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Featured Cars: Custom Street and Classic Rods, Build kits
1941 Willys Nova Scotia

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     When Paul Norwood set out to build his first street rod, the Porter Lake, N.S. resident knew two things: He wanted a ’41 Willys and he wanted it to stand out in the crowd.
    
At first, he was going to buy a turnkey car from the U.S. “I attended an NSRA show in Louisville, Kentucky in August ’05 with the hopes of buying a Willys,” says Norwood, who attended the event with car builder Will Bisson. “But we ran into a barrier with Transport Canada — they prohibited bringing a fibreglass bodied car into Canada.”
     After a lot of thought, Norwood decided that he, Bisson and Allan Dalyrmple would build a car. “We thought it would be a great hobby but in reality it really turned into an obsession,” says Norwood.
While the entire build took less than a year from start to finish there was a great deal of “think” time involved in the project. Hundreds of hours were spent planning the build, from the Pro Street concept — which was obviously inspired by Norwood’s love of drag racing — to fabrication and finish. Bisson filled four diaries with information and notes so detailed it included the ergonomically correct position of the shifter and foot pedals in relation to Norwood’s height. With Willy concentrating on researching and purchasing of parts and pieces, Norwood and Allan Dalyrmple could concentrate on building and assembling the car. It was a real team effort. “We all had our hands in every aspect of the actual research, building and assembly,” says Norwood.
     The project started with the purchase of a Birds Street Rod Bodies ’41 Willy’s coupe and a custom built frame and roll bar from Ontario fabricator Doug McBride.
The front suspension is custom built and includes Aldon adjustable coilovers and a rack and pinion steering unit. Out back is a 4-link system and panhard bar tied into a Ford 9 inch stuffed with 3.73 Auburn gears and 31-spline axles. All four corners have Wilwood 12-inch rotors with 4-piston calipers. The car rolls on Billet Specialities Street Stars (17x7 front, 17x11 out back) wrapped in Yokoham skins up front and 31x16.5x17 Hoosier tires out back.
     Inspired by the gasser Willys coupes from back in the day, Norwood decided he wanted a supercharger poking out of the hood and he didn’t scrimp on what that supercharger would be perched on.
Norwood built a full race engine in his head and then visited R.D. Performance to make it a reality. The heart of this Pro Street Willys is a 540 c.i. Dart block with Dart 325 cc Pro 1 Aluminum cylinder heads — the biggest you could get at time of purchase — and an Eagle rotating assembly with a 610/640 solid lifter rocker roller cam. A 8.71 BDS Blower was mated to a pair of 850 Mighty Demon carburetor's to handle the gobs of fuel and air this combination ingests. One of the biggest challenges of the build occurred when they were trying to decide what headers would deal with all the spent vapours. With engine bay and suspension clearance at a premium, the crew had to purchase 6-inch elbow and straight pieces from Stahl and custom build their own headers.
     “Took us about 3-4 days off and on to build headers,” says Norwood.
Spark is handled by an MSD ignition system and the engine in its current configuration was dynoed at 850 hp/805 ft.lbs of torque, though the potential exists to make it a 1,200 horsepower engine.
    
Norwood rows the gears with a Tremec TKO 600, 5-speed tranny, but he admits the car is hairy to drive in any gear. “She’s a scary car,” he says. “I’m getting used to it. I have fun in the first three gears. I’ll give it a little shot but a fella has to be careful.” While the engine has animal potential it is very civilized thanks in large part to the planning and research Bisson and Norwood did before the build started. “It’s hard to believe how well it runs, it cools well,” says Norwood. “It runs smoother than my Honda,” swears Bisson. Cooling chores are handled by a Bill Kidd installed BeCool cooling system. Fuel is delivered via a custom built and polished steel tank created by John Bardoel.
    
The interior is as meticulously rendered as the rest of the car is. After the trio decided what they wanted, they took their ideas to Global Auto Glass, where Robert Downing and Jody Noble created a custom upholstery design and covered the door panels, custom console, headliner and modified 2002 Jeep Liberty buckets with Pompeian Red Brisa leather. An Ididit column is topped with a Billet Specialities steering wheel, while the custom built dash is adorned with Auto Meter Silver edition gauges.
    
Even with a monster motor and beautiful interior, a car’s character is never really defined until it’s painted. After several itchy sessions of working the fibreglass body to their satisfaction, Paul decided he wanted a silver car with traditional style flames. He took it to Lower Sackville, NS painter Todd Fowler. “You don’t see many silver cars,” says Norwood. “They’re hard to paint and hard to flame. It was taking a big chance putting the flames on it. If it didn’t work, we’d have to repaint the car.”
    
While Fowler’s skills meant the custom silver blended with pearl and medium metallics was laid down right, Norwood’s 23-year-old son, Chad, asked his dad “why not real flames?” Norwood thought about it and decided Chad was right. While Fowler had painted flames before, he didn’t have much experience with the “Tru-Fire” style made famous by West Coast airbrush artist Mike Lavallee of Killer Paint.
    
So, Fowler picked up the phone and called Lavallee. After a few hours of direction and advice, Fowler was ready to go. The results show that Fowler’s a skilled artist in his own right. The flames are Dupont Hothues colours.
    
The car hit the show circuit this year and so far was 1st in Class (Pro Street Build) and Top Street Rod (overall) at the Radical Speed Sport in Moncton, New Brunswick and also won the President’s Award at this past summer’s Atlantic Nationals where the car clearly stood out in a crowd of more than 1,500 cars. While it was built and engineered so that it could be a 1/4 mile car, it won’t ever see the drag strip. “I’d probably have to have a chute system,” says Norwood. (The current NHRA rule stipulates any car capable of 150 mph must have a parachute.) “Maybe make a few other modifications.”
    
Of course, after all that planning, Norwood’s reluctant to change anything. Though it’s the first street rod he’s ever built, this is one wicked Willys that’s perfect just the way it is.

chr

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