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Willys race car


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#1 Vitesse2

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Posted 22 September 2002 - 21:02

I'm posting this thread on behalf of Rob Young:

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This a a photo of a Willys race car of 2134 cc which was entered by Vernon Berrange in the 1937 South African GP.

It was reported, at the time, that this was a factory built race car.

Does anyone have any information on what it was used for in the USA. Was it for instance a dirt car?

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#2 David McKinney

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 06:17

The car seems to be one of the two single-seaters built by the New York Willys distributor on Willys 77 parts for ARCA road racing in 1935. See photos in, for example, American Road Racing by John C Rueter

#3 Vitesse2

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 11:13

After a bit of hunting around, it appears there may be more information about these cars in "High Speed at Low Tide" by Greg Fielden and Joel Finn's "History of American Road Racing in the 1930s".
Both apparently ran very well in the 1936 Daytona Beach race before retiring.

#4 Mark Beckman

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 11:32

Some pics of a Willys 77 so people can see what it was built from :-)

http://www.autogalle...rg.ru/wil77.htm

#5 Vitesse2

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Posted 24 September 2002 - 21:08

Rob has sent me another picture, possibly taken at the Lord Howe Circuit in 1937. Any more ideas, anyone?

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#6 Ray Bell

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Posted 24 September 2002 - 21:57

It seems that the Willys had a very robust bottom end in their little 4-cyl engines, these being the units that went on to become famous as the Jeep engine.

A number of cars were built in Australia using this engine.

Willys had participated strongly in ARCA events through much of the thirties, they deserve a little exposure.

#7 karlcars

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Posted 25 September 2002 - 17:02

In a completely different continent, Willys do Brasil was very active in racing. Emerson Fittipaldi was one of their works drivers and indeed was still wearing Willys team driving suits when he first came to Europe.

#8 David Beard

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Posted 25 September 2002 - 18:29

I'm afraid my only recollection of a Willys competition car is from the early 60s Drag Festival, which impressed me greatly.

Was it George Montgomery in the "World's Wildest Willys"?

#9 Ray Bell

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Posted 25 September 2002 - 23:44

There were a number of Jeeps that had V8s transplanted into them just after the war, creating instant race cars of a type that's hard to understand.

One very nearly won the 1947 Australian Grand Prix... Ray Mitchell's... I think I have a photo somewhere here...

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Every photo shows the car in this attitude... more mentions of this car and its fate that day on this thread...

http://www.atlasf1.c...=&postid=646184

Then there was one in Queensland, built by Snow Sefton, which had an ugly as sin body and could be used in either Front Wheel Drive or Four Wheel Drive mode... which, I guess, means that he reversed the transfer case for some reason... possibly because he had a second gearbox arranged to enhance output speed... he did this with his other car.

Using the Jeep engine was the Stewand, which later gained an Austin big six truck engine, which it has in this pic... built on a Lea Francis chassis...

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I think I've mentioned the Wimilcar before... a Willys engine in an Amilcar chassis... it competes regularly in Historic Racing today driven by Graeme Snape...

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Someone* may know more... John Medley certainly would... if only he'd start posting here.

#10 petefenelon

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Posted 26 September 2002 - 11:25

Originally posted by Ray Bell
There were a number of Jeeps that had V8s transplanted into them just after the war, creating instant race cars of a type that's hard to understand.


Fascinating pictures Ray!

Wasn't Archie Butterworth's Steyr-engined special (wasn't he originally going to do his own V8 for it?) originally built around Jeep chassis bits?

I've seen a couple of pics of it and it looks frightening.

pete

#11 Mark Beckman

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Posted 26 September 2002 - 11:52

Great picture Ray, not only the racecar but the spectator hill as well :up:

#12 Barry Lake

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Posted 26 September 2002 - 15:18

One thing I can say about the Ray Mitchell Jeep-Ford V8 pictured sideways at Hell Corner, Mount Panorama, is that it later was converted to a road-going sports car and painted, from memory, green.

It came through the motor auctions when I was working there in the early 1960s. I had a drive of it and it was a frightening beast. At that time, I didn't know it had raced, it having been active before I started attending races, so I was unaware of its historic significance.

Don't know what became of it but, since it was then in the "el cheapo" category, I would guess it was bought by some young tearaway, who drove it into the ground then dumped it or wrecked it.

Jeep engines were quite common in midget speedway cars in the late 1940s and early 1950s. One of their big pluses, of course, was that they were plentiful and cheap immediately after WWII. The maximum rpm limit goes up measurably on engines that are cheap to replace!

#13 Don Radbruch

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Posted 28 September 2002 - 23:21

From the photos posted here and the ones in Joel Finn's "American Road Racing-1930s" it appears that four indentical(?) cars were built. At least there are four different numbers on the cars and there would be no reason to change from race to race. The US Willys ran in east coast sports car races in 1936 and 1937

The cars that ran in the 1936 Daytona Beach race were stock Willys 77 Coupes driven by Langdon Quimby and Sam Collier. This was a stock car race that can be considered the roots of NASCAR. One of the little Willys darned near won the race!

#14 David McKinney

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Posted 29 September 2002 - 06:06

Originally posted by Don Radbruch
At least there are four different numbers on the cars and there would be no reason to change from race to race.

Equally, there would be no reason for numbers to remain the same. I'm fairly sure there were only two cars

The US Willys ran in east coast sports car races in 1936 and 1937

They were "open" races, ie formule libre - the Willys were patently not sportscars

#15 Ray Bell

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Posted 29 September 2002 - 11:39

Originally posted by Mark Beckman
Great picture Ray, not only the racecar but the spectator hill as well


I think you can blame Byron Gunther for the picture... and the more cashed up spectators for the cars on the hill...

#16 Cris

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Posted 19 October 2006 - 04:48

The car in the first post in this thread certainly appears to be one of two built in 1935 to run in ARCA road races.

Langdon Quimby, the 1934 ARCA Champion in a stripped down Willys 77, partnered with Arthur Pickett, the New York distributor for Willys-Overland to build a team of somewhat purpose-built cars for 1935. Quimby’s 1934 car (we’ll call it #1 as it was both the car that carried the #1 number and was also the first of the Willys cars built) was used as the basis for one of the racers while Pickett came through with another(#2.) #1 maintained a 100” wheelbase (I’m not sure if this was the stock wheelbase for a 77) but #2 was shortened to 92”. Barron Collier, Jr., who probably introduced Quimby to Pickett, coordinated the transformation of the cars into racers: the bare chassis were re-bodied into sort of upright, two-seater Indy junk formula roadster form at the General Sheet Metal Company in NY while significant engine modifications (in the form of new aluminum cylinder heads, and some hot rodding) were performed at Zumbach’s.

Collier drove the #1 car while Quimby chose #2 (ARCA number 11) for the season. I am not sure if any other modifications from stock form were made to either car.

Results for the Willys Team in 1935:

ARCA Grand Prix of the United States of America – Briarcliff Manor, NY – 6.23.1935

#2 L. Quimby: 1st Place
#1 B. Collier, Jr.: DNF (Fuel line)

ARCA Cape Grand Prix – Marstons Mills, MA – 6.29.1935

#2 L. Quimby: 1st Place
#1 B. Collier, Jr.: 2nd Place

ARCA Climb to the Clouds – Mt. Washington/Gorham, NH - 7.14.1935

#2 L. Quimby: 2nd Place

Early in the summer of 1936 the cars were again re-bodied by General Sheet Metal, this time into the single-seater form. Preparation of the cars was done by the Collier/Rand "Motor Sport" organization. The chassis maintained their ARCA numbers from 1935.

ARCA Climb to the Clouds – Mt. Washington/Gorham, NH - 7.26.1936

#1 L. Quimby: 1st Place Overall
#2 Bob Heller: 4th Place Overall


ARCA Round the Houses Race – Alexandria Bay, NY – 8.15.1936

This was a handicap race with the Willys both being placed at heavy disadvantage to the rest of the field.

#2 B. Heller: 2nd Place
#1 B. Collier, Jr.: DNF

After the 1936 season the #2 car was sold by Pickett to South Africa. The #1 car (now ARCA number 7) would go on to compete for one more season before it disappears from competition records.

ARCA Climb to the Clouds – Mt. Washington/Gorham, NH - 7.11.1937

#1 Miles Collier: 5th Place

ARCA Round the Houses Race – Alexandria Bay, NY – 8.7.1937

#1 B. Heller: DNF (Crashed; car ran in the race as number 3)

This marks the last mention I’ve found for these two cars in ARCA competition. Some of the regional notes and newsletters list cars for sale but I have yet to see any that mention the #1 car…Joel Finn notes that the Collier “Ardent Alligator” Riley Special ended up with the engine from the #1 car at one point.

Interestingly enough there were at least two other Willys 77s that ran in ARCA races, one run by Bob Love, the other by Eb Lunken.

(Info from various ARCA publications as well as Joel Finn’s American Road Racing-The 1930s.)

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Ad from the back of the ARCA Journal, Vol. II, No.2, 1936

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Tom Dewart leading Bob Heller at A-Bay.

I hope this adds some to the discussion. I will add more pictures as soon as I scan them.

Cris

#17 ry6

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Posted 20 October 2006 - 11:15

Dear Cris

This is precisely the information I have been looking for for SO long.

The car behind the MG is surely the Willys model I am trying to find out about.

Amazing how this ended up on "the other side of the world".

Do you know that an Indianapolis Studebaker of 1930ish vintage also ended up in South Africa in 1935! I think I gave details to Don Rad some time back about that.

Much appreciated.

Rob

#18 scags

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Posted 20 October 2006 - 20:04

Cris, if it's the same company, Zumbach's is still on the west side of Manhattan, selling Audi's

#19 Cris

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Posted 20 October 2006 - 21:18

Indeed it is descended from Zumbach's. Somewhere I have a picture of Rand's Amilcar as it exists today and it runs a current Zumbach's license plate frame as a nod to its past...will post that when I find it, along with more info tonight. I don't know how that Willys got to South Africa but again, I'm more intrigued by WHY it would have been sold, especially given the success and reliability the cars showed when they first ran.

Cris

Edit: Rand Ford-Amilcar at Mt. Equinox this year:

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#20 Cris

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Posted 21 October 2006 - 20:29

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Langdon Quimby and Bob Heller at Mt. Washington in 1936.

Rob, the car chasing the MG is the one that stayed in the US. The other car went to South Africa.

As far as the Indy Stude goes, I wonder if there was a ready buyer for cars down there and the same person bought it and the Willys? There were a few ex-Indy junk formula cars running around in ARCA but I am not sure if any were sold out of the country. I'll check the pre-1935 info I have to see if there might be a connection.

Cris

#21 Ray Bell

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Posted 21 October 2006 - 21:15

During the same era, and perhaps at a similar stage in the development of racing in Australia, some equally 'strange' deals led to cars coming here...

All manner of Bugattis were coming here from the twenties, largely motivated by Maroubra and Aspendale I guess. The promotional prospects of the Grand Prix at Phillip Island saw various front line MGs arrive on our shores, the two Ballots that the Cooper family brought in during the twenties also rank in this lot.

The Bartlett Special was another, which went to WA. The Johnny Wakefield Maser also came, but a bit later on, minus engine, having been given to its Australian mechanic.

But I really think it's most likely that the Willys going to Africa was more likely a promotional thing. Whether it was sold to a private individual at a good price to help foster sales of the make there, or it was bought by a Willys dealer for that purpose, or if it was in some way sent there with factory backing.

I'd be more inclined to think along those lines. A car with a proven record of speed and reliability would do the local importer no harm at all, methinks.