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1955 Willys 4x4 Pickup - Ready & Willing

New Tech + Old Truck = Cool Trail Toy

Ken BrubakerPhotographer, Writer

We lucked out big-time when we crossed paths with Don Brown and his primo '55 Willys. After all, it's not often we see a Willys of this style and vintage, let alone one that has undergone this extreme level of buildup. Brown, a custom fabricator/machinist at Offroad Tech, has combined the classic good looks of the Willys pickup with an array of cutting-edge, modern upgrades. The result is an astonishing rig that not only looks ready to rock, but is ready to rock.

There's a significant amount of fabricating magic under the '55 Willys sheetmetal. The entire 117-inch-wheelbase frame and the rollcage assembly are custom-built. Tube thickness and diameter varies, but the frame is 2x4-inch, 0.120-wall tubing and most of the rollbar is 2-inch-diameter, 0.120-wall tubing. Brown flanged the structure so that the cab of the Willys can be removed. The custom chassis/rollcage sports a front brushguard and rocker guards as well as front and rear hitch points. On the outside of the truck, Brown added a pair of Hella FF Series auxiliary lights to help light the trail at night. He also replaced the stock headlights with Hella H4 lights. A Mega Winch 12,000-pound capacity winch resides on a custom front mount. The eye-catching paint is Jeep silver with GTS Viper blue highlights.

The marines have landed on Brown's 454ci V-8 engine! Actually, it's one marine, and it's in the form of marine-application tuned-port fuel injection. Brown says that using this system that's designed for boats, instead of the fuel-injection system that came standard on the '98 Chevy K3500-sourced engine, helps create more overall power. He estimates that the engine now produces 392 hp and 447 lb-ft of torque. The swap required integration of a marine wiring harness and ECM to manage the engine as well as larger fuel injectors to meet increased fuel demands. A custom 2 1/2-inch dual exhaust with glasspack mufflers, Powermaster 130-amp alternator and an Optima Yellow Top battery have also been integrated onto the truck. Engine power is routed through a 4L80-E automatic transmission that is controlled by its own computer. Brown uses an Art Carr shifter to select transmission gears and the transmission is cooled by a B&M cooler. A Klune-V "Goliath" Extreme Underdrive unit resides between the transmission and the NP205 transfer case to offer a crawl ratio 2.7 times lower than stock.

During the buildup, Brown wanted to create more foot room in the cab, so he squared off the footwell area. Xtreme Coatings of Portland, Oregon then coated the entire interior of the cab with Battleship Grey-colored bedliner to enhance durability. The custom-built center console is integral to the custom rollcage. It holds a variety of switches, Auto Meter Sport Comp gauges and the shifters for the transmission, transfer case and the Klune-V Extreme Underdrive. To ensure durability, all electrical connections in the console are terminated with GM-style Weather Pack plugs. Other interior mods include Master Craft Rubicon seats and a Sweet Manufacturing removable steering wheel.

A fat Corporate 14-bolt axle resides under the rear of the Willys, and its performance is enhanced by a Detroit Locker. Like the front axle, the 14-bolt is geared at 4.10:1, and this ratio works well to offset the large 40x13.50 Goodyear MT/R tires. To ensure the tires don't part ways with the 17x9 Ultra Type 164 wheels during hard use, Brown installed OMF beadlocks. A pair of TSM disc brakes reins in the big 40-inch MT/Rs. The rear suspension consists of a custom three-link setup (comprised of an upper wishbone and two lower links) and 14-inch-travel King coilover shocks with external reservoirs.

Like the rear, the custom front three-link suspension (comprised of a track bar and two radius arms) uses 14-inch-travel King coilovers with remote reservoirs. Fastened to this suspension is a Dana 60 axle with Powertrax locker, 35-spline outers and Warn manual hubs. To ensure effective, durable steering, Brown upgraded the steering to a full hydraulic system using an Eaton Char-Lynn steering unit, 2-inch-bore hydraulic ram, a B&M cooler and Moroso reservoir. The heavy-duty tie rod is fabricated from 1 7/8-inch-diameter tubing, and it's fitted with FK spherical rod ends.

Owner: Don Brown, Camas, Washington
Vehicle/Model: '55 Willys pickup
Estimated value: N/A

Type: 454ci OHV V-8
Aspiration: Marine-application tuned-port injection, dual exhaust
Output, hp and torque: 392 hp @ 5,200, 447 lb-ft @ 3,600 (estimated)

Transmission: 4L80-E, B&M cooler
Transfer case: NP205, Klune-V "Goliath" Extreme Underdrive

Front: Custom three-link, 14-inch-travel King coilovers with remote reservoirs
Rear: Custom three-link, 14-inch-travel King coilovers with remote reservoirs

Front: Dana 60, Powertrax locker, 35-spline outer axles, Warn manual hubs, hydraulic steering, B&M cooler, Moroso reservoir
Rear: GM 14-bolt, Detroit Locker
Ring-and-pinion: 4.10:1

Wheels: 17x10 Ultra Type 164 with OMF bead locks
Tires: 40x13.50-17 Goodyear MT/R