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Ace In The Hole: 1954 Willys Aero Ace DeLuxe

The Willys Aero was such an interesting car. These cars really had a strong aircraft theme with their model names and some features like aircraft-inspired dash control levers. I don’t know if that 18-wheeler-like bumper-guard is aircraft inspired but it would sure give a person peace of mind while driving through deer country at night. This project car is a 1954 Willys Aero Ace DeLuxe and it’s on eBay in Center Moriches, New York. The current bid price is just over $500 but the reserve isn’t met. Let’s check out this rare Ace.

One housekeeping issue to go through first, these photos appear to have been taken of cell phone photos. Did that make sense? These are photos of photos. That always worries me quite a bit when a person doesn’t upload actual photos of the actual vehicle but instead they upload photos of photos. We all know that it’s caveat emptor when buying a vehicle without seeing it in person but hopefully, there’s a good reason for not just uploading the photos to eBay instead of uploading photos of cell phone photos. I’m making too much of that but some of you would have mentioned it so it’s good to get it out of the way. Let’s get back to this cool Aero!

You can see lots and lots of surface rust here but there doesn’t appear to be a lot of rust-through if really any that I can see. The seller’s listing is as follows: “1954 Willis sedan   Ace deluxe model with everything being original – We also have in hand the original bill of sale when this Willis was purchased – True barn find…..surface rust – This vehicle has the flathead 6 cylinder and is the super hurricane model – Car has not been started in many years”. Here’s what it would have looked like when it was new. It’s hard to argue with that design in my opinion.

The Ace was the mid-level Willys Aero above the Lark but below the Eagle. The Ace is the only model of the Aero that lasted for the car’s entire run, albeit a short four-year run from 1952 to 1955. The Aero was shelved as Henry Kaiser wanted to concentrate on Jeep production so both the Kaiser and Aero lines were discontinued. These are really cool cars, especially the two-door models but I wouldn’t mind having a four-door sedan version. NADA is at $2,825 for a low-retail value and Collector Car Market is at $2,125 for a #4 car and $750 for a #5 car. I’m not sure what this car would be worth in its present condition, it needs a lot of work but it looks and sounds like it’s complete and I don’t see any dings or dents or any rust-through.

There are exactly zero interior photos which is incredibly disappointing and a bit worrisome. Hopefully, the seller can send any interested parties interior photos. I hope that they have access to this car and these photos are recent. This engine is the 226 cubic-inch flathead Super Hurricane Six which would have had 115 hp, 190 ft-lb of torque, and a Carter two-barrel carburetor. Unfortunately, it isn’t been started in years. There is no mention of whether this is the standard column-shifted three-speed manual transmission or the $179 optional GM-sourced Hydra-Matic automatic transmission. Again, a few interior photos would help a lot. Only 586 of the MB1 1954 Aero Ace DeLuxe sedans were made and there aren’t many of them left. If this one checks out it would be a nice project for any Willys Aero fans out there. Are you a fan?

Comments

  1. Will Fox

    A homely little car no one wanted even when they were new. Kind of a bargain-basement mash-up of `53 Plymouth-meets Hudson Jet kinda looks. It’s going to take a true Willys fan to snag this sedan. I wish the seller luck; they’ll need it.

    Like 2
    • DaveMc

      Nobody wanted them period.
      Too hard to get parts for.
      (My gramps always liked the oddball cars, my dad, no way)
      I still have an old metal box from my gramps that has old points and condensers in it. The heck if I know what they went to.

      Like 1
      • DaveMc

        Still on the shelf.
        I never threw it.

        Like 1
  2. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    That’s quite a cow catcher up front! Wonder what the previous owner needed all that protection for? Not exactly an “accessory” upgrade. Looks like it would be a pain to refresh the radiator, change a coolant hose or work on the horns.

    Like 0
    • Miguel

      Alexander, a lot of cars in Mexico came with those from either the factory or the dealer.

      Sometimes it goes as high as the headlights on some cars.

      I can’t decide if It was a good idea or not.

      Here is a ’69 Satellite with one on it.

      Like 3
  3. Miguel

    And here is a ’72 Ford with one on the front and the back.

    Like 5
  4. Miguel

    On the back too.

    Like 6
  5. Little_Cars Little Cars Member

    There is one on the back of the Willys too. Perhaps the Willys has been brought over from Cuba? Looks like the sort of cars they keep showing now that us ‘Muricans are allowed to look.

    Like 0
    • Andy

      I go down there pretty often; never seen a Willys driving around. Jeep wagons, yes, but no Aeros. And it’ll be a long time before any Yank tanks come home from Cuba–the duty would probably be much more than the car is worth, if they let it out at all, and taxi drivers make more than almost anyone there, so nasty old American cars change hands for tens of thousands of dollars–not because they’re collectible, but because they run and they’re a ticket to a decent living. When you look at them up close, there are probably less than 10% that would still be desirable–most are big wads of Bondo and house paint with Russian or Japanese diesels under the hood.

      Like 2
  6. Rusty

    I grew up near Toledo, so we probably had a disproportionate number of these (as well as early 2wd Wagoneers) on the road. These were still making regular appearances in the classified ads in the mid-late ’70s, so I suppose they were a decent car. I always thought the vestigial fins on the rear fenders spoiled what was otherwise an attractive car. Most of them seem to have ended up crushed or hot rodded. Nice stock ones are really rare, but I entertain dreams of daily driving one with the super 6 and overdrive. I hope someone fixes up this one and keeps it stock.

    Like 4
  7. GearHead Engineer

    This car is in Center Moriches, NY. On Long Island. Maybe those bumper guards are for protection when driving in NYC. The 1950s version of those rubber bumper protectors they use today?

    Interesting car and I’m glad it survived. It helps show the variety of manufacturers we once had in the US. I hope someone saves it and makes it look good out on the road.

    – John

    Like 4
  8. David Conwill

    I utterly adore these–handsome little cars that are just the right size. K-F actually fitted a few, experimentally, with the supercharged Kaiser Manhattan engine. That’s something I’d love to recreate.

    Like 3
  9. Duaney

    The Willys Aero was popular when new, they were never referred to as not a handsome car, this column is the first time I’ve seen a negative remark about the styling. The design wasn’t ‘shelved”. Kaiser-Willys decided to market the car in Brazil where it was manufactured through the late 60’s. The Chevrolet-Ford production wars hurt the sales of all of the competition during the 50’s, especially the independents. The guards on the car were period accessories via the aftermarket, one such manufacturer was Van-Auken. These guards were made for every new car during the early 50’s. When new the Willys Aero received very positive reviews from the car magazines, and Popular Science, and Mechanix Illustrated. One extended test had the Aero coming in only second place from first place winner, Cadillac.

    Like 6
  10. Gaspumpchas

    Cool project for cheap. Friend of mine has pro modded a 2 dr HT like this—it will hit the magazines soon!!

    Good luck to the new owner. Great place to start. Think its the same engine they used in the jeeps.

    Like 1
  11. Howard A Member

    I think my old man had an Aero when I was a kid. I remember a car with a “W” on the trunk. Independents were dropping left and right, and by the mid-50’s, it was clearly the big 3, Willy’s meant Jeeps, not cars. You wouldn’t possibly consider this motor driving today, and a modern setup, including brakes, would be the only way to go.You for sure wouldn’t see another.

    Like 1
  12. Wayne

    I think that bumper guard would do sfa against a deer, or kangaroo (here in OZ). The Willy’s AeroAce we had here had an F head engine in them.

    Like 2
  13. Bob C.

    Willys lived a while longer in South America with upgrades to this basic form until about 1972. Ford acquired Willys do Brasil in 1967.

    Like 0
  14. Little_Cars Little Cars Member

    Funny. There’s been one on the Nashville CL for a couple weeks. I hadn’t noticed it until now. Solid green car with no cattle guards front and back. $4k.

    https://nashville.craigslist.org/cto/d/willys-aero-ace/6670243909.html

    Like 0
  15. lance

    I went and saw this car a week ago. Owner wants 3500.00 for what can be best described as semi-rolling junk. Lots of rust everywhere, interior shot, no headliner. chrome all pitted. has hydramatic though.

    Like 1
  16. Willys Folks

    If anyone knows where this little guy ended up, please let me know. I’m retro-storing the exact same model and looking for parts. If it’s in as bad of shape as was described here, I’d love to get a hold of the new (or original) owner. And – yes… mine was a piece of rusty out field art (and home to hundreds of rats and mice) when I started. Badging script, lenses, and other pieces would be helpful to complete my retro-storation.

    Like 0

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