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Collector wild about his Willys replicate

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

When Dan Juliette was a teenager, there were three vehicles on his “I wish I owned one of those” car list: a 1941 Willys, a 1932 Ford and a 1957 Chevrolet.

“Today, I own all three,” said Juliette, who retired after 45 years with General Motors. And that Willys is a particular joy.

“With its four-cylinder engine, it was the economy car of its time back in the 1940s. I always loved the look of the Willys, which became the basis for a lot of hot rods back in the ’60s.”

The Willys Americar was produced by the long gone Willys-Overland Motors from 1937-42.

The car struggled with sales but had a big comeback when World War II erupted and the company designed the iconic Jeep, which it manufactured with Ford Motor Co. After the war, the company was eventually bought out by American Motors.

“I knew what I wanted so I designed the car and then had it manufactured and assembled by American Gasser in Saginaw,” said Juliette, 73.

“It took about 18 months for delivery.”

While an original Willys Americar cranked out about 60 hp, Juliette’s replicate vibrates around a 427 cubic inch, all aluminum, small block V-8 that cranks out about 550 hp, enough to get you from zero to Warp 9 in about 2 parsecs.

“The color is Corvette Laguna blue with pearl flake in it. I entered it in Autorama, and it won best of class and best paint award. It also won best of class recently at a car show in Rochester.”

Juliette and the Willys will spend most of Dream Cruise Saturday parked with fellow motorheads at the Northwood Mall parking lot at 13 Mile and Woodward in Royal Oak.

“I’ll also be cruising up and down Woodward during the week,” Juliette said. “The car has less than 2,000 miles on it, and this will be the first summer I’ll have driven it on Woodward.”

Without getting specific, Juliette places the cost of the Willys replicate at between $100,000 and $125,000.

“It fit my vision of what I wanted in a vehicle like this,” he said. “Other gear heads understand. They get what I was looking for.”