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1949 4x4 Willys Pickup - Wicked Willys: Part 8

Verne SimonsPhotographer, Writer

Setbacks? Yes, we’ve had a few. We know, you know, and we know you know. But hey, as the saying goes, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” OK, so we’re not postal carriers, but there was no way we were not going to finish this big, bad ’49 Willys project and finish it well.

The truth is that with a languishing project like Wicked Willys the best thing to do is just bite the bullet, grab a wrench, and get back to work. And that’s exactly what we’ve done, even if it did take a while. We won’t bore you with all the excuses, but they do include the relatively recent birth of two new Simons (twins Eleanor and William). They are cute, lovable, and fun to be with but are definitely Jeep-project time-burglars.

We wish we could say that was all that went sideways with this build, but it isn’t. Days before installing the first 505ci Dodge RB big-block between our modified TJ frame rails just before Christmas 2015, we found a previously unnoticed crack in the block. Keep in mind that this block had been machined and the engine was fully assembled from crank to intake. That crack shared space with the motor mount and was probably the result of a wreck. No matter how the crack was created, it not only slipped past the eyes of our former machine sho, but also shared space with the big-block’s cooling passages. Feeble attempts to fix the crack led to more cracking, and the ’74 big-block was declared a total loss. The hard-to-swallow solution was to find another RB block (that was under 0.030 over), get it machined to fit all our brand new, yet previously installed Eagle Rotating assembly from Summit Racing, camshaft from Crane, heads and intake from Edelbrock, and all the smaller pieces that hold an engine together.

Fast-forward several months and we’re back in business. We found a ’67 RB block ready for all our parts and a new machinist to boot. Special thanks go out to our friend Mike Lee Austin for helping us find the block and the very helpful Joe Ali who made our parts fit the new block. Here’s how it all came together.