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Tom knew that he wanted a Willys, but he set his sights upon a pickup. "Everybody has a coupe," he says, "but I’m a pickup man and I’ve always liked the trucks." In no time at all, his father located an original 1942 "barn find" in Gasser Magazine and the purchase was made. Despite his father’s words of encouragement to build the truck into a gasser, Tom knew that he wanted a smoother, pro-street-styled ride that retained as much of the original charm of the old truck as possible.
Dale Dishman did the makeover, building a custom frame and adding Kugel front suspension. A Currie 9" rear was hung on an Art Morrison four-link and disc brakes were added all around.
The body was left mostly stock. Tom says that he wanted it to resemble a coupe from the doors forward, so the running boards were trimmed and tucked in toward the cab. The bed is now 10" shorter than the original and was made with reproduction parts and a 1972 Chevy bed kit. Luke at Marcels’ handcrafted the widened rear fenders, and the bed was custom tailored to the rear of the cab. The result is a slick bed that looks like a factory piece and is in perfect proportion to the cab. The truck was painted in PPG’s Hot Blue.
Inside, the dash was left stock, but updated with a Dakota Digital gauge insert. An Ididit tilt-column was topped with a banjo wheel and it was taken to James Carter at Bitchin Stitchin’ for some fine new threads.
The truck was finished off in 2002 with a ZZ3 crate motor. Tom says he quickly grew tired of people coming up to the truck and then wincing when they looked under the hood and saw a plain ol’ small block with chrome valve covers and an air cleaner. He knew that the Willys has a legacy to uphold and only an impressive powerplant is acceptable. So, he tore the truck down and installed a new 383ci stroker, this time topping it with a more appropriate Hilborn injection system with Fast EFI management and Moroso fabricated aluminum valve covers. Now he says people keep smiling after they walk up to the truck and it scoots down the road even better than before.