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.
The heart and soul of this one-of-a-kind Willys is the body. The team at Legens Hot Rods created more body modifications than a person could imagine. Using some of the original '41 Willys pickup body parts (cowl, front fenders, and grille center section), the crew handbuilt the rest. We don't have enough pages to name all of the 241 body mods, but trust us, the entire pickup body was handmade. Steve had dies and wooden bucks made from the stock '41 Willys pickup body lines, windows, and grille openings. Then the fresh body skin was handmade and hand-formed using 18-gauge steel laid over custom-made wooden bucks to shape the fenders, cab, doorjambs, doors, dash, gauge pods, A/C vents, hood top, hood sides, grille center section, and cowl. The firewall and floor pan were made from 16-gauge steel. A new stainless steel vertical grille insert was made and polished by Dan's Polishing. A pair of '34 Ford door handles were modified to adapt to the all-new Willys doors. Custom aluminum headlight buckets were made to accommodate the '06 Mini Cooper lenses. A pair of '37 Ford taillight cups house the original '41 Willys taillight lenses with custom-made polished aluminum rings. The masterful one-piece, double-wall bed contours the rear of the cab and was also created from a wooden buck. A set of LHR polished stain-less steel stringers separate the bed floor's mahogany planks. An LHR fuel-filler concealment kit features a hinged bed floor plank, which allows quick access to the fuel-filler neck that adapts to the modified and polished stainless steel 18-gallon Rock Valley fuel tank. After the exterior's fresh virgin skin was shaped, hammered, sanded, and smoothed, it was primered and block-sanded. Then it was rolled into the LHR climate-controlled, downdraft paint booth, where Spies Hecker two-tone Grey Effect with added metallic (top) and Spies Hecker Sparkle Effect Silver (bottom) were applied. The paint was then color-sanded to remove any blemishes or orange peel, and the two-tone paint was separated with a mild silver-gray pinstripe. The painted surface was then buried in multi-coats of Spies Hecker clear. After the clearcoat had time to cure, it was cut, buffed, and polished. To accent the Willys body, new original stainless steel body moldings were handmade, then applied.
As the custom-made doors are opened, it exposes an interior like no other. The dcor is of newstalgic flavor with a handmade Willys-style one-off smoothed steel dash. Custom round gauge pods were filled with Classic Instrument whiteface gauges. The lower portion of the dash is flanked with two custom Vintage Air vent pods. A custom center console separates the Legens deep low-back bucket seats, which were covered in caramel buffalo leather with tuck 'n' roll inserts. The console also houses a Vintage Air control panel, window switches, Eclipse DVD/GPS monitor, and polished McLeod shifter with a stylish woven caramel buffalo leather boot. The Eclipse system powers the Pioneer 4-inch and 6x9-inch speakers. A Ron Francis wiring kit was installed, connecting all the electric current to those electrical components. Plush saffron-color BMW velour carpeting was laid on top of the Dynamat insulation material, which coated the entire cab and door panels. A single-piece gray suede headliner creates a smooth hemisphere. The LHR-crafted, handmade door panels are accented with woven insert armrests covered in caramel buffalo leather. A Flaming River steering column was capped with a steering wheel that was pulled out of a '52 Holden, then refurbished by Pearlcraft in Australia with a custom-made horn button sporting the Willys logo. The dash-mounted rearview mirror was another of LHR's creations. A pair of eye-catching aluminum pedals drop down from under the dash and are capped with highly polished burled wood.
Wherever owner Seth Wagner displays the "World's Most Beautiful Willys Pickup" it draws an instant crowd of admirers.
Hammerhead was such an incredible creation, we thought it warranted some extra exposure. We were fortunate to receive images of the entire buildup. Truckin' has dedicated the next eight pages to share with you a Reader's Digest version of the 20,000 hours that went into completing this one-of-a-kind '41 Willys concept pickup.
The bed floor features mahogany wooden planks separated with polished stainless steel stri
One of the mahogany planks is hinged (available from LHR) to gain access to the modified R
'41 Willys Project Crew:
History Of Willys
John North Willys bought the Overland Automotive Division of Standard Wheel Company in 1908, and in 1912 he named it the Willys-Overland Motor Company. Willys-Overland made both cars and trucks. Some of the wildest street rods are built from pre-WWII Willys cars and pickups.
The Willys coupes and pickups came onto the drag-racing scene in the early '60s, a period in NHRA history known as the Gasser Wars! Famous names of this era of drag racing include: Fred Stone, Leonard Woods, Doug Cook, Big John Mamanian, K.S. Pittman, and the Panella brothers (just to name a few).