It seems as if every time I listen to the radio these days there’s some new boy band bopping away to a remix of a song that did actually sound good before they sliced it and diced it. It’s very rare for any of these remixes to sound even marginally good, and I’m still waiting for the day when I hear one that is actually better than the original.
Christchurch local Ray Tate also has a penchant for old things, in particular Willys coupes, and fair enough as there is hardly a more iconic car from the early ’40s. But where the boy bands tried and failed to add some technology to aging music, Ray has successfully put a modernised spin on the American classic.
This build’s aim from the outset was to create a drag capable street-registered vehicle that turned heads when running or parked. And from my short time spent with it, I can assure you the head turning part was easily achieved.
Heap of scrap
Sure, in essence the car is a 1941, but in reality the only parts from that era are the bumpers and chrome work that Ray was lucky enough to stumble across at a jumble sale during the planning stages of the build.
Aside from these, the head and taillights are original, although the headlights have been frenched into the body. Speaking of which, the body itself is far from being the 64¯years old you would expect, and equally far from being produced in America.
In fact the entire shell and doors were locally produced by Fairview fibreglass in 1995. At the time of construction Ray had a few custom touches added, such as the late model Toyota door handles which were smoothed into each door. The entire front end of the shell has been joined to form a single piece, and can either tilt forward or be fully removed in a matter of minutes. With the body sorted it was then sent off to Eric Jarman, who flawlessly coated it inside, outside and underneath in Nite Violet purple.
When it came time to find a suitable chassis for the body to be dropped onto, Ray followed many other street rod builders and investigated the option of a Toyota Hilux ute chassis. However, as many have found out, the rails on a Hilux chassis do sometimes cause issues when larger engines are fitted, due to their narrow width.
With this in mind a Mitsubishi L200 chassis was chosen for its wider rail spacing.
With the standard torsion bars wound down, the front suspension was considered to be up to the task, but down the rear things required a full re-work. The standard multi-leaf rear end was removed to make way for a chromoly four-link.
Get height, Del
To take care of ride height and bump absorption there’s now a set of custom coil-overs, complete with adjustable rebound to assist with low 60-foot times.
Although ute diffs are known to be tough, and have been found in all manner of street and drag cars, the stock item would only have lasted as long as one of those one-hit wonder boy-bands. To prepare the car for some serious work the lads installed none other than a full floating nine-inch diff that was built to last. Wrapped in the very shortened steel case there are now 31-spline axles and a 3:0¯ratio head. Shortened? Yep, you bet ya.
How else would the 15×15-inch rims fit without making the vehicle take up more than its fair share of the road? Coating the custom-built Weld Racing rear wheels are fully treaded Mickey Thompson 29x15x15 tyres.
Up front the vehicle has been equipped with a matching set of Welds, except they’re a measly (in comparison) eight¯inches wide.
Obviously the exterior of the vehicle is nothing short of stunning, and with any build of this magnitude that’s all that is needed to ensure the rest of the project isn’t done by halves. At the vehicle’s first-ever outing it managed to scoop the highly contested Best Engine Bay award, and the reason for this should be pretty darn obvious. For sitting atop custom mounts is quite possibly one of the best big block motors in the country, from its time. What started life as a 460ci (7538cc) Ford now wears a Boss crank to take capacity out to 474¯cubes — yep, this sucker is big! That’s seven point eight litres, or about four of your average family car engines are all hiding in this engine bay.
What a Rodney
The plan from the outset was for huge power, so big capacity was not deemed to be enough on its own. Sure, turbo charging was a possibility, but it would never provide the full rev range grunt of a blower, let alone the street cred. So in anticipation of things to come, custom lower-compression pistons were sourced and attached to shot-peened rods via oversize gudgeon pins. Under each of the SVO-etched rocker covers are now ported heads and oversized intake and exhaust valves to make the most of the longer duration after market cam.
Huge amounts of air wouldn’t get to those oversized valves if it were not for the huge Weind 6-71 blower mounted to a custom intake manifold sitting between each bank.
Attached to the top of the polished housing of the blower are custom one-inch spacers which were required to stick the Al’s Blower Drives Garlits scoop above the fibreglass bonnet to draw as much air as possible.
Where the high-pitched boy bands need a serious testosterone injection, this motor needs a huge amount of fuel to match the now huge volume of air flowing in. A custom 35-gallon (159-litre) stainless steel fuel cell now takes pride of place in the boot, and from it fuel is rapidly fed forward by twin pumps and braided lines. Once up at the business end twin Holley 600s take care of creating the flammable cocktail.
As if all this isn’t enough, a two-stage dry nitrous oxide system has also been installed. Once again braided lines have been used between the engine and NOS bottle mounted in the rear of the cabin. The joy of the two-stage system is that it can be switched to run with the vehicle’s ignition, and then provide an extra-large kick in the pants when full throttle is hit and a micro switch activated.
We all know exhaust gases are the by-products of combustion, and with large amounts of combustion now taking place comes large amounts of exhaust gas.
Directing their path into the atmosphere are custom headers that feed into custom dump pipes exiting just forward of the rear wheels. Not only do the pipes flow superbly, they also produce a beautifully distinctive exhaust note, which I can still remember to this day.
Building the vehicle from scratch meant that when it came time to choose a transmission, options were wide open to anything that would handle the power. Installing a C6 Ridgeback tranny was the logical choice, as they are known to take a pounding on the strip, but also allow you to drive to the track and back with no major dramas. With a set-up such as this, cooling is always high priority, especially since the Willys shape is not known for its great cooling ability thanks to the small front grille. So under the fibreglass hood now resides a large custom radiator and hidden trans cooler.
Grandad goes overboard
Keeping a firm eye on any engine producing decent power can save thousands in repair bills. So to avoid any dramas the custom dashboard is now full of 2-5/8-inch Auto¯Meter Sport Comp gauges to measure water temp, oil pressure, fuel level, volts, and boost. Hidden behind the Momo steering wheel and L200 steering column is also a pair of five-inch Auto¯Meter gauges to keep an eye on rpm and speed.
The rest of the interior didn’t miss out on the overboard treatment either, with the doors now wearing polished stainless steel skins and, best of all, electric windows courtesy of a late model Toyota. Besides the roll cage that has been colour coded to the body, the standout of the interior has to be the stainless trans tunnel atop which is a custom switchbox to control all ancillary devices. Back in ’41 they never had bucket seats like the ones that have found their way into this purple beast, nor did they have three-inch-thick harnesses to hold you into them. But for the safety of everyone lucky enough to go for a ride in the vehicle — including myself — I’m damn glad they have been installed.
No, there were no dramas during my ride, but even for the most experienced of drivers the power is more than enough to make the car a handful. As soon as the accelerator is pressed the supercharged powerplant makes the wide tyres struggle for traction, and makes you aware of the short wheelbase of the vehicle.
So, I guess by now you’re wondering how it goes down the strip? Well, I am too. But sad to say the car has never had a run down the strip in its nearly 10¯years of life in the hands of both Ray and current owner Tony Meester. This could soon change, however, as the vehicle is sitting at Christchurch’s Moorhouse Muscle Cars on awaiting for some lucky punter to hand over the folding.
With its immaculate build quality, old school style and new school power 1BAD41 is a bargain waiting to be purchased, and goes to show ‘old time is not a crime’. Please, whoever buys this thing, take it down the strip, at least once, as the 750 odd horses (559kW) living within it are just waiting to stretch their legs.
1941 Willy’s Coupe Replica
Engine: 460ci Big Block Ford Bored out to 474 (7538 to 7767cc), Boss Crank, shot peened rods, ported heads, 6-71 blower, two-stage NOS kit, 35-gallon (159-litre) fuel cell, twin 600 Holley pumps, Al’s Blower Drive Garlits scoop, modified Ford distributor, 10-inch Taylor leads, custom headers, exhaust exits in front of rear wheels, custom radiator, SVO rocker covers, MSD ignition
Driveline: C6 Ridgeback, shift kitted 2500 high stall converter, full floating nine-inch Ford 3:0 ratio, 31-spline axles,
Suspension/Brakes: L200 front torsion bars, coil-over four-link rear. L300 front discs, Ford rear
Rolling stock: 15×15-inch Weld rear, 15×8 Weld front
Interior/Exterior: Auto Meter Sport Comp water temp, oil press, fuel, volts, boost gauges, five-inch tacho, five-inch speedo, Momo steering wheel, stainless door skins, custom carpet, custom NOS holder. Fairview fibreglass body, full tilt front, Toyota recessed door handles, painted by Eric Jarman in Nite Violet; original badges and chrome, Mitsi L200 chassis
Performance: Approx 750hp (559kW)