Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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CITY SLICKER – JEFF JORGENSEN 1941 WILLYS SWOOPSTER

Something lost, something gained. It’s a statement that means different things to different people. In the case of Jeff Jorgensen and his wife Crystal, the loss was the passing her father. With his passing however, he left them with a gift, the means to fulfil some of their own lifetime ambitions. Jeff has always been on the borderline of hot rodding, admiring the beasts from afar and hoping that one day he may have the means to style one of his own. That time had now arrived so in earnest he began scouring classifieds for a well advanced project or an older rod which he could restyle to his liking. “I wasn’t really looking to build something from scratch, I was after something already done. I looked at some ’34 Fords and then I saw this on eBay,” says Jeff.

‘This’ equated to a Willys ‘Swoopster’, a heavily remodelled fibreglass roadster based on a 1941 Willys. The body and chassis package was manufactured in the USA by Dennis Taylor Reproductions who released a limited number of the 1941 Willys kits and allegedly one 1940 model. Jeff located this one Melbourne, the seller claimed he’d bought it to build for his wife but didn’t follow through with the project. Accompanied by his brother Ian and his friend Rodney, it was love at first site for Jeff when he spotted it.

“I liked the shape of ’34 Fords but I absolutely adored the Willys, even knowing then that it was just a rolling chassis I still wanted it.”
Jeff admits it was a much bigger project than he’d planned, and as usual it wasn’t all smooth sailing. “Initially I was told the chassis would be OK, but at a later inspection we were told that it needed more,” he says calmly. McDonald Bros Racing came to the rescue, adding in additional set of chassis rails which satisfied the engineers. In fact McDonald Bros played a large role in the project, fabricating dozens of custom pieces and Jeff is chuffed with their efforts.

The Willys was already fitted with a Mustang II front end and was also right hand drive. Jeff reckons it must have been ordered that way as he couldn’t see any evidence of a left to right conversion. A small block Chevy went in easy, Jeff scoring a healthy 383 stroker from another seller in the early stages of the build which McDonald Bros went over before fire up. The turbo 350 with 2k stall and Ford diff are sensible choices, although Jeff turfed the fabricated 9” which came with the car in favour of an Australian made three piece version from Extreme Driveline with full floating axles.

Body wise it’s pretty much as its creator intended with a few minor improvements like reconfiguring the hideaway rear licence plate and adding an external fuel filler. The late model Mini headlights, curved front glass and signature Willys grille came with the car. The removable hard top isn’t heavy but is certainly a two person job to remove.

Carmine from CAD Customs stepped up to prep the body and apply the final finish which is Glasurit Crystal Shine Red. “I liked Candy Apple Red but didn’t really want to go with that due to the difficulty of repairs. Carmine showed us some paint samples and we just kept coming back to the red. He said if you keep going back to that colour, then that’s the colour!”

Inside wasn’t a total blank slate, the moulded console and seat frames already part of the package, but that’s about it. The seat frames were cut down slightly so they didn’t extend above the body line, and provisions were made at the top of the console for seatbelts. Rego rules also necessitated the heater/demister slots cut into the top of the dash, air conditioning deemed unnecessary considering there’s no side glass. Jeff also had to replace the non-collapsible column with a new unit from Ididit, topping it off with a Colorado Custom tiller which mimics the wheels. Emmanuel at The Trim Shop came up with some concepts for the Fawn leather interior and between them they settled on a design which Emmanuel executed to perfection.

We first spotted the Willy’s at Meguiars MotorEx Melbourne in July which was its debut outing. The swoopy coupe/roadster attracted plenty of attention, the quality of workmanship rewarded by taking a win in the Street Elite – Hot Rod category. As newbies with humble expectations, the Jorgensens were understandably pleased with the result. Another hurrah goes out to McDonald Bros and everyone else involved in the build, not to forget brother Ian for some good advice, and son Trevor who was the first one on the doorstep whenever Jeff needed a hand.

When we scratched around the internet for more info on the Swoopster, we simply couldn’t find anything that would indicate where to buy one. There are a handful of finished examples in the USA, but unless somebody else downunder has one tucked away, we wouldn’t expect Jeff and Crystal to be pulling alongside a similar car at the traffic lights any time soon!

BY GAVIN KELSO, PHOTOS MILLBROOK STUDIO, FULL FEATURE CRUZIN #168

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