Paul Soliz’s ’41 Willys pickup
In addition to reflecting the technical elements of the Gassers of its day, Paul Soliz’s’ ’41 Willys is a rolling gallery of the elaborate paint styles that spread from the custom car hobby to drag cars.
“Strip Tripper” was first built as a C/Gas racer in the early ’60s in Washington by Tom Bigford, a successful local racer. Within a few years, the neglected Willys was purchased by Jerry Daman at Exhibition Automotive in Kent, Washington. Daman brought it back to life, raced it with various partners, and sprayed what is probably the wildest paintjob we’ve seen on a hot rod. Soon after, it was traded again, and disappeared until about 11 years ago when Paul bought it, took it to Los Angeles, and restored it with help from Jack Goodrich and Tom Ferra. The paint was like new.
The pickup body is steel except for the fiberglass hood. The top is chopped 4 inches and the body is sectioned the same amount. Paul added the custom tube rear bumper, and replaced the original firewall and floor. He says it took a lot of careful cutting to repair the tired sheetmetal without touching the historic paint.
The wheels are 15x8 and 15x4.5 Cragar SS five-spokes with 10.00-15 Mickey Thompson pie-crust slicks and 5.50-15 Moroso Drag Specials on the front straight axle from Speedway. The suspension includes Delco shocks, chromed in front. Chrome continues on the ’57 Pontiac 4.88:1 rearend and the 60-inch lift bars.
The engine is a Chevy 283, bored to 301 ci and equipped with a Hilborn mechanical injection setup, and a Joe Hunt Magneto ignition. The TH350 transmission is shifted with a B&M box shifter.
Cut down motorhome seats were upholstered in black tuck ’n’ roll. The dash features Stewart-Warner gauges. A vintage metalflake wheel and Speedway column are tied to the Corvair steering box. Safety equipment includes the rollbar and Deist belts.
The painting process (done almost half a century ago) would fill a book. The intricate overlapping panels were finished with virtually every known technique and design known including lace painting in various styles and colors, a similar look done with a fishing net, cobwebbing, and air brushing—with candies, ’flakes, numerous toners, and many coats of clear. Painter Jerry Daman describes each step on the HAMB message board (search for “Strip Tripper”).
Today, Strip Tripper is shown all over Southern California (we saw it at the Grand National Roadster Show) and raced at events such as the California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield and the Mooneyes Christmas Party at Irwindale Speedway.
Vic & Debra Young’s ’52 Henry J
This Henry J is one of the latest additions to Vic and Debra Young’s ongoing and ever-evolving collection of Gassers. In addition to buying them and building them, Vic (who raced in the ’60s) writes about Gassers for Gasser magazine. But the thing he enjoys most is driving them, whether it’s down the quarter-mile or the highway.
Vic says the ’52 Henry J Corsair originally ran at dragstrips in the Midwest before heading west. His friend, Jim Stoltman in Ventura, California, owned the car, named “Pure Attitude”, and built it to its current level of quality. “When I heard he was selling it, I couldn’t resist,” Vic told us. Although he usually doesn’t buy finished cars, the car’s condition was excellent and he was happy to make an exception. Even so, there were personal touches he wanted to put on the car, including a new name. “Bad News” was already taken by his ’40 Willys, so Vic named this one “Bad News II”.
Bad News II rides on the stock framerails, with rectangular tubing added to support the straight-axle frontend and an X-member at the transmission. Speedway provided the front axle, spindles, and shocks. The rearend is a 4.11:1 Ford 9-inch with Moser 31-spline axles, suspended by 48-inch ladder bars.
A pair of 10.00x15 Hurst slicks are mounted on magnesium Americans, extending out of the radiused wheelwells—with bias-ply skinnies on 3.5x15 Americans in front. Brakes are Wilwood front discs and Ford rear drums.
An Edelbrock X-C8 cross ram intake and 600-cfm carbs feed a 434ci Dart Little-M small-block Chevy race engine. Vintage M/T aluminum valve covers were added to the Air Flow Research heads, and Headers by Little People Customs built those impressive headers, with Dynamax glasspacks for the street. The transmission is an old-school manually shifted B&M Clutch Turbo with a McLeod Racing clutch.
The stock grille and hood were kept, with the hood modified to flip forward and a scoop added. Scott Nething at T’s Body Shop in Ventura sprayed the Mercedes Firemist Red paint. Waldo in Ventura added the graphics. Red-tinted plexiglass replaces the glass.
The seats were upgraded with Naugahyde-covered Hunsaker highback racing buckets with Simpson seatbelts. A set of Stewart-Warner gauges were mounted in the dash, and a red metalflake Mooneyes steering wheel on a homemade column. Doors feature aluminum panels and the swing out–style rollbars make it easier to get in and out.
After a history of pursuing win lights, both Vic and his Henry J are now enjoying the more relaxed driving experience of cruising up and down the California coast.
Flying Purple Pavement Eater
Rick Shephard’s ’48 Anglia
While showing his ’48 Anglia in the 2012 Grand National Roadster Show’s vintage race car display, Rick Shephard got a surprise.
“There I met Frank Brown who, after looking at the Anglia, felt that it may be the car he owned in the early ’60s. He pulled out a worn-out photo of an orange Anglia that he’s carried with him for 44 years. This car was painted multiple colors of purple by Carl Smith in the late ’60s, but Frank spotted his orange paint in an area where the paint had chipped. He said that when he saw the car he just had a feeling that it was the one.
“In 1964, Frank installed a Hilborn FI small-block Chevy, four-speed, and ’57 Chevy rearend to build a drag racer. He and his wife raced it at several Southern California dragstrips until 1968 when he sold it. I remember seeing it race at Irwindale with the name ‘Lil’ Pooper’ and an outhouse painted on it. It passed through a few more owners until the early ’70s when my friend Jim ‘Smitty’ Smith acquired the rolling body shell with purple paint. Several of us helped rebuild the car, which raced off and on for many years.”
When Rick eventually bought the car from Smith, he added mufflers, a radiator, a water pump, and some M/T Sportsman tires and drove it on the street—with a race engine and 4.88 gears—for 10 years. He later built the current engine, a Chevy 427 loaded with go-fast internals. A Mooneyham 6-71 blower, two Edelbrock carbs, and a BDS manifold supply gas and air; a Don Zig Vertex magneto provides ignition. Hooker headers and glasspack mufflers handle what’s left. The TH400 was modified with a manual shift body.
The 4.56:1 gears get the 15x15 Cragar Super Trick wheels and Mickey Thompson meats moving; Moroso front runners roll on Cragar SS wheels. The 2x3-inch tubing “back-half” features a ’57 Pontiac rearend equipped with coilovers, 30-inch ladder bars, and a custom Panhard bar. The front suspension includes buggy springs, tube shocks, and split wishbones.
Rick drives the car from a fiberglass race bucket seat, which has been upholstered in vinyl, watching Stewart-Warner gauges and a column-mounted Auto Meter tach, steering the Moon purple ’flake wheel and shifting a ’66 Mustang shifter, with a Simpson belt and chromoly rollcage keeping him safe. He drives it as much as he can, but not as much as he wants. “The older you get the harder it is to get into an Anglia!” As for Brown, “It was great to see the look in his eyes as he sat behind the steering wheel again after 44 years.”