Stored 55 Years: 1952 Willys Aero Ace

The seller tells us that this good looking 1952 Willys Aero Ace was last licensed for the road in 1966, that’s a long time to be in storage. It sure looks solid and straight and these cars don’t show up too often. They have it listed here on eBay in Osakis, Minnesota as a no reserve auction and the current bid price is just $416 as I write this.

Buyers of the 1952 Willys Aero models, or a lot of the buyers, were interested in the gas mileage that these small and light cars eked out of a gallon of gas. The Aero was a unibody or unit-body car which was a bit lighter and had a bit more integrity than a body-on-frame car. It’s hard to miss the interesting W on the simple front grille, very cool. The Aero came in four models, the Lark, Wing, Ace, and top of the line Eagle.

This car looks great to me. The photos are nothing to write home about (as nobody under 60 says), but from what we can see, this looks like an incredibly straight and solid car. I don’t see a ding or dent or any rust anywhere on this Willys which is originally from southern Nebraska. The odometer shows just over 20,641 miles and they think that’s correct due to being put into storage in the mid-1960s and stored in a shed pretty much from day one.

The interior looks surprisingly nice, I expected to see rodent-eaten seats and water-stained door panels, and the usual interior gripes. The weird green spot there is, I think, some green light in the shop where the photos were taken. There are some rips in the front seat back and we don’t see the back seat or anything other than a shot of the speedometer/odometer and one through the rear window which shows some deteriorated rear seat fabric and some possible headliner issues.

The engine is…..gggggaaaa!… Missing! Now we know why this car is so cheap. The engine in the Ace in 1952 would have been a Willys Hurricane F-head 161 cubic-inch inline-six with 75 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. It’s there, but it’s apart and it comes with the car along with a lot of other original parts and pieces. Unfortunately, the radiator is missing and I’m guessing that after 55 years in storage, there may be other parts that have gone missing, as they say. I would love to have this car if I had the chops to put it back together again. How would you restore this car, back to original spec, or?…


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  1. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    LOL! Let me, let me. LS motor! Sorry Scotty, due to cabin fever. In The Old Willys forum there is a spot for these. I read they were nice in the day. Great body here, a newer small motor and a radiator from the boneyard. When I recored the radiator in my Willys Wagon the numbers came back as an early Cuda. This should be a reasonable project. Those hubcaps are killer! Gotta blaze, p-trap in the shower is froze.

    Like 5
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Ha, why you, I oughta… Just kidding, Mike.

      Whoa, that’s not good! It’s a whopping 0 for a high here today, -2 for a high tomorrow, fun stuff (cough). Good luck with the plumbing!

      Like 2
  2. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ha! Thanks Scotty! The p-trap is in a crawl space, gotta work from above. Slow going. Stay warm Buddy, take care, Mike.

    Like 2
  3. Skorzeny

    I have always liked these cars, except for the lack of power. I find the styling to be much cleaner and more modern than a Ford or Chev of the same year. (see rear fenders) No covered rear wheels or excess chrome, just nice clean lines. I know there are probably few fans of these left, and no market. Would be sad to see it scrapped. I always have in mind what Willys did to help this country win a war or two.

    Like 3
  4. Howard A Member

    This car has a snowballs chance in Hades of remaining original. These are still very popular with the drag racing set, and make wicked gassers. Same thing, if it was nicer, maybe even ran, be more attractive. I believe most Willys cars came with overdrive, and what looks like another handle next to the parking brake, may affirm that, that would make it compliant, yet hill shy, for today, but as is, I doubt many would restore it, just to have a ’52 Willys again. It’s a great find.

    Like 7
  5. Harold Booth

    When I was a kid, back in the early ’50s, in my mind I called those precursors of tail-fins ‘Willis bumps’.

    Like 1
  6. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Split windshield in 1952? It’s obvious that Willys was behind the curve on that feature but was advanced in terms of size, price, and economy.

    Like 2
  7. Russ Bilzing

    While the original engine would be proper, I think that a 1964 Buick 218 V8 would fit in nicely and provide ample get up and go without more stress than necessary for the tradeoff. Maybe some Candy Apple Paint…

    Like 1
    • Rick

      You’re probably thinking of the aluminum 215 V8 offered in 1961 through 1963.
      The Buick V8s offered in 1964 were the 300 for the Special and Skylark, or the 401 and 425 in the LeSabre, Electra, Wildcat and Riviera.

      Like 2
  8. Steve Clinton

    With 6 days left, it’s up to $610. This is going to be a slooooow auction.

    Like 3
  9. Kenneth Carney

    Hello from sunny Florida! It’s 65 here at
    quarter of nine in the morning. Boy, does this thing take me back! Haven’t
    seen one since I was a kid! A friend of
    Mom’s had one stashed in a…you guessed it…barn on their property. The
    one I saw there was a 4-door sedan that
    was light blue with a dark blue top. Mom’s friend told us that they had to park it after the clutch went out and a
    replacement wasn’t available. It looked
    good to me then and still looks great today. Mike, you aren’t that far off when
    you said GM small block. I was thinking
    of a 3800 GM V-6 and a 700 series tranny from a late ’90s S-10 pickup.
    There are still a boatload of them around and you could get one fairly
    cheap. This combo is darn near bulletproof and should provide you with
    many miles of trouble free cruising as a
    daily driver. Sorry to here about that P-
    trap though. Had to fix mine with a blow
    dryer and some heat tape. Definitely not
    my favorite thing to do especially if you’re lying flat on your back under a
    mobile home! Did that back in ’85 when
    my pipes froze up after several days
    below zero. After that, I’d leave a thin
    stream of water running from all my
    faucets at night to keep things going
    the way they should. Gotta get ready
    for work now. Have a good one folks!

    Like 1
  10. Colin Peabody

    The engines available for the 1952 Aero Ace were the L-head 161 cubic inch.Lightning 6 with 75 horsepower ( intake and exhaust valves in the block) or the F-head 161 cubic inch Hurricane 6 with 90 horsepower( intake valves and intake manifold in cylinder head, exhaust valves in the block). This would be the preferred engine. The model/serial number would indicate which engine the car had originally. 1952 models had split windshield, but so did 52 Chevys. 1953 models had one piece curved glass and one piece rear glass on the 2door hardtop. Neat little cars.

    Like 6
  11. Fred W

    Given the amount of labor and parts it would take to build a good “Hurricane 6” these days, I would be inclined to install a V-6 or small block V-8. Lots of potential here, but declining interest due to aging of the interested group.

    Like 2
  12. Bud

    I had one in 1966. It came without engine, but after a 9″ Ford rear end and a Chrysler 426 wedge with manual 727 trans, it was transformed into a fun gasser. Biggest problem I had was finding tail light lenses. I used 55 Chevy tail lights for a while until I found the correct lenses. Very fast car at the time. AHH the good old days.

    Like 2
  13. Duaney

    Here we go again with the “lack of power” statement. The Willys had similar performance that every 1952 Chevy, Plymouth, Nash, Studebaker 6, Rambler, etc. had. Are we supposed to put V-8’s in all of them too? A stock Willys like this one will travel 70 mph all day, isn’t that enough?

    Like 12
    • Gus Fring


      Like 5
    • Gus Fring

      Yes…and, no.

  14. Courtney

    Well I had one a few years back basically a parts car but the motor and stuff was there. Think I know where it is now the guy bought it didn’t do anything with it.

    Like 1
  15. Tort Member

    Ideally it would be nice to restore the Willys to its original state if the cost of the parts could be found at affordable prices. If that isn’t the case I have a 302dz I rebuilt last year waiting on my run stand.

    Like 1
  16. Charles Lambour

    Full dress Ford Flathead, 3+ on the tree, Columbia rear. 49 Ford grill, the car already has Ford door handles and trunk hinges. Just to blow the minds of the young GM set.

  17. Charles Lambour

    Forgot to add fender skirts. LOL

    Like 1
  18. George Reuter

    My 8th grade teacher,(Carroll O’Connor’s mother Elise O’Connor) owned ond exactly like it back in 1956-58.

    Like 5
  19. tom hanlon

    What the heck, 3.6 penstar, 10 speed trany! Why not.

    Like 2
  20. James Schwartz

    I’m late to the comment party, but this thing really interests me, and is only 3-4 hours away. I will be a player on this one.
    If I end up with it, it will NOT be a gasser or hotrod. I would go the “restomod” route. Find a 2wd Jeep with the indestructible 4.0 inline six and OD automatic and you’d have a great, reliable, quick (if not fast) cool old cruiser. The 4.0 would in a small way be a descendant of Willys and thus a natural modern option.
    I would then restore the body/interior to look essentially stock. What a great way to cruise.

    Like 2
    • Duaney

      The funny thing, is that the AMC 4.0 sitting there running at idle sounds like a thrashing machine, but the original Willys Hurricane engine will idle so smooth and quiet you can’t hear it run. Had the same comparison with my 1948 Chevrolet 216 engine and my sister’s brand new Gremlin with the AMC 232. I can’t give the reason why the old technology performs like this.

      Like 1
  21. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended:Feb 18, 2021 , 7:14PM
    Winning bid:
    US $3,300.00
    [ 52 bids ]

  22. Larry Kesler

    I just bought this car and have big plans and a big block Chevy.

    Like 1
    • Bud

      I’m jealous. Mine ran 10.30,s @ 136 mph. Loved every run down the dragstrio. I had a 3 gallon Moon tank in front of radiator. Wife wanted to make a run one time and I didn’t fill the tank first. She ran out of gas halfway down the strip. She was pissed.

  23. Larry Kesler

    I am building for my wife, we are heading to Minnesota to bring it home.

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