The Willys Americar was a line of automobiles produced by Willys-Overland Motors from 1937 to 1942, either as a sedan, coupe, station wagon or pick-up truck. The coupe version is a very popular hot rod choice, either as a donor car or as a fiberglass model.
The car started production in 1937 with somewhat traditional styling, a product of the internal reorganization that turned Willys-Overland Motor Company into Willys Overland Motors. It was itself an evolution of the aging Willys 77. When Joseph W. Frazer joined the company in 1938 he decided that a modern-looking and cheap compact car was the answer for the struggling Willys. Models 37, 38 and 39 gradually evolved into a more "Ford"-like appearance, culminating in the very much DeLuxe-like '40 model.
Only the 1941-1942 models were called "Americar" (441 and 442 models respectively), following the patriotic trend of the time. It sold 22,000 units in 1941 and 7,000 more in 1942. Its price was about US$ 630. As war broke out, civilian production was abandoned by all US motor companies, in order to assist the military, and the Americar was no exception. However Willys was one of the companies awarded a contract to produce the highly successful Jeep. After the end of the war they managed to secure the trademark on the "Jeep" name, and the much higher sales of its civilian "CJ" version kept the Toledo firm from resurrecting the pre-war models, sealing the fate of the Americar. Despite failed attempts in 1940 and 1945 (both times with Frazer's 6/66 prototype), the 1942 Americar would be Willys-Overland final "civilian" passenger car model until the Willys Aero, ten years later.
There were three variations—Speedway, DeLuxe and Plainsman—offered, each with a coupe and sedan, plus a DeLuxe four-door woody wagon.
Hot rod career
Critical engine failures, lack of reposition parts and the sheer lack of assistance from Willys turned many Americars into perfect targets for the nascent hot rod community - the "Go Devil" engine was replaced with many other alternatives, some weaker, some much stronger than the original specification. It became such a favorite that today a 100% stock Americar is a very rare find.