Johnny Dark’s Woodill Wildfire

1953 Woodill Wildfire

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We have seen a few Woodill Wildfire kit cars, but this is the first confirmed factory built Wildfire we have ever come across. There were only about 15 complete cars to leave the Woodill facility, with another 200 or so as kits. Not only is this one of the original 15, but it is also one of the 3 used in the classic movie Johnny Dark. It has been in storage for a number of years and the seller claims it is all original and unrestored. Be sure to take a look at the listing here on eBay where bidding is getting close to $20k.

Johnny Darks Woodill Wildfire

In the movie, a young man named Johnny Dark, played by Tony Curtis, races his Woodill Wildfire in the Canada to Mexico rally. It’s worth watching, so we won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. However, we will say that it was a good display of racing in the 1950’s. It also does a great job showcasing some of the other great fiberglass specials of the era. The seller doesn’t say what scenes this particular car was used in, but it lacks the Idaho Special logo as seen during the road race scenes.

Woodill Wildfire motor

The ’50s was a time of innovation for the automotive world, with a number of builders experimenting with new exotic materials. Fiberglass quickly proved to be a great medium, as it was strong, yet easy to work with. Like many successful dealers of the time, Robert Woodill had dreams of building his own car. With the help of Glasspar and Post Body Shop, he was able to make his dream a reality. The lightweight fiberglass body was paired to a custom chassis with a Willys’ power train. This car came with a Willys Hurricane inline six and while it isn’t the most powerful motor, the lightweight design and decent torque output made for solid performance.

Woodill Wildfire interior

This car looks to be in incredible shape, which leaves us questioning whether it has been restored or not. Given its history as a movie car, it is possible that previous owners took excellent care of it. Whether it is original or not is likely of little concern given the rarity and its claim to fame. We would be happy to own one of the Wildfire kits, more less a factory built one that shared the silver screen with Tony Curtis.

The movie ties might not add a lot of value to some, but we think the rarity and condition make this Woodill worth a closer look. At the very least it would make for a fun summer cruiser and a great talking point. How many people can claim that their car had starred in a movie about road racing that featured Tony Curtis? The only thing that would make this car better was if it had come with a V8! We wouldn’t dare messing up this one though…

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  1. wayne

    i think there was a kit at the motorama in buffalo ny last weekend

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  2. DolphinMember

    This car and the ‘Johnny Dark’ clips with Brock Yates commenting get my vote as the most entertaining entry of the year. Hollywood and the concept of legal liability have come a long way since that movie was made. There’s no chance any producer would do a movie now with street cars on hard, narrow tires drifting and spinning on bad public roads with telephone poles at the edge and no roll bars on the cars. It was a simpler time and it beats all the CGI done in the last decade to ‘ell. I love it.

    Have never seen a Woodill (not Woodhill, Brock), but the first couple of pics make it look like it would have been a real competitor for the new ’53 Corvette if it had gone into serious production. But it was never going to get beyond being something a couple of California car guys made from mostly off-the-shelf parts. The General didn’t need to worry.

    I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t get sold for a lot more than the current $19K bid, if the reserve is reasonable. A movie car from the early ’50s, and looking all-original—I’d love to have this in my tiny collection. Not very much chance of being outdone on rarity and style by that millionaire collector next door if you had this, and it would cost a tiny fraction of the cars that are ‘hot’ these days.

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  3. Brian

    Nice find! I hadn’t heard of this car before, nor the movie, so I will look forward to looking into both!

    The Jeep Super Hurricane Six was the same Continental based engine that was in the Kaiser cars (that had it’s roots all the way back to the old Graham-Paige cars) of which some were supercharged around 1954-55. Wouldn’t it be fun to source one of those K-F Paxtons and bolt onto this? Probably couldn’t take a ’57 vette, but polishing a Darrin should be a breeze! From the photos, it appears that this was a lightweight?

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  4. Mark E

    Very nice indeed, especially if the provenance can be, well, proven. Not for me though. There’s another car Tony Curtis drove in a race I’d rather have…

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  5. scot

    ~ great feature, Josh! these are really neat, historic cars and i love watching Johnny Dark. the first thing i did when i saw your post was to share it to Geoff Hacker, without even stopping to think, ‘certainly he already knows about this!’ well, i’m ready to toss some popcorn and start the flick.

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  6. jim s

    i have never seen the movie and do not recall ever seeing one of these cars before. very interesting. there is a copy of the movie for sale on ebay right now.

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  7. Harit Trivedi

    I am quite a long time car guy (goes back to 45 years) and had never heard of this car before UNTILL I took part at the Retromobile in Paris in February 2014 with a car brought all the way from India (Maharaja’s car display). It was a running car held together with a lot of duct tape. If you like I can send a photo, where to? The guy had to tell me the name of the car three times till I realized that this was a marque of which I had never heard of before. I was impressed with the car.

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    • Jesse Mortensen JesseStaff

      You can send any photos to

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      • Harit Trivedi

        I have sent the photo a few days ago. Have you received it?

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  8. Bryan Cohn

    This is in the best shape, nicest looking Woodhill I have ever seen. Most are tired old kit cars, left over unbuilt bodies or the remains, like the Swayback Woodill featured a while ago.

    The 50’s was a cool era with all the kit cars being built. Its a shame our laws do not favor this kind of innovation in the automotive industry in the same way UK and European laws do. Think of it, we could have road legal Radical sports racers like they do in the UK!

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  9. Buzz Waldron

    The windshield on that car is nothing like the one on the car in that movie !!!

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  10. Thomas Newland

    It was 1954, Pasadena, CA and I was 7 years old. Our neighbor was really into cars as was my Dad. I remember a Cord, some Crosleys and a really well built homemade 6 volt electric runabout based on a hardwood platform frame, no body, with lightweight wire wheels. And then there was his red Woodill Wildfire. I think it had a Ford flathead V8 and a 3 speed. Weather permitting, my Dad would borrow the Wildfire and drop me off and pick me up from Sunday School. Good times!

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