When you hear Barrett-Jackson, what jumps to mind are probably the big dogs. Superbirds, Cobras, Ford GTs, so many Dodge Demons an exorcism is necessary, and whatever the current lump of mega-horsepower iron from Detroit is going to get auctioned off for charity, no doubt going for crazy big money. This year’s star car is the all-new Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. My prediction? Seventy billion dollars. And all that stuff is cool, man. It’s cool.
But what I love about Barrett-Jackson are the hidden gems. Especially the understated, possibly forgotten, sometimes even orphaned brands. Like Willys! Everyone forgets that at one point in time Willys was the second largest car company in America. Almost no one forgets that during World War II, Willys, Bantam, and Ford combined to build 653,558 of the 1⁄4 ton, 4×4, Command Reconnaissance Vehicle aka GP aka G503 aka Jeep.
After the war, Willys trademarked the name Jeep and began building a civilian version of its MB called the CJ. The plan was to sell the Jeep to farmers as an inexpensive alternative to a tractor. Thing was, America survived WW2 in great shape and farmers had money to spend on tractors. In 1946, Willys introduced both the Wagon and the Pickup Truck and would go on to sell over 500,000 of them over the next two decades. Initially, the 4WD, 1-ton Pickup came with the WW2 remnant 63-hp L134 2.2-liter I-4 engine, known to G.I.s as the Go-Devil engine. This gave the Pickup a top speed of 42 mph.
In 1950 the Go-Devil was replaced with the Hurricane engine, netting 9 additional ponies. 1950 also saw the introduction of the V-shaped grille that had five horizontal slats. In 1954 the Super Hurricane engine was introduced, a 3.7-liter inline-six that—depending on who you ask—made either 105 or 115 horsepower. The Willys trucks could now cruise at 60 mph. Two of the horizontal bars were pulled from the grille, in my eyes a huge improvement. All had three-speed manual transmissions (with synchros on second and third!) and a Dana 18 transfer case. The front axle was a Dana 25 and the rear was a Dana.
This particular Willys Pickup is desirable for three reasons, two of which are pretty amazing. The first not so amazing reason is that I just love the way it looks. Cute, low-key, and honest without being cheap, sort of like VW Beetles from the early 1950s. The second, much more important reason is that the odometer is sitting at 2,138 miles. Yup. I have no idea how so few miles have accrued over the last 65 years, but here we are. The final reason is that the VIN ends with 00001. Meaning that this Pickup, built in 1954 as a 1955 model is the very first Willys to feature the Super Hurricane, as well as the first 1955 Wagon or Pickup to be built. I’m thinking for a Willys collector, this is pretty close to the holy grail. Pretty cool, no?
Barrett-Jackson ushers in a new year of high-octane auction action during its 48th Annual Scottsdale Auction, featuring some of the world’s most coveted collector vehicles and authentic automobilia collectibles, January 12-20, 2019, at WestWorld of Scottsdale. As in decades past, The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions will be the epicenter of Collector Car Auction Week and entertain thousands of automotive enthusiasts with interactive exhibits, entertainment, and activities. Check your local TV listings to see it live on MotorTrend Network and download the app for exclusive, live coverage.