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GM V8 Power! 1963 Willys Wagon

Today’s SUV offers drivers a commanding view of the road, a roomy, fully-enclosed cabin for passengers and cargo, sturdy good looks, and capable four-wheel drive. The Willy’s Station Wagon offered these handy features as early as 1949, and this 1963 Willys Station Wagon barely changed from the 1949 model. This one comes up for sale right here on BarnFinds where $9500 makes it yours. A GM V8 engine transplant renders this wagon more capable than the original, and the classic “starts, runs, and drives well.”

When it comes to monitoring vital gauges, Pilot and Navigator get equal opportunity in this Willys. Unlike some modern BMW SUVs, you can observe engine coolant temperature without entering a “secret menu.” Durable painted steel, rubber floor mats, and vinyl upholstery combine to make the Willys Station Wagon’s interior impervious to spilled coffee, game, toddlers, and other bio-hazards. With as many as four sticks sprouting from the floor of some Willys vehicles, this one offers only two, presumably a tall gear selector and a high / low range selector for the transfer case.

My late Grandfather owned at least one of these capable vehicles, enjoying its utility on the snowy roads of rural Pennsylvania and also venturing away from the roads in search of rabbits, deer, and other game. With a little cleanup it could be ready for taking the family to church on Sunday morning. This Kennedy-era wagon can deliver all of those things today. With a 3200 lb curb weight, about the same as a Fox Mustang hatchback, this wagon could probably slash the fuel consumption of a modern full-sized SUV with a stock-spec carburetor or aftermarket fuel injection.

The “GM V8” surely offers more power than the original powerplant and might impart an unexpected exhaust note as well. Only four and six cylinder engines powered the Willlys wagons from the factory, according to Wikipedia. Even a comparably anemic mid-’70s V8 should handily best the original 75 HP mill’s 36-second 0-60 time! Thanks to Automobile-Catalog for some details.

While driving around with gas cans in the passenger compartment is illegal in some states, there’s plenty of room for just-picked apples, guns, dogs, and dead deer in the back, evidence of which can be rinsed away with a few waves of a garden hose. The generous tailgate makes the perfect place to enjoy what Grandpa Don called a “hunter’s sandwich,” a slice of cheese between two apple slices cut up in the field. How would you enjoy this repowered Willys Wagon?


  1. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    The “hunter’s sandwich,” sounds good Todd, I hope it was Limburger cheese. Nice old girl here. Missing the wiper motor, can’t tell if it would hit the air cleaner? Tranny/transfer case info would be nice.

    Like 3
  2. RayT Member

    Seems to me these had pretty short gearing. I wonder if the “GM V8” (which? I don’t recognize it) would be screaming its lungs out.

    Given the extra power, a disc-brake conversion would be nice, too. But this looks like a fun project that the next owner could finish up to suit themselves.

    Like 2
    • RonZ

      Hi Ray, the truck drives fine, the only screaming you will hear is screams of joy from the person that buys it from me. LOL , The GM v8 I have tried to identify but the numbers on the block are by the bell housing and I can’t fit my head in there.

      Like 0
  3. PaulG

    Incredibly clean for a truck from the Chicago area…

    Like 7
  4. benjy58

    An addition of an overdrive would make this a good highway

    Like 1
    • Lyman

      The over/under drives that would fit on the back of the twin stick Dana 20, were about 40 pounds of unsupported weight, and they wouldn’t hold up to the pony’s the V-8 puts out, this comes from my own experience

      Like 2
  5. doug edwards

    I did a Chevy v8 conversion on a willys truck that looked just like this wagon. It went pretty easily with a bellhousing adapter to the original willys transmission. Had to cut the firewall to fit the distributor. The truck ran in that configuration for years. The owner beat on it and broke a couple transmissions.

    Like 1
  6. Jerry Patterson

    My, would I like to own this vehicle! Seeing it takes me back to 1954 when my uncle purchased a Willis brand spanking new from Jones Motors in Harrison, Ark. I thought these were beautiful then – still do!

    Like 0
  7. t-bone BOB

    Location: Elmhurst, IL

    Like 0
  8. charlie Member

    I drove one of these, in the woods, off and on at a summer job. It was great for that, but was warned NOT to take it on the Interstate since the 6 would not survive an extended time at speeds of 55 mph or more. The last Jeepsters used the Buick V6 and were much more roadworthy. This one looks like the front suspension has been beefed up as well. So, as an interesting workhorse, this looks good. As a concours show piece, not a chance. For cars and coffee, just fine.

    Like 0
  9. Howard A Member

    Ha! Have to get in on this one. Very similar to my 1st FFW. It was a ’54 wagon, had a GM 307, 2 barrel, from what I could figure and adapter plate for the Willys transmission. It’s biggest downfall was it’s gearing. It had 4:88’s, and yes, the V8 was not happy. It was a poor installation, and I didn’t care for the wagon anyway. That’s when I found my 2nd FFW, a ’51 pickup with 19K miles, the only thing it was used for was plowing and had the flathead 6 with a non-standard hole in the block. I put everything from the wagon into the pickup, but the biggest snafu was the gearing. I couldn’t find anything that would fit the Willys front end, so I put a 3:70 from a Cherokee in the back, and used it as a 2wd, and worked rather well, except couldn’t use 4wd, for obvious reasons. Again, without stepping on Leiniedudes toes, great find here, but while the V8 adds drivability, gearing will still need to be addressed for todays travel. 50 mph just doesn’t cut it today. Apparently, ’63 was the 1st year for 2 shift levers. Never saw’r that.

    Like 2

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