1941 Willys Gasser, The Pride of the Mura Brothers
Legend has it that the Mura Brothers’ 1941 Willys Gasser was built in the early 1960s by two brothers from Northern California, who bought the beat-up pickup for $25 bucks! They spent the next three years building it. It originally had a 426ci Chrysler wedge motor with a 6-71 blower and four-port Hilborn injector. It sported a polished aluminum bed and steel fenders which was a statement at the time and still stands out today. Upon its completion, the Willys made its debut at the 1964 San Jose Autorama.
While the 60s-style paint it has today is amazing, the Willys actually had several paint jobs in its lifetime: everything from solid metallic gold to a red and white fade, to purple metalflake to the wild one you see here, which is believed to be a return to the original paint scheme.
The pickup appeared on the cover of Rod and Custom Magazine in September 1964 with the red and white fade. But the car wasn’t just for show; it also hit the strip and made some laps at Fremont Dragstrip in Northern California. The Willys went on to win America’s Best Competition Car at the 1965 Oakland Roadster Show with the candy-colored paint job shown here, but after that, the facts kind of fade away.
But how can a car so colorful and so unique just vanish?
No one knows for sure, but we do know it was found in 2006. Nearly 40 years after it was created, Ken Baldwin and Don Czapkay located the Willys in Livermore, CA, not far from where it was originally built. The metalflake paint had actually helped preserve the aluminum bed, which helped I.D. the car, but all of the history had been lost.
The Willys changed hands a couple of times before Michael Lightbourne (the same guy that found Roth’s Orbitron in Mexico) purchased it with the intention of returning it to its original glory. He had Jesse Gonzales of Street Toys Hot Rods in Juarez, Mexico, do a ton of fabrication work before recreating the killer paint job. The World’s Wildest Willys was brought to the 2010 Grand National Roadster Show where it garnered a lot of attention even though it wasn’t running.
Current owner and gasser guru Kevin Doolittle traded Lightbourne a 1957 T-Bird gasser for the historic Willys. Doolittle wanted it back on the road, so he rebuilt it from the ground up. After he removed the body and interior, he was shocked to find that the chassis was bone stock and needed a lot of work. Pete Clark at Fast Times Rods in New York updated the chassis and added a straight axle as well as disc brakes and front shocks.
The original 426ci wedge motor was long gone and was replaced with an engine made for the modern era. The new creation is based on a 1968 Chrysler 440 with Edelbrock heads, a roller cam and an 8-71 blower with a pair of Holley 950s on top.
From the day it was unearthed in 2006, the complete restoration of the World’s Wildest Willys took nearly a decade, but it sure was worth the wait.