Young Women Rodders – Howe Cool: Kaycee Howe’s Corner-Carving ’48 Willys Pickup
Kaycee Howe grew up around cars and car shows, often going to events with her father, Dan, in his ’84 Monte Carlo. She started getting more hands-on experience when she helped her father and her brother, Josh, rebuild Josh’s ’86 El Camino, further cementing Kaycee’s interest in vintage vehicles.
As Kaycee neared driving age, Dan encouraged her to find a vintage ride they could rebuild. She was leaning toward a ’48-’54 Chevy pickup, but a chance sighting of a Willys pickup going across the auction block on TV changed her mind. “I’ve been attracted to Jeeps for a long time and wanted one for my first vehicle,” Kaycee says. “So, the Willys pickup immediately caught my attention.”
Kaycee and her father bought the starting point of her ’48 Willys for $600 on eBay, and you can imagine how rough it was. Thankfully, brother Josh is good with bodywork and helped repair and refine the panels. This included shortening the bed 10-inches, replacing the floors, rockers, and other rusted panels, widening the front fenders, and lengthening the running boards. Josh also applied the distinctive purple Axalta paint.
Dan and Josh are both active in AutoCross and Kaycee had an interest in competing, too, so they contacted Schwartz Performance to build a custom frame for the Willys. It’s got a performance-based IFS, triangulated four-link rear suspension, RideTech coil-over shocks, and 14-inch Baer brakes behind 18×10- and 18×12-inch XXR wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich tires.
The new handling capabilities were matched with updated power from a 4.8-liter LS crate engine with an LS3 cam. A Velocity intake and Greening Auto Company valve covers helped top the engine, while mufflers and pipes from Summit Racing were used to expel spent fumes. The engine was backed with a Tremec T56 six-speed transmission.
The sparse Willys cab was first lined with insulation from Quiet Ride Solutions, and then outfitted with ProCar bucket seats, a modified SST shifter, and custom door and kick panels wrapped by Kaycee. The dash was modified to accept NVU gauges, while the Flaming River tilt column was topped with a Grant wheel. An American Autowire harness was used for wiring and a Vintage Air Compac II system provided climate control.
The Willys has been finished for a few years now and continues to see regular use on the street and track. It’s a familiar sight on the AutoCross course each year at the Heartland Nationals in Des Moines – as is Kaycee Howe’s beaming smile. And if you look around, you’re likely to spy the proud grin of father Dan standing somewhere close by.
Photos by John & Julia Aschenberg | Action photos by Terry Lysak