The Wicked Willys -- An Affordable Street Screamer
Although classic trucks come in all shapes and sizes, the one thing they all have in common is that they are old. Vintage bodies, upgraded with the most modern components, made them the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, the cost of hot rodding a vintage real steel truck has skyrocketed, assuming you can even find a suitable project vehicle. When you do, eliminating the dents and rust acquired in its 40- or 50-year career can launch your credit card debt into the 22nd Century -- and that's just the beginning. Once you bring it back to showroom condition, custom mods add to the spiraling cost unless you're talented enough to do your own metalwork.
Lately, though, there has been an alternative. The fiberglass kit car market started offering a dune buggy makeover for that old VW chassis in your garage then progressed to Fiero-based replicas of your favorite Italian exotic. But like anything else, when the forces of supply and demand collide, the selection has increased dramatically. There still are not too many fiberglass vintage trucks on the market, but the assortment is growing. One of the most exciting new entries in the field has to be the Wicked Willys from Out of Florida, located in Spring Hill, Florida. Produced by Nurmi and Sheila Caggiano, the fiberglass pickup has all of the joy and none of the headaches associated with real steel vehicles.
The fiberglass approach starts with, appropriately enough, a fiberglass smooth '40 Willys pickup that has most of the popular customizing mods already in place. The Wicked Willys, a stylized version of the original, is free of emblems, unnecessary chrome trim, and body seams. It was chopped a conservative 3 inches, the body channeled 4 inches over the frame, and the fenders widened to accept the fat tires. The bed was tubbed and shortened 14 inches to enhance its aggressive lines, and the suicide doors were installed at the factory. With the truck looking this good, all you need is a little imagination to make yours into a genuine show-stopper.
The Wicked Willys in the photos was built by Dan Coleman from Bristol, Tennessee, using the kit produced by Out of Florida. Dan had seen photos of the truck and liked the looks of it. He owns C&C Customs in Bristol and has been building customs for himself and customers for the past 30 years. When he realized he already had a chassis in the shop that just happened to fit the truck's 104-inch wheelbase, he had to have one.
His black and silver screamer begins with a rectangular steel tube chassis that is equipped with a Mustang II tubular A-arm frontend with Chevy LUV torsion bars, giving the truck an easily adjustable ride height. The rear is a narrowed 9-inch Ford fitted with Posi-traction, Strange axles, and 3.91 gears. Leaf springs and Lakewood traction bars prevent axle wrapup under hard acceleration, while Koni racing shocks smooth the ride.
The 355 Chevy LT1 powerplant was quick to begin with, but since more is always better, Dan brought the motor to S&G Machine in Bristol for a little extra. He added 10:1 forged pistons with chrome-moly rings, a Comp roller cam, a Weiand Stealth manifold topped with a Holley 930 carburetor, a HEI ignition with an ACCEL coil, and Hooker competition headers, feeding a 2-1/4-inch Flowmaster exhaust. A Camaro big-block radiator, an Edelbrock aluminum water pump, twin electric fans, and a 7-quart oil pan keep temps in the green. The modified TH350 trans, reworked by Leon's Transmission in Bristol, is set for a 2,400-stall speed and uses a B&M Hammer Shifter. The combination sends almost 400 hp rearward, more than enough to shroud the fat 18-1/2-inch Mickey Thompson tires in a cloud of smoke. Weld 15-inch Rod Lite wheels, 4 inches wide in front and 14-1/2 inches wide in the rear, add both traction and aggressive good looks.
Since the cool fiberglass body already had most of the custom additions in place, Dan added just a few more to make it his own. One of his trademarks over the years has been the subtle hood scoops used on his customs. The Willys hood benefits from a pair that was adapted from a '98 Mustang Cobra, adding a distinctive touch. In the abbreviated bed, the tubs for the fat Mickey Thompsons take up most of the space, but the spun aluminum, 15-gallon fuel tank fits perfectly, giving a competition flavor to the awesome rear. Dan closed in the rear fenders slightly around the tires to showcase the formidable Mickey Thompson rubber. A centrally mounted dual exhaust and Lakewood wheelie bars make it clear that this truck drives as well as it looks. Even though the humorous license plate says, Farm Use, there's nothing agricultural about the way this truck hauls.
The interior uses a pair of Dodge seats cut down to fit the cozy cabin, reupholstered by Speedway Seatcovers in Johnson City, Tennessee. A LeCarra wheel, Auto Meter gauges, a Billet Specialties rearview mirror, and a six-speaker, 100-watt Clarion CD player add to the fun. The staff at C&C Customs, Paul S., Billy, Roland, Chuck, Paul M., and Jon, completed the project in four months, including the beautiful black and silver paintjob. Action Graphics added the tiny purple flames that separate the two colors. The first one was such a success, Dan has already started on a second truck designed for the Super Street class, sporting a 468-cid Chevy big-block with a B&M 177 blower. He is also the turnkey builder for Out of Florida, assembling trucks to order for customers.
As apparent from the end result of this Wicked Willys, the old myth that fiberglass-bodied rods are less than stellar certainly proves to be false here. With more and more of these precious metaled bodies being destroyed, the time is now for quality reproduction pieces. Make ours a rat-motored, time fryer, please, and the check is in the mail.