Text and Story by Steve Temple.
Not every street rod story is a lighthearted account of the twists and turns encountered during a buildup project. Some have a more personal, an expression of feeling for a close family member. That's the case with this '41 Willys, a posthumous tribute to a beloved husband and father, Tim Hines.
It's a rod that expresses the character of a man who touched the lives of family and fellow rodders in an enduring way. He was obviously a guy who wasn't afraid to take risks and do things his way, as evidenced in several aspects of this stellar Willys.
A resident of Southern California who made aircraft seatbelts by profession, Hines acquired an original '41 Willys four-door sedan sight unseen from back East. He bought the dilapidated vehicle, which was much in need of restoration, based solely on photos provided by the seller. This approach could have been a recipe for a nightmare project, with the potential for all sorts of hidden problems cropping up, but that didn't deter Hines from forging ahead. True, he did encounter a few issues along the way, as the car went to a couple of different shops to achieve his desired body mods.
The main thing he wanted was to turn the car into a two-door sedan (hence the license plate name that abbreviates "Was a Four-Door"). What was his reasoning on this conversion? Was it some mysterious concept or hidden necessity? Not really.
"He just said it had too many doors," relates Tim's son Kelly. Dad also liked the look of his son's '41 Chevy, and wanted the same treatment for his Willys. Another reason was that tim's wife Peggy liked the extra legroom this setup provided, and he wanted to keep her happy on their long drives to various car shows that they liked to frequent.
One of their favorites was the "Run to the Sun" at lake Havasu, Arizona, where the car took a Top 10 trophy when the body was still in primer (in the class for works in progress, of course). This show would come to have a special meaning later on.
Upon their return home to California, Tim met Randy Clark of Hot Rods & Custom Stuff at a Friday cruise night in Escondido. Tim was planning to add some ladder bars on the chassis, but tragedy struck when he suddenly passed away on the following Monday. A procession of 40 hot rods showed up for the funeral.
As Peggy and son Kelly worked through their enormous loss, they cam to the realization that completing Dad's dream would help with their grieving. Randy Clark sensed how they wanted to pour their hearts into the project, and gave the Willys some special touches in short order, completing it in only eight months. His first order of business was to complete the body cutting, initially handled by Brian Smith and Jack Fields.
That done, Clark focused on the hood, custom-fabricating a scoop with matching grille for extra clearance over the 671 BDS blower topping the small-block Chevy. Interestingly, tim chose a compression ratio of 9:1, slightly higher than you'd normally see on a supercharged engine, but that was just one of several special features he wanted. Electric exhaust cutouts allowed him to divert the engine rumble to side dumps to announce his arrival in a very loud way, and also drop the hammer with no restrictions.
The widened rear fenders are accented by an unusual brown welting that matches the amber Mitsubishi paint. It's licked by ghost flames of PPG Pearl Platinum, applied by "Hot Dog" of West Coast Choppers fame.
Other impressive detailing includes the original Willys Americar logo on the rear bumper that's been punched out to let the center brake light shine through. In the trunk is custom-embossed upholstery.
Rolling stock consists of original American Racing Torq Thrusts suspended by a Mustang II setup in front, and a Ford 9-inch rearend with Clark's ladder bars.
As the buildup progressed, and the closer it got to completion, the harder it became for peggy, seeing Tim's concept evolve. When Clark delivered the car in person, Kelly says she just bawled at the emotion at the emotion of the moment, finally seeing her husband's dream fulfilled.
That was not the end of the story, though. Peggy and son Kelly returned to Lake Havasu, where the car in primer had previously won a trophy. It took Best of Show this time around, and Kelly insisted that Peggy drive it into the winner's circle. "This is about you and Dad, not ,e," he told her, as he gently escorted her behind the wheel.
Today, Kelly relishes his moments with Dad's Willys in other ways. During those lonely times when the pain of loss seeps back in, he says there's one sure consolation: "When I want to get close to my Dad, I just drive the Willys."