A previous relationship between customer and builder brought Seth Wagner from Crystal Lake, Illinois, seeking Steve Legens of Legens Hot Rods in Martin, Tennessee. Steve has been known for focusing on the future but never forgetting the past. He is truly dedicated to excellence, perfection, and quality in every one of his incredible creations. Over the years LHR has built five custom rides, including a '36 Ford coupe (Copperhead) that was featured in Street Rodder magazine in May '99 and a '66 Chevelle that belongs to Seth's son. This time he was looking for something different, an early-model custom truck. Seth didn't specifically know what he wanted, just something rare and out of the ordinary. Steve pondered on the project for a couple of weeks, then met up with a fellow that happened to have an old '41 Willys drag truck that had been sitting dormant in his shop for some time. This Willys came from a drag-racing heritage of the '60s NHRA "Gasser" class, and decades ago it was a regular competitor at Lakeland Dragstrip in Florida. Upon first sight, Steve envisioned a futuristic concept Willys pickup that would be like no other on the planet.
This incredible creation, which Legens named Hammerhead, took some 20,000 hours to complete. Steve spent many hours in a visionary trance as he worked with good friend and artist Gary Constable, from Louisville, Kentucky. The two collaborated their ideas, enabling them to come up with the final results that you see before you. The project was a four-year commitment.
Seth's '41 Willys pickup was unveiled to the world at the Detroit Auto Show, where it was entered in the '06 Don Ridler Memorial. (Some 30 contestants were entered in this prestigious showing.) Although it didn't take home top hon-ors, the Willys was presented as one of the Ridler Great Eight finalists. The Ridler competition is the most prestigious custom car/truck award in the world.
The first time my eyes focused on Steve Legens' '41 Willys concept creation was at the Goodguys show in Indy. It was too much to even imagine. Seeing it for real was breathtaking. Unfortunately, at the Indy show Mother Nature played a major roll and it rained all three days. Amazingly enough, while being displayed at the Boyd Coddington Pro-Picks winner's corral, it was sitting in the rain (without a cover) for all show attendees to admire.
I have been photographing custom trucks and cars for 20-something years and must say, this is the most beauti-ful handcrafted masterpiece I have ever composed in my viewfinder. While photographing this magnificent metal sculpture from every angle imaginable, I knew this truck was truly incredible.
Just like any ground-up custom creation, it all starts with the frame and suspension: an LRS frame with 2x4-inch, .125-wall rails with bobbed rear frame horns and H-member. The frame was cut and widened 8 inches. A 1-1/2-inch diameter, .080-wall tubular subframe was cut to allow for the dropped floorboard, allowing the seats to sit lower inside the chopped cab. The inner tubular sub-frame also helps eliminate the frame from flexing and twisting under heavy acceleration and braking. The front suspension consists of two Kugel stainless steel dropped spindles and chromed upper and lower A-arms. A pair of Aldan coilover shocks contribute to the nice, smooth ride up front. The front deceleration is produced by a pair of Wilwood dual-piston calipers with 13-inch ball-milled and cross-drilled rotors. An out-of-sight Kugel master brake cylinder/pedal assembly was mounted up under the dash. Solid stainless steel brake lines are run externally inside the framerails to the stainless steel braided brake hose that is linked to each wheel cylinder. Lateral direction change comes from a Sweet power steering rack-and-pinion unit. The rear suspension features a Winters quick-change center section with a limited slip and a 4.11 gear set. The Winters center section was fused with Kugel uprights and axles, and the polished/chromed IRS (independent rear suspension) delivers a smooth ride with four Aldan coilover shocks working in unison. A pair of Wilwood 12-inch ball-milled, cross-drilled, and vented rotors decelerate the rear wheels. A set of Nitto tires sized 245/35ZR20 (front) and 285/35ZR22 (rear) are mounted on a set of one-off Budnik Revolver 20x8-1/2-inch billet hoops up front and 22x10-inch polished billet aluminum wheels out back.
As the hood is tilted towards the passenger side, it exposes what else but a blown Chrysler Hemi, which was the norm for the Willys during the NHRA "Gasser Wars" of the '60s. This newstalgia Willys gets down the road with an '05 DaimlerChrysler 5.7L modular Hemi engine shoehorned under the hood. The mighty Hemi was mechanically enhanced by Street & Performance in Mena, Arkansas. Currently, it produces 600 hp to the rear wheels and over 620 lb-ft of torque. The folks at Comp Cams made a custom-ground camshaft for Hammerhead. A K&N air filter element purifies the air going into the inner-cooled Magnuson RADIX 112ci fifth-generation supercharger, producing 7 psi of boost. The air is force-fed into the mighty Hemi, increasing the horsepower by 40 percent. The injection system and computer are calculated and configured by FAST. A ProForm aluminum electric water pump eliminates both weight and drag, while the SPAL electric fan works in line with the aluminum Walker radiator. The pair of 1-3/4-inch-diameter Stainless Works stainless steel headers collect into the LHR 2-1/2-inch exhaust, ending in 2-1/2-inch Magnaflow mufflers.
The door handles were borrowed from a '34 Ford, then modified and mounted to the recessed mounting point of the doors.
The inner door panels are covered in caramel buffalo leather and accented with raised armrests and woven caramel buffalo leather inserts.
With the door open, a breathtaking interior features a custom smooth steel dash with three separate round gauge pods. Vintage Air vents flank the lower portion of the dash.
The three Legens-crafted pods house Classic Instruments custom whiteface gauges.
Foot controls were machined out of aluminum, then capped with burled wood pads.
The steering wheel was pulled from a '52 Holden, then was refurbished by Pearlcraft of Australia. The custom horn button displays the Willys emblem. A Flaming River painted steering column links the steering wheel to the Sweet power-steering rack.