My story with Willys began in my teen years growing up in Connecticut where my brother and I used to drive my father’s ‘61 Willys Pickup up and down the driveway, around the yard and on the nearby local roads. My father had the Willys for his business but used it only every now and then. It mostly sat behind his store or in our backyard. Years later, when my brother and I were home from college on the winter breaks, we used to take the truck on the local fire trails, where we would cut down the dead trees and haul them back to the yard where we cut, split and sold firewood. I remember changing the plugs, cleaning the point and distributor on that 226 flathead. One day, returning home from school, my father told me he had sold the business and the Willys along with it. It was a quite blow then, but time marched on and the fun we had driving Willys and working on it soon faded.
Then earlier this year, on a visit to my son who lives in Southern California I saw he had bought a 1953 Willys Wagon. It needed work but ran well with a Ford 302 and automatic transmission. My memories of that ’61 flooded back to me as if it were yesterday and I started to consider looking for one. Then, several months ago, my son sent me a picture of another vehicle he had just purchased – a ‘53 Willys PU. After riding around in it on the next visit – I knew I needed one and started actively looking. (I should mention that my wife is very understanding and a great sport.)
I went out and bought a ‘58 Willys Pick up. It’s all-original, with L 226 Super Hurricane engine that runs and sounds great. Mechanically it’s also good and the body is in great shape with virtually no rust.
I’m keeping it original and use it as an everyday driver. The Willys addiction continues, my younger son also drives it and wants to trade in his Jetta and buy his own Willys.
Lastly, I got to thinking “philsophcal-like”; a lot of these Willys on the road today will still be around 50 years from now – none of the newer vehicles has a chance of that. (Now I’ve got to figure out which son gets the Willys – time to update my will.)
The Willys bodes of a different time when most things you bought were Made-in-America, designed to be worked on and built to last; a time when when the journey was important, not just the destination.