For years, it was a rarity to see a ’41 Willys without massive drag radials and a blower sticking out of the hood. While it remains a classic look, the next wave seems to have arrived in the form of super modern Willys builds like this jaw dropping ’41 bolted together by the talented crew at Kenny Davis Hot Rods. Featuring a Jim Oddy-built 555 big block V8, immaculate body and paint work and an interior that will make most late model luxury cars feel wholly inadequate, this build has already received plenty of attention, including a feature in Super Rod Magazine. If you’re in the market for a fully capable modern street rod guaranteed to attract a crowd every time it sits still, settle in and learn a bit more about this incredible ’41 Willys.
If this example is any indication, the crew at Kenny Davis Hot Rods certainly know how to get the best out of a Willys. Starting with an Outlaw fiberglass shell, the hood was first lowered and narrowed approximately two inches. Though a subtle modification, it does a great job accentuating the cars raked stance. All body seams were also smoothed for a sleek refined look. Panel fitment is excellent with even gaps all around. The overall build quality is notable throughout with a hood, trunk lid and doors that open smoothly and shut effortlessly. With the fiberglass body as straight as humanly possible, it was then topped with a union of House of Kolor Sunset Pearl and Cinnamon Pearl. Dividing those colors is a custom graphic that does a convincing job replicating the texture of brushed aluminum. The paintwork is brilliant and rich, reflecting the countless hours invested in making it look that way.
While trim remains minimal, every piece is well-chosen and executed on the highest level. Up front, a small chrome grille with vertical bars is centered underneath the pointe of the hood. Behind that grille, amber turn signals remain functional but out of sight. At either side, Mini Cooper headlights are seamlessly integrated into the Willys’ bulging front fenders. As a nice-weather-only type of vehicle, there are no windshield wipers present to break up the flow of the front end. There are, however, small rear view mirrors that provide an adequate amount of rear visibility for normal road conditions. At the sides, door handles have been scrapped in favor of a cleaner look. All glass is show quality with a light layer of tiny gracing the side windows and signature split rear window. Out back, the sloping rear leads to a chrome license plate bracket with a thin chrome strip on either side leading to the small round taillights. Visually, this Willys is a show stopper from every angle.
Somewhere along the line, street rodding deities handed down a decree that all Willys must have the largest engines their builders can find. This sleek coupe follows those orders well with nothing less than a 555 cubic inch V8 built by Pro Modified legend Jim Oddy planted in the sub frame. Under the custom body color air cleaner cover, a FAST fuel injection system sends juice through body color Edelbrock intake manifold into ported aluminum heads dressed in hand built aluminum valve covers. Up front, a Meziere billet water pump, polished alternator, billet crank pulley and air conditioning compressor with a billet pulley hide function beneath form. The core of this mill is a Dart block fitted with Eagle rods, JE pistons, and a 0.720 lift Comp camshaft. Ignited by a MSD Pro-Billet distributor and 6AL ignition system, the car fires immediately, idles well and sounds capable of sending the average big block home with a bloody nose.
Backing that thunderous big block is a Jerry Lovell-built TH400 automatic transmission governed by a 3,200 stall converter and Derale Cooling Products HeatSink cooler. From there, power is sent to the wheels through a smoothed and painted Ford 9-inch rear end. The drivetrain’s surroundings are impressive with painted, polished and fully detailed pieces around every corner. Running the length of the car is a custom four inch exhaust, fed exhaust gases through 2.5 headers by Jim Duggan. The front end is supported by a body color Heidts subframe which hosts polished double A-arms and a painted manual rack and pinion steering setup. Out back, a polished adjustable four link keeps the rear end planted. This Willys’ aggressive stance comes courtesy of adjustable coilovers installed in all four corners. When it comes time to reign in that 555, four-wheel disc brakes by Wilwood get the job done effortlessly. At the corners, Budnik wheels in sizes 18”x7.5” and 20”x13” fill the wheel wells perfectly with the help of Michelin rubber.
Behind the shaved doors, a thoughtfully customized interior features the kind of quality usually reserved for high end luxury cars. Seating is provided by a pair of bucket seats covered in caramel-colored Ultraleather. Between them, a full length console flows from the custom dash to beneath the rear window. Housing a B&M shifter and switches for the power windows, the console does a great job at anchoring the rich interior. At either side, the door panels feature an upward sweeping design covered in a mixture of caramel Ultraleather and flattened orange suede. Slick billet door handles fit the design perfectly, once again concealing function within form. From the driver’s seat, a Billet Specialties steering wheel wrapped in matching leather sits atop a polished tilt steering column. Behind the wheel, a set of silver-faced Classic Instruments gauges keep tabs on voltage, oil pressure, speed, revs, fuel and temperature. In the center, an Eclipse head unit sends signal to speakers throughout the cabin including a 10” Diamond Audio subwoofer housed in a custom enclosure in the neatly finished trunk. Rounding out the interior is a rich suede headliner that matches the door panel inserts perfectly.
Documentation for this car includes several build receipts and manuals. There is also a scan of the car’s feature story in the December 2008 issue of Super Rod.
With head-turning looks, a powerplant worthy of any drag strip and build quality that will make you appreciate every detail time and time again, this ’41 Willys is an incredible build. If you’ve always liked the Willys shape but wanted a slightly different take, don’t miss the chance to bring this one home.