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Good Night

Front Left View
John Cappa | Writer
Posted July 1, 2001
Photographers: Verne Simons

It's a Sleeper

Step By Step

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  • Chassis Adam wanted to keep the truck as low as possible while still managing to fit 39.5-inch tires. He and his dad started with the original ’52 Willys truck frame. They boxed it in the crucial areas and mounted pliant stock 1/2-ton Dodge front springs. The rear boingers are the original Willys parts. However, the mounts were moved inboard for axle clearance. A total of about 8 inches of lift was achieved with the Dodge front springs and spring-over in the rear. It’s all directed by a full hydraulic steering system. The underside is made smooth and protected by a 1/2-inch-thick skidplate. The wheelbase remains the original 118 inches.

  • Driveline
    An ’89 Chevy 350 with a roller cam and a 1000cfm First Tuned Port fuel injection system spin way into redline. It’s backed by a TH350 and a 203/205 double transfer case that Adam and his dad designed and built. Up front sits a ’78 Dodge Dana 60 axle. It sports a Lock-Right and 4.10 gears. Out back is a 14-Bolt axle from a ’77 Chevy dualie. It’s been fitted with 3/4-ton Chevy front discs, 4.10 gears like the front, and a welded diff.

  • Body & Interior
    The not-on-purpose textured paint on Adam’s Willys is one of the most eye-catching features. Then you realize the bed is shorter than original. To make room for the front tires and monster Pierce winch on the front bumper Adam moved the cab of the truck back about 12 inches and cut that unneeded foot from the bed. The seasonal doors were removed during this run. A full in-cab cage and RCI seats make the interior livable. For a flat underside Adam had to raise the driveline into the cab. The floor was cut out and a new tranny tunnel was built to cover the assembly. In the bed rests a toolbox, a spare driveshaft, and the gas tank from a ’78 Chevy truck.

  • Wheels & Tires
    Rock and mud chucking duties are done by 39.5x15x15 Super Swamper TSLs on 15x10 MRT bead lock wheels with 4 inches of backspacing to keep the overall width somewhat narrow. When it’s wet out Adam slaps on a set of Goodyear 18.1x16.1 tractor tires in the rear. The implement tires are mounted on 16x10 chromies and held in place with bead screws.

  • Good, Bad, and What It's For
    The trails around Adam’s hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, include damp slick creek beds with rocks that make 38s look small. You can pretty much forget about traction and crawling in the wet season, it’s all about the thin pedal and momentum. Interestingly, the only parts that stand out are the ones Adam wants to change. The bright-yellow plastic seats didn’t turn out to be the hot ticket for bashing around in the rocks. They’re hard. Adam was originally worried about the weight of the 1/2-inch-thick skidplate but he’s found that the protection it offers was worth it. The smooth underside keeps the relatively low Willys from getting hung up on ledges and stumps.

We love clapped out old beaters just as much as super-spendy high-dollar Jeeps. But the best Jeeps are the real sleepers, the kind that look like they’ve been at the bottom of a lake for the past 40 years but burn up any trail with amazing ease. Adam Woodlee’s ’52 Willys truck is just one of those Jeeps. At first sight you’d expect to find a tired factory driveline begging for mercy while trying to push 39.5-inch tires. Instead you find a rappy Tuned Port–injected and roller-cam’d Chevy 350 mated to a TH350, dual transfer cases, and 1-ton axles. The paint scheme resembles the barnacles you might find under a ship, and friends joke with Adam about clear-coating the Willys so it doesn’t lose its, uh, luster. But as with any sleeper this one sports some sweet mods that you might not catch at first glance. Check out the drool-worthy stuff Adam and his dad Dwight did to the ’52.


1952 Willys Truck

Chevy 350


Transfer Case:


Dodge Dana 60 (front)
GM 14-bolt (rear)

MRT Beadlocks/chromies

39.5 x 15 x 15 Super Swamper TSL
18.1 x 16.1 Goodyear farm implement

Built for:
Full throttle attacks on Tennessee mud, rocks and waterfalls

What We Think
We want to see more budget homebuilt rigs like this that issue a spankin' when we least expect it.