Vehicles like this 1954 Willys are a rare yet exhilarating sight. One look and you just know that someone made this build their passion and never gave up on it. Whether it was a commissioned job or one of personal motivation, the level this vintage pickup was taken to was something its 1950s designers never envisioned — but if they could see it now, they’d be in love with it!
The build was the work of Colorado Sand Cars in Windsor, Colorado. Tom Frank, its founder/owner, graciously spoke to us to give us the full scoop on what it to make this build happen.
“The Willys belongs to Michael Orback, owner of Outlaw Speed Shop,” said Frank. “In 2016, he saw our ’41 Chevy pickup done on our sand truck chassis and loved it. Michael reached out to us and said he wanted a similar style of build done for a Willys pickup he owned. He lengthened and widened the body and raised the front fenders by 10-inches, then delivered it to us in September of last year.”
With the body ready, Frank and his team set to building the custom chassis. “It was obviously a one-off design, not something that we had a working chassis for, but we did it in the style of our signature sand trucks,” Frank says. Once it was finished three months later, Frank delivered it to Orback, who intended to finish it on his own. Weeks passed, then months, and finally in May, Orback decided to hand his project back to Frank to complete.
And complete it Frank did. But it wasn’t without some difficulties along the way.
“All of the custom pieces we had to make for this vehicle were challenging,” said Frank. “We did all hand-bent, hand-fitted components and parts. I took an old-school approach to it, planning on graph paper, measuring by hand, hand-made the part and then did test fitting. Once the pieces started coming together toward the end, that gave me a great feeling. I could tell we were making a really cool vehicle.”
One highlight of the Willys is its custom suspension system. Frank created one-off A-arms on the front that wrapped around the grille, creating a striking appearance and stance. He also made the trailing arms for the rearend, and fitted Fox coilovers and triple-bypass shocks on all four corners. “She’s got 24-inches of travel in the front, and 28-inches out back,” commented Frank.
All of the exposed metal was also given a rustic and well-used look that Orback wanted; this was done using a rusting agent formula and then clearcoated to keep it from air exposure. It ties in well with the paint, which Frank told us was a factory green paint from back in the day.
Wilwood disc brakes, VisionX lights, Vintage Air air conditioning, 17-inch Method wheels, and 37-inch Cooper Discoverer STT Pro tires round out the Willys. But phrasing it like that doesn’t do this project justice. This pickup is far more than the sum of its parts! Be sure to check out Colorado Sand Cars on its website and Facebook page to stay in touch on their latest developments.