The early 1940s, World War II-era Willys coupes pre-date the birth of organized drag racing by about a decade, and as such, they have been a part of the sport’s DNA since the very beginning. You’ll generally find them at nostalgia and Gasser-specific type events, but rarely do they feature power from modern-day engine designs and technology. But then again, they aren’t often owned by members of the Millennial generation, either.
Thirty-five-year-old Dayton, Tennessee native Scottie Stone has what may be one of drag racing’s finest examples of the old saying, “teaching an old dog new tricks,” in the form of a 1941 Willys with a 346 cubic-inch, twin-turbocharged LS1 for power. Between that and the Holley Dominator electronic fuel injection, Willys-Overland Motors founder John Willys would be floored.
“These cars are rare outside the show car scene,” Stone says. “You’ll find very few still running down a racetrack. And I have never seen another Willys street rod with turbos….usually they are blown big-blocks. I took what I liked about the old-school and added a little new-school technology, and it all blended really well.”
Stone’s other projects have included a Trailblazer SS, a Pontiac G8, a 1990 Nissan 240sx, and an 1984 Chevy S-10, so a ’41 Willys is an interesting departure.
“My dad bracket raced when I was younger. Also my cousins, aunts, and uncles all raced drag raced and dirt track raced. Racing was born into my blood. I was born and raised around racing, and I love the thrill of speed and competition. I’ve watched others build cool cars, growing up and when I finally got the knowledge, money, tools, time, and the project car I always wanted, I knew it was time to build something cool and unique that you don’t see at every racetrack,” Stone shares.
Stone found the Willys in South Carolina via the internet — a full-scale fiberglass replica body and a chassis built purposely for street use, which Stone re-did once in his possession. The 25.5-spec Funny-Car cage now is built atop a 2×4 square-tube mild-steel frame.
The build took Stone four years to complete and is the first car he’s ever built from the ground up. “I did all the fabrication, welding, and wiring myself. I also built the motor, the transmission, and the rearend alone. The only thing outsourced was the bodywork.” The project began in 2018, and was finally completed and debuted at the Holley LS Fest this fall, to much fanfare and attention.
The circa-2000 factory aluminum LS1 engine block and crankshaft have been mated to forged Diamond pistons and Lunati rods, and retains the factory 5.7-liters of displacement. Stone procured a custom-grind COMP camshaft and Manley valves to update the otherwise stock GM 317 aluminum heads. The air, charged by a pair of VS Racing 65mm billet-wheel turbos through a Shearer Fab water-to-air intercooler, enters via a Holley Sniper 102mm throttle body and a Holley Hi-Ram intake manifold. The aforementioned Holley Dominator ECU, with directions from tuner Derek Burton, supplies fuel via twin HyperFuel 340 in-tank fuel pumps and 160cc injectors, and spark through a Holley Dominator ignition box.
A Powerglide transmission operated with a B&M Pro Bandit shifter is paired with a 9.5-inch PTC converter (4,500 rpm stall) and TCI flexplate to deliver the power through a 3-inch steel driveshaft to the 9-inch Ford rearend. The housing sports a Strange Engineering spool, 3.89 gears, and 35-spline axles.
Once he had the chassis complete, Stone bolted on Heidts front control arms, Strange front struts, Aldan American rear shocks, and fabricated a four-link with a Chassis Engineering wishbone and anti-roll bar. It all rides on shiny RC Components polished wheels, including double-beadlock rears, with Phoenix tires up front and Hoosier 28×10.5’s out back. Outlaw single-piston brakes bring it to a stop. The entire package, with Stone in the seat, tips the scales at just over 3,000 pounds, and being a bit tail-heavy, performs nice launches on its way to best elapsed times in the 5.4-second range at just shy of 130 mph to the 1/8-mile.
“For a home-built chassis this car is a blast to drive. It goes straight as an arrow. We only have 12 total passes it, but I’m learning the chassis and tuning every time we hit the track,” he says. “We pick up e.t. and mile-per-hour every pass we make. For a street rod with a Funny-Car cage in it, it drives and rides really nice down the street…very comfortable.”
Stone was quick to point out that his original vision for this project was to campaign it in drag-and-drive events, and many of the features he invested time and money into are geared to that.
“I put nice cushion seats in it for long trips the wife and I plan on making in the future. It also has cup holders and cell phone charger built into the dash. We’re going to beat the lug nuts off this thing…I didn’t build it to sit in a garage and look pretty, it was built to be used and abused.”
Stone routinely drives his machine on short trips , in between visits to racetracks in and around Tennessee. The Willys, in just a dozen runs, has shown impressive promise, and has also exposed some of its shortcomings. Stone says with the coming addition of double-adjustable shocks to get the car to squat at the hit, he believes it should pick up a couple of tenths to the 60-foot clocks, and dip into the 4.90s.