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1952 Willys & 1937 Ford Classic Monster Trucks - Chariots Of Fire

Posted in Project Vehicles on July 1, 2009
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As dark clouds roil on the horizon, Silly Willy and Lil Squirt are equally ready for the next truck show or the next brush fire.

If you knew the builder of these trucks also built real firefighting brush trucks, would you call "Lil Squirt" and "Silly Willy" art imitating life, or life imitating art? If you ask Jeff Cook, owner of 1st Attack Engineering, he'll answer, "Both!"

Cook is a graduate of "Monster Truck University" and "Custom Truck College," as well as a trained firefighter with 18 years experience. It makes for an interesting mix of experience. Shortly after graduating from Northwestern College with a tech degree, Cook went headlong into the world of monster trucks, building and driving trucks for several teams, including his own, the legendary "War Wagon". His father, Jack Cook, is well known in the Midwest for building custom cars and trucks and Jeff spent his early days at Cook's Body Shop in Auburn, Indiana, learning the custom car trade from a master.

Into the breach! Lil Squirt does what any good brush truck does in a wheat stubble fire--put it out as quickly as possible. With around 850 horsepower on tap, "quick" definitely applies.

After becoming a local volunteer firefighter, he put those fabrication skills to work building a brush truck for his fire company. In the process, he discovered a life's work and founded a company, Wildfire Manufacturing. While not running the monster truck circuit, he built fire trucks. Business picked up enough that he recently left monster trucks behind to focus on fire trucks. The name of the company has recently changed to 1st Attack Engineering after nearly 10 years as Wildfire.

Silly Willy was constructed in 2002 to highlight the design and construction skills of the company. It's built on a custom chassis and suspension and mounts a '52 Willy pickup cab. Lil Squirt was built in '05, also on a custom chassis, but with four-wheel steering. Both have a lot of "show" and are regularly seen on the show and truck Jambo circuits, as well as at firefighting conventions.

They have a "go" side, however, and it may surprise you. They are both fully functional brush trucks, mounting 1st Attack hardware, and every once in a while, they are allowed to flex their firefighting muscles. Such was the case in the fall of 2008, when they appeared at a training fire set in a wheat field. Yep, they may be "just" show trucks, but they can do the job of a brush fire truck. When asked why he would risk the expensive trucks, Cook replied, "Oh, they'll clean up."

Lil Squirt uses a fiberglass body to represent a '37 Ford truck. The chassis and underpinnings are a smaller version of what you might see on a competition monster truck. The bed and firefighting apparatus are just the same as used on production 1st Attack brush rigs, which can include the 200-gallon water tank, Honda-powered fire pump, and two -inch handlines on reels as seen here. The outward-facing jump seats, from which firefighters can safely work a fire while strapped in and protected by a rollcage, are a signature 1st Attack feature.

Silly Willy uses a '52 Willys pickup body on a custom, monster truck-style chassis. It's powered by a 454 fed by a Gerardot racing-style fuel injection system, adapted for gasoline. The power feeds through a built TH 400 trans and into a New Process 205 transfer case. From there, power goes to a Dana 70 front axle from an IH application and an Eaton rear dropout-style axle used in a 1 -ton truck. Silly Willy also mounts a 1st Attack bed system with water tank, 3/4-inch hand lines, fire pump and jump seats. It also carries a chainsaw and a backpack sprayer for hot spots.

PhotosView Slideshow
  Silly Willy Lil Squirt
Vehicle/Model: '52 Willys '37 Ford
Estimated value: $75,000 $100,000

Type: 454 Chevy V-8 454 Chevy V-8
Aspiration: Gerardot EFI Dual Holley 4-bbl,6-71 blower
Output, hp/torque (est.): 550 hp/NA {{{850}}}-{{{900}}} hp/NA

Transmission: Turbo 400 Turbo 400
Transfer case: NP 205 Custom Gear

Front: Custom 4-link,
Firestone air springs,
K-S {{{Nitro}}} Shocks
Custom 4-link,
Firestone air springs,
K-S Nitro Shocks
Rear: Custom 4-link,
Firestone air springs,
lK-S Nitro Shocks
Custom 4-link,
Firestone air springs,
K-S Nitro Shocks

Front: Dana 70 Ford 9-in. w/ custom housings
Rear: Eaton 1½-ton Ford 9-in. w/ custom housings
Ring-and-pinion: 4.88:1 4.88:1

Wheels: Mickey Thompson Custom 24x15
Tires: 52-in. MichelinSuper Terrain 500/70R-24 Firestone

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