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Pat Soffe’s 1956 Willys Pickup

A retro Willys Pickup inspired by our own work.

They say mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery. We say sometimes the mimic is better than the original. We met Pat Soffe a few years back. He introduced himself and said he was working on a 1956 Willys truck that was deeply, if not totally inspired by our own recent project vehicle Wicked Willys. Our Willys was intended to be big and obnoxious, capable and fun, and it was. Still, we fought the stroked big-block Chrysler engine that was in the truck; while the power was amazing, reliability and power would have been nicer. Pat described his plan, and we gave him some feedback on our experience with a big-tire-wearing, fire-breathing Willys pickup. Fast-forward a few years, and Pat's Willys was on the road and trail. We'd seen pictures of it on social media but only recently got a chance to see the truck firsthand thanks to a Milestar Tires EXPDN1 event in western Arizona, in December of 2020. Turns out, the truck is a remarkably good interpretation of the Wicked Willys with some improvements.

Engine: 2002 GM 5.3L V-8 from a truck with headers and a PSI wiring harness. Factory computer has a mild tune with VATS and emissions deletes

Transmission: Monster TH400, TCI 1600 stall convertor & reverse manual valve body

Transfer case(s): GM NP205 with NP203 reduction box (doubler) Offroad Designs Triple Stick Shifter and Adapters. Tom Woods Driveshafts

Front axle: late '70s Dodge kingpin Dana 60 with TEN Factory 35 spline axle shafts, 5.13:1 gears, Detroit locker, Warn Premium locking hubs from Motive Gear

Rear axle: 2006 GM full-float 14-bolt, 5.13:1 gears, Spool also all from Motive Gear

Suspension: Custom 3-link with a track bar front, Custom 4-link rear. Skyjacker 2-inch dual rate coils for a TJ and Skyjacker BlackMax Shock absorbers.

Tires and wheels: 40x13.50R17LT Milestar Patagonia M/Ts on 17x10 TR Beadlock wheels.

Steering: Saginaw steering box with West Texas Offroad Redneck Ram assist

Other stuff: The 1956 Willys cab is mounted to a modified 1997 Jeep Wrangler frame. Brake booster is from a TJ with a Dodge 2500 master cylinder mounted to it (this master apparently fits the Jeep booster but needs a longer pushrod which took a day or two of bleeding brakes to figure out). These factory parts are ahead of a Wilwood adjustable proportioning valve so the brakes can be fine-tuned. Pat went out of his way to use established and available aftermarket builder parts and matched these with proven off-the-shelf OEM factory parts so that the vehicle could be repaired just about anywhere with the help of any parts store.

When items needed couldn't be bought, custom parts were made. The Willys has a custom-built interior with Corbeau seats and harnesses, a custom-built rollcage, and more. Slowing is indicated by some military surplus taillights. A custom length 4x4 block of wood functions as the parking brake. The tailgate functions as designed (ours never did), and the bed sides are easily removable and separate from the floor of the bed. Pat did ignore one piece of advice we gave him, and understandably so. We said we might have stretched the cab back a touch if we had ours all over to build again. These trucks have tiny cabs. Pat also said he'd like to send a special thanks to Eric Filar from TEN/Motive Gear, and Larry Trimm at TR Beadlocks. We can confirm, solid 10 out of 10 for both these industry guys.