Ford-esque appearance. The Americar was launched for the 1941 model year, not long before America joined the Allied forces.
Under the hood of the 41’ Willys rested a 2.4-liter Go-Devil inline four-cylinder engine. Topping out at 66 and a half horsepower, the motor just wasn’t enough. Many owners determined the car either needed to be replaced or upgraded. This is what made them cheap. V8 engine swaps started to be common place.
You may have seen the recent story here on Rod Authority “Hot Rods You Should Know: Stone, Woods And Cook 1941 Willys Gasser” – This car, known as Swindler II, lit up the NHRA tracks in classic Gasser fashion. The team went on to build more Willys gassers in the sixties.
Another famous Willys is the one piloted by legendary gasser Big John Mazmanian. After racing multiple other vehicles, Mazmanian purchased his ’41 Willys in 1964. After dropping a 392 Chrysler Hemi under the hood and entering in the A/Gas class, Mazmarian took the car to 149 miles per hour with a 9.77 elapsed time.
Keep an eye out for the next installment of the Top 9 Cars To Turn Into Hot Rods. We’re breaking into the Top 3 next.