Shane Cowan had previously owned HD, HK and HQ Holdens, and for many years had owned and loved a 1982 Land Cruiser. He’d been looking for a suitable car to fill the gap for around five years, but had seen nothing inspiring. He was disappointed with the quality and presentation of some vehicles he saw advertised: some may not even have passed a safety certificate inspection.
However a good friend of Shane’s, aware of his plight, had been sending him photos and ads for cars that may be suitable, and finally he sent Shane a photo of a 1930 Willys Overland Tourer. Shane didn’t have a Willys on his short list, and had never owned a car this old, but was immediately interested. Shane’s wife Leanne had been keen on cars with external mudguards and running boards. The Willys had them, so they both wanted to learn more.
Shane and Leanne were in Rockhampton at the time and the car was at The Gap. When Shane rang he found that there was already a potential buyer, but the owner was very flexible and helpful in fitting in with Shane and Leanne’s requirements to make the car
available for them to inspect.
The car had been in his family for three generations. In 1980 the hood was repaired, running boards and radiator core replaced and the tub had been resprayed, but otherwise it had no major work done since new. It had always been stored under cover and was in remarkable condition for its age. The 94 year old wooden-spoked wheels in particular are in museum-quality condition, and the doors open and close like new.
The owner turned out to be a very discriminating seller. Some would-be buyers had alarmed the owner by mentioning turning the car into a hot rod, so he had made a little mental cross against their names. He wanted the car to go to the right sort of buyer, someone who valued it for what it was, and who would preserve it as his own family had. Shane and Leanne clearly met his requirements.
The owner wanted to ensure that Shane knew what to expect before they took a test drive. The car was initially difficult to drive, even for experienced drivers like Shane, and the performance of the cable brakes was frightening by today’s standards. But after preparing Shane the owner took the car on a 20-minute drive in traffic. He insisted that Shane drive the car, during which Shane noted that the car had no blinkers or adequate review mirrors, something he would later rectify. He’d thought of driving the car home, but the owner strongly recommended taking it by trailer, rather than driving it so soon after purchase.
Shane has now had the Willys for more than a year. He has it on full registration and drives it several times a week, including to Bunnings (which the dog Chelsea enjoys) and to the supermarket, where it usually attracts a lot of attention from admirers. The car has been remarkably trouble-free, and Shane has had to do very little since owning it. It initially
kept blowing its six-volt light bulbs, but Shane soon realized that the six-volt generator was putting out nine volts, so he eliminated the problem by using 12-volt bulbs. He has replaced the headlights by LEDs and will eventually do the same with the car’s other light bulbs.
The flat head has a short crack with a minor leak, but Shane was advised not to remove it for a weld repair but instead to use two-part epoxy, which has been effective in stopping the leak. The car has never shown any signs of overheating, and the hood limits the car’s speed to around 60kmh anyway, but Shane is considering installing an electronic temperature gauge to monitor the engine’s temperature more accurately. He may also replace the running boards one day.
All the chromework is original and so is showing its age. However Shane is reluctant to have any rechromed because of the difficulty these days of finding someone who can do a satisfactory job on old auto chromework.
Shane and Leanne (and Chelsea!) have been very happy with the Willys, and Shane is hoping that he will be able to celebrate the car’s 100th anniversary without it needing any major work.