Double Trouble – When One Willys Isn’t Enough

Unlike those who prefer a daily driver plus a hot rod, Larry Ford of Buena Vista, Colorado, is one of those unusual people who like to own more than one hot rod.. Larry likes them of the same marque, albeit a few years apart. His first Willys was built a few years ago by his brother, Ron Offerson of Lakewood, Colorado.

Ron originally found the stock 1952 Willys Aero Wing model in Kremmling, Colorado. He spent two years working on it in his shop, going for a Pro Mod look. He first built an all-tube chassis, stretching it 10 inches to handle better than the short-wheelbase under the car from the factory. The tube chassis is 8.50 NHRA certified.

Then, the 545-cubic-inch World Products Chevrolet engine with Edelbrock Marine aluminum heads was set in place. Atop of it sits an 8-71 Mooneyham blower fitted with Demon Carburetors. A Powerglide transmission was bolted behind the engine, and a Mark Williams Pro-Ford rearend was chosen to move the street beast. The engine is plumbed for nitrous but is seldom used. Baffled zoomies were finally added after several attempts at under-car exhaust systems were all much too loud. Mickey Thompson radials on 17 x 32 x 15-inch Weld wheels fit under the rear.

Under the fiberglass hood of this 1952 Willys is 545 cubic inches of World Products Chevrolet engine with aluminum heads, topped by a Mooneyham blower backed by a Powerglide transmission.

While the body of the 1952 Willys looks stock, it definitely is not. The original 1952 front clip (fenders and hood) has been extended ten inches. Being an Aero Wing model, Ron was inspired by aircraft. Cessna materials and techniques (fiberglass, mesh, and resin) were used and Ron worked for about a year building the molds for the fiberglass front clip, dash, trunk lid,

A large wing with a parachute is attached to the rear to lend more of a “Pro Mod” look. The wing design was courtesy of Jerry Fritz of Denver, a AA/FD dragster builder, who donated the parts. The ends were shaped to mimic the shape of the car.

Left: It doesn't look like ten inches were added to the front clip, but the chassis was set up that way from the beginning. Right: The 'wing" was added to give it a more "Pro Mod" look.

Even though the car is licensed for the streets, and Larry drives it to events and shows, it’s still very loud. The Willys was driven to a local cruise-in, in nearby Golden, and was consequently stopped by a Golden cop. He was told it was too loud to cruise the streets, and if it was driven around, the driver would get a ticket. “Can the ticket be pre-paid?” was asked. The cop didn’t think that was funny, so Larry had to wait out the evening in a restaurant parking lot, then slipped out of town as quietly as possible.

Left: The "office" area! The rollcage is needed for the approved 8.50-certified chassis. Right: Aluminum abounds, while a B & M shifter operates the Powerglide transmission.

The Willys was originally painted orange by Randy Offerson. After some damage at a local car show, Larry had Randy and Ron strip it and repaint it silver. The antifreeze green flames, the airbrushed WWII aluminum patch-panel-style graphics and pinstriping were done by Dale Moore of Grant, Colorado. Although Larry only wanted the car repainted — minus the flames — Randy and Ron wanted them, so they wouldn’t let Larry see the paint until it was finished.

Shortly before the car was damaged, Larry’s wife, Susan, wanted a new kitchen in their home; Larry wanted that new paint on the ‘52. New paint won out, so Susan now calls the ’52 Willys, “Burning Desire,” or sometimes, her “new kitchen.”

Bullet Proof

Larry recently finished his second Willys. The ’36 Willys Model 77 four-door was purchased several years ago in Ocala, Florida, as a complete car. Ron initially bought the ‘36 for his daughter. It was his first venture into eBay bidding. He made a bid, then didn’t realize he needed to keep watching it, and subsequently ‘won’ it.

Unfortunately, the museum that owned the car didn’t want to deal with shipping, so Ron and Randy drove to Florida to pick it up. He not only got the car but also the lizards and geckos hiding inside. The car lingered at Ron’s shop for months before he started building the chassis, boxing the original frame, and strengthening it to handle the anticipated engine. Shortly after Ron finished the chassis, his life priorities changed, and about the same time, his daughter decided the car was too small for her family. So, Larry acquired the diminutive hot rod wanting to keep it in the family.

Left: A stock Willys spare is used to simply fill the spare-tire area. Right: The little Model 77 Willys looks good in its two-tone paint — a combination of BMW Blue and Titanium.

The 383-cubic-inch engine is a bit tight in the compartment. Mikuni side-draft motorcycle carbs sit atop the B & M supercharger.

 

Under the tiny hood is a 383 ci Chevrolet built by Todd Emberly of The Speed Shop in Englewood, Colorado. The 4-71 B&M supercharger and intake fit under the hood perfectly with Mikuni’s two-throat side-draft motorcycle carbs. Larry had what he likes to call a “man pedal” (clutch pedal) added by Front Range Drive Line of Englewood to activate the T56 six-speed manual transmission, fitted with a constant velocity U-joint. Wilwood four-wheel disc brakes are used.

Up front are Mickey Thompson radials on repopped Halibrand wheels. On the rear, Thompson radial ET street tires are used on original Halibrand wheels — very rare. Ron stored them a long time waiting for the right car. An original Willys wheel and tire are mounted outside in the spare tire spot.

In late 2017, Larry contacted Greg Gonzales of G-Rodz and Kustom Fab, Inc. in Hudson, Colorado, to scope out the project. As Larry explained his vision for the car, Greg decided he could add some of his exceptional fabrication skills, knowledge, ideas, and personality to the Willys, and accepted the project.

After the bodywork was finished, Emmel’s Enamels of Denver sprayed the paint — a combination of BMW Blue and Titanium. Randy’s Upholstery of Brighton was called on to sew leather on the seats in a diamond-pleat pattern to match the fabricated bead-rolled aluminum door panels done by G-Rodz. The original wood lattice roofing was covered with Mercedes Benz convertible fabric.

Left: Bead-rolled aluminum door panels cover all the doors. Right: Bucket seats were done in leather to match the door panels.

The original grille, front seats, and interior door handles were replaced with similar parts. Chrome work was done by Ogden (Utah) Chrome. Larry always loved Pro Street, so his vision of a fast, classic, unique hot rod, combined with G-Rodz master fabrication skills and attention to detail, resulted in a beautiful little hot rod. It is named “Bullet Proof” because both the car and Larry (a Vietnam vet) are survivors. The ‘36 was built as a driver, as he and Susan live eight miles from town on a dirt road.


The little Willys won the 2019 Best of Show — ‘Ambassador’s Choice’ award at the Atwood, Kansas, Early Rod Run just a week after the build was finished and continues to win awards.

About the author

Roger Jetter

Roger’s interests in cars started at 14 with a ’40 Ford pick-up until he bought his first ’57 Chevy at age 16. That car is featured in the first two books he’s written about the 1960’s and growing up in the Midwest. He’s authored several more books as well and has built several cars over the years that have received major coverage in magazines and won plenty of awards. His current build is a 1948 Cadillac Sedanet, although his current 'driver' is a '55 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
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