Hot Rod Willys |

Hot Rod Willys

By Ron Cherry

Special to The Union

Historically, hot rodding blossomed when soldiers returning from WWII wanted faster, more nimble cars than were normally available. So they would find a an old car and drop in a hotter motor. From there, the only limits were the rodders imagination, ability and budget. In that, little has changed. Light-bodied pre-War cars were favorites then and many rodders still prefer them. Bill Brothen is of that heritage. When he found his ’36 Willys Model 77 it was still driveable. But, being totally stock and unrestored, it was tired and showed its age. It was definitely one of the smaller cars of its era, so when Bill dropped in a 305 CID Chevy engine that he “freshened” and a Turbo 350 auto trans, his little Willys was on the road to rod-dom. After changing out the front suspension for a Mustang II one with rack and pinon steering and power disc brakes, he swapped the rear end for a Ford 8″ one. Body modifications are minimal to a rodder, confined to widening the fenders and running boards to accommodate wider tires, welding on a roof from a ’57 Ford station wagon, replacing the wood floor boards with steel, changing the gas tank from an eight gallon one to one with twelve, and using bumper guards from a ’52 Studebaker. Except for the bumper, these changes are not obvious and, yes, Bill did the work himself. The only help he had was with upholstery, body and paint. He finished it this year and he and wife Pat plan to take it on a trip with fellow Roamin Angels to Del Mar next year. After all, its not only fun to drive, but gets 26 MPG. That’s something the early hot rodders never had to worry about.

For more information about the Roamin Angels Car Club, go to, call 432-8449 or write to Roamin Angels, PO Box 1616, Grass Valley, CA 95945

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