Part Truck, Part Hot Rod, and Part Industrial Vehicle – Ed Pettus’ 1932 Willys
We’re in an era where anything goes in the custom car and truck world and you need look no further than the 1932 Willys of Ed Pettus for evidence of that. Combining elements of classic hot rods, low-down rat rods, plus vintage military and aircraft influences, the Willys is a true one-of-a-kind creation that draws a crowd wherever it goes.
Ed is the father of Eddie Pettus, owner of Eddie’s Rod & Custom in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The two men dreamed up the idea of a hot rod version of a vintage aviation tanker a few years ago and searched for a prewar Ford coupe as to start with. They ended up with a 1932 Willys four-door sedan instead, which was just as well because the plan involved a lot of cutting and fabrication anyway. With an 1890s-era horse-drawn oil tank as the other piece of the puzzle, they had a foundation on which to start.
The sedan body was chopped and shortened into essentially an extended-cab pickup, with a custom bed and fifth-wheel receiver now residing between widened rear fenders. The team at Eddie’s also sectioned the grille, removed the hood side louvers, smoothed the firewall, and performed many more mods before covering the body in Glasurit Admiral Blue paint. Scott Takes of Underground Studios did the Hunter Field lettering, recalling a Cedar Rapids-area airport founded after World War II. Original Willys headlights and ’37 Olds taillights helped complete the package. The oil tank was refinished as a trailer and sprayed in a complementary silver hue, complete with a Stanavo logo – Standard Oil’s aviation fuel company.
Not surprisingly, the frame is completely custom, though the original front axle was used in conjunction with a mono-leaf spring. Parallel leaf springs support the 9-inch rearend and there are Wilwood discs all around. The 18- and 20-inch wheels originated on a 1935 Dodge and were wrapped with Firestone 5.50-18 and 6.50-20 tires. The drivetrain is equally unorthodox – a 1982 Nissan 2.2-liter diesel engine boosted by a Garrett turbo, tied to a Datsun five-speed, and breathing through an aircraft-style header protruding through the right hood side.
The interior has corresponding aircraft flavor, from the B-25 Mitchel aircraft seats, to the Convair 440 aircraft yoke used as a steering wheel, to the ’30s air speed indicator gauge in the smoothed dash. Even the shifter is a repurposed throttle control from a ’37 Bristol Blenheim bomber. Bob’s Upholstery and Chris Lint teamed up on the buffalo leather upholstery and German square-weave carpet.
Part truck, part hot rod, and part industrial vehicle, Ed’s 1932 Willys is a true barrier-breaker and a great example of where the hot rod imagination can lead. It’s also a great showcase of the capabilities at Eddie’s Rod & Custom.
Photos by John Jackson