Solid Pickup Project: 1953 Willys Pickup 4×4

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Willys produced several versions of their truck, including a stake bed, a cab and chassis, and a pickup version such as this 1953 Willys pickup. This looks like a solid project and it can be found listed here on eBay in Barnesville, Minnesota, a few miles southeast of Moorhead which is over the river from Fargo and we’ve all heard of Fargo. The seller has this listed as a no-reserve auction and the current bid price is $1,675.

These are such interesting trucks, I would absolutely love to have this thing. This example is 4WD but they also came with just rear-wheel-drive. Between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s, Willys made around 200,000 pickups and they were based on the Willys Station Wagon. From what I’ve read on the Kaiser Willys site, the 1953 models had three horizontal grille bars instead of five, but this one clearly has five. Then I looked at 1952 Willys pickups and some of them had five horizontal grille bars. Does anyone know if it’s a late-model-year situation or if something else relates to whether they have three or five horizontal grille bars? Mike, are you out there?

The condition of this truck seems to be surprisingly solid. I would keep it mostly the way it looks now, maybe try to massage out a few of the dings, get something on the covered-in-surface-rust bed so it doesn’t rust out – although I see some sunlight in the corners towards the cab – fix the mechanicals and interior, and use it as a truck. What a concept, using a truck as a truck, what was I thinking?!

The interior needs the usual: work on the floors, redoing the seat and door panels, and most likely getting all of the gauges and levers/shifters and everything else working again. The seller says that it seems to go in all gears just fine.

The engine should be a Willys Hurricane F4-134, a 134 cubic-inch inline-four with 75 hp. The seller has it listed as being a six-cylinder but I only see four spark plugs, unless I’m missing something? They say that it turns over but they haven’t tried to start it. With no VIN listed and no photo of a data tag, can any of you positively identify the exact model, year, and engine in this Willys pickup?

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  1. Bob S

    The BC Forest Service used these trucks in the 50s, and the ones I saw either had the F head 4 cylinder engine or the flathead 6 cylinder. It is too long ago to remember the years of the 6 cylinder trucks, but to me they looked the same as the one pictured.
    I believe the engines were made by Continental.
    While fighting forest fires, we used to get into some crazy places with these trucks. They were slow, but very reliable, and always got us home.

    Like 4
  2. R. Guzik

    Judging by the big rubber tread mounted on the front, I’d say this Willys was last used as a push truck at a speedway–

    Like 2
  3. Gene K

    Back when that truck was new, the year of the truck was the year it was sold. So it could be a 52,53 or even an early 54 sold in 53. (Minnesota did some weird things back in the day)
    That is definitely a F-head 4 in the truck, and the hood ornament at one time had a 4 or 6 in the circle to indicate what motor it came with. Early models that had the 6, it was a Willys Hurricane flathead 6. Later model years had the Tornado overhead cam 6.
    This looks like a fun truck to have, too bad I don’t have room, sigh.

    Like 3
  4. HoA Howard AMember

    Thanks to the great folks in Minnesota that are keeping the classic car hobby within reach, unlike a certain western state. I think it’s a ’53, as stated. ’53 they did change grills, but who knows. This thing has been around since before most of us were born. Perhaps the grill was a mid-year thing. I read, ’53 was the 1st year for key start, if it had a tailgate, ’52 was the last year for the “OW” embossed, couple other minor things. Judging by the push bumper, this was a service station truck, and the 3 bar grille could have been damaged. Great find, you can go either way here. With 5:38 gears ( 6:18 optional) it’s useless on the highway. For just a firewood hauler, or some chore, I’d leave it alone. For any kind of road travel, a complete update would be in order.

    Like 5
    • leiniedude leiniedudeMember

      Great comments Howard. I believe the 5 bar grill ran from 1950 to 1953 changing to 3 horizontal bars in 1954. The gauges were used from 1950 to 1956. So its in there somewhere. This old rig is pretty nice. It would be a nice project if the price stays around the current bid. And Dan B is right on about OWF. Fuel tank in the truck bed?

      Like 3
  5. JohnfromSC

    I believe the super hurricane 6 cyl came to the truck in ’55. They are a lot more driveable. In ’62 the Tornado came out but today is harder to find parts for.

    Overdrives were avaiable and they make these roadworthy up to 55 mph. There is a gentleman today who specializes in rebuilding the ODs.

    Like 3
  6. Ben T. Spanner

    In 1965, my friend and I had no money and it was Spring Break, His parents lived in NW Ohio and had a cabin in Iron Bridge Ontario. We drove the length of Michigan in a 1956 Jeep pickup to deliver a refrigerator. I don’t think we ever passed anything going up or back.

    Like 3
  7. Dan B.

    Great truck. There is a ton of great folks and tech info over on

    Like 3
  8. Ken J

    Ken J
    If the motor is original it has to be a 1953 or newer. The F134 engine was introduced in 1953. Before that it was a L134 four cylinder flat head and the valves were in the block. The F type engine had overhead valves but just for the intake. I think the exhaust valves were still in the block. It’s a great little engine. I had one in a 1953 M38A1 back in 1963. Over rev the engine and the number one cylinder will throw a rod bearing. Overdrive units work great for acceptable highway travel. The overdrive unit was invented by a guy named Herm in the early 1950’s. He sold his patent to Warn industries way back when and more recently they sold it to Saturn Industries who still make them. I actually spoke to the inventor Herm about five years ago. He lives in Oregon and a delight to talk to on the phone. Gave me the history of how he came up with the idea and made his first unit with old Studebacker parts.

    Like 4
  9. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    I drove a 57 model like this from Montana to Everett, Washington back in the late 70’s. It was in January and it was freezing cold in Montana. The Jeep made it all the way without incident, but boy was I tired by the time I made it home.
    God bless America

    Like 1
  10. Richard wagner

    what is the vin no that will tell you the correct yr I have a 50 with 5 bars the newer had less

    Like 0
  11. Bobby

    I had a 53 Willys pick up and it had the 5 bar grille. I believe 53 was the last year for the WO embossed in the tailgate. Mine had the WO tailgate. In 54 or 55 they went to the large rear window and 62 they went to the one piece windshield not the two piece like pre 62. WO was for Willys Overland

    Like 1

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