Cars, like fashion, are cyclical. Who would have thought that in 2011, we'd be looking at a root beer brown and gold 1941 Willys coupe called Champagne Dream and thinking that it's about the coolest rod we've ever seen. Full of modern technology and all the power options you'd want, as well as 625 thundering horsepower, this is a do-anything rod built by pros, and it's poised to start taking home some very big trophies. It's also completely sorted, scary fast, and amazingly comfortable. So forget what you remember about the '70s, because brown is back in fashion.
OK, so it's not really brown, it's a glittering metallic hue from PPG that seems to twinkle in the sunlight. J&R Streetrods built the steel-reinforced fiberglass body and finished it to show-winning standards. Every panel is as flat as Kansas, with a finish that you only find on rods with five-figure paint jobs. The trick flames lick between the two colors separating the upper and lower halves of the car, leaving you wondering if it's champagne over root beer or vice-versa. And while the shape is ultra-traditional, some new tweaks were added to give this rod a unique personality, including shaved door handles, suicide doors, and rear wheel tubs to handle those massive rear tires. There's no mistaking a Willys coupe, but this one has an identity all its own thanks to careful workmanship and attention to detail.
Other custom elements include the three-LED tail lights that are flush-mounted to the rear valence panel, a brightly plated Willys grille, and those teardrop-shaped headlights. Standard hot-rodding tricks include a hidden license plate the drops down when the engine fires, and the complete removal of any sign of bumpers or chrome other than the aforementioned grille and head lights. All the glass is new and was hand-fitted to the fiberglass shell before paint, then meticulously installed with all-new weather stripping after the paint had cured.
One thing you won't have to worry about in this Willys is horsepower. Thanks to a 540 cubic inch GM crate motor that belts out 625 horsepower, this sleek coupe is more than just a parking lot poseur. Inside there's a 4340 chromoly steel crank, H-beam connecting rods, and a full roller valve train. The fuel and air are mixed by an 850 CFM Holley atop a Holley single-plane intake, and fed to a set of aluminum cylinder heads, and that air filter is a work of art all by itself. Billet Specialties supplied the eye candy such as the valve covers, breathers, and air filter, while just about everything else was either chrome-plated or polished. A March serpentine drive spins the accessories, and this sucker's loaded: A/C, power steering, power brakes, and a massive PowerMaster alternator all make this Willys more 2011 than 1941. And talk about attention to detail! Note how the flame pattern continues across the smoothed firewall, the perfectly fitted aluminum radiator in the nose, and the well-hidden wiring and plumbing throughout. The result is an extremely impressive engine bay that shows as well as the rest of the car.
The 2x6 tube chassis was also custom fabricated by the guys at J&R, and then powdercoated black for lasting durability. The transmission is a Phoenix heavy-duty 4L80E with a TCI control unit and a street-friendly 2500-RPM stall converter. Currie Enterprises built the custom narrowed Ford 9-inch out back, then stuffed it full of 4.10 gears and a Trac-Lok differential. A set of tubular upper and lower control arms support the front end, and use Air Ride Technologies Shockwave air spring and shock units to control both ride and ride height. Out back, a triangulated 4-link setup hooks the car to the pavement, again with a set of Air Ride Technologies shocks and a set of tubular control arms. GM 11-inch power disc brakes are an effective, reliable setup, and you'll note that all the plumbing and lines have been skillfully hidden inside the frame rails for a super-sanitary look underneath. That massive 4-inch stainless exhaust system runs along the outside of the frame rails to dump just ahead of the rear wheels, making a sound that's more top-fuel dragster than Sunday afternoon cruiser. It rides on a set of Billet Specialties GTX01 aluminum wheels wearing 26x7.50R-15 front tires and gigantic 29x18.5R-15LT rear Hoosier Pro-Street radials.
The front-opening doors reveal one of the most beautifully finished cabins this side of a Rolls-Royce Phantom. With acres of bone-colored leather, custom bucket seats, and high-end mocha colored carpets, you aren't going to want to get out of this car because it's nicer than your living room. Dolphin supplied the retro-looking gauges that are arrayed across the dash, while a custom console was fabricated to hold power window switches and the controls for the Vintage Air A/C system. Look a little closer and you'll see those beautifully sculpted door panels match the headliner and trunk, and there are speakers nestled throughout the passenger compartment driven by an overhead Pioneer AM/FM/CD stereo system. And save your phone calls, those stylized “W” logos on the door panels were machined just for this car and are not available anywhere at any price. The primary controls are a matching Billet Specialties steering wheel and a Lokar shifter for the transmission, not to mention a Flaming River tilt steering column that makes it easy to get comfortable.
This car comes with a stack of receipts and manuals, and has already won a garage full of awards:
Hottest Hot Rod, 2008 Goodguys Rod and Custom Association Blue Suede Cruise, Norwalk Ohio
Federated Auto Parts Sponsor's Pick, 2008 Cleveland Autorama
1st place Full Custom Rod Coupe, 2009 Cleveland Autorama
Top 10, 2008 Steel Valley Super Nationals, Salem Ohio
Top Paint Pick, 2008 NSRA Louisville Nationals
Top 12, 2009 Canton Hot Rod Show
The Willys coupe is an icon, no doubt about that. But this one puts a highly unique spin on a familiar face, and the workmanship is flat-out astounding. I can't imagine what it cost to build this rod, but it undoubtedly took a pile of cash as big as the car itself and more than a year-and-a-half to complete. With 2372 miles on it, everything is fully sorted and it runs down the road like a production car, not a one-off custom. It's also blindingly fast, if you have the guts to actually put your foot on the floor and let that gigantic big block off the leash. Impossible to duplicate and finished to award-winning standards, this Willys is a new twist on an old idea. Give us a call today!
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