Rich & Donna Gregorski's 1941 Willys Coupe (from October 2003)
As with most of us, as Rich Gregorski was growing up he spent many hours looking at hot rod magazines and admiring the cars. As Rich got older he had the opportunity to see some of those cars in action, and was most fascinated by the Gassers. Him impression was that they seemed to generally run fast, but not have the most attractive body styles. The Willys was always the one that caught his attention the most; something about that body style and front end. His passion with cars dictated that he always had a nice one and kept it clean, but Rich knew that some day he would own a car like those he used to admire, and make it look really good.
When he moved to Florida twelve years ago Rich got the bug again. He already had a T-Bucket and a Pro-Street Nova, but something was missing. He spoke to his wife, Donna, and with her help the adventure began. This car was going to be special and done right, no cutting corners. Rich spoke to many builders and got many opinions, and then he met Frank Mondary of Clayton Custom Cars in Benson, North Carolina, and liked what he heard. Together they went about making not only a real attractive 1941 Willys, but also make a long term dream into a reality.
The foundation is a custom 2x3 inch and 2x4 inch tubular chassis, which incorporated Heidt's stainless steel tubular A-arms, a 4-bar rear suspension, and polished Aldan front and rear shocks and springs. As with most '41 Willys, the motor would certainly not be lacking in the power department. It started with a GM 502 cubic inch, 502 horsepower crate motor and then ended with a balanced assembly, full roller cam, polished 8.71 BDS blower, an MSD ignition, and three inch stainless steel custom exhaust. The result is an estimated 875 horsepower being pushed through a Turbo 400 transmission to a Tech 9 sheet metal rear end housing stuffed with 3.50:1 posi gears.
The exterior started with a fiberglass body that was left devoid of all chrome and handles for a smooth look. While Rich was originally thinking of having the car painted black, he told us he must confess the final color scheme was picked by his wife Donna. It is a very deep Plum Pearl PPG base coat / clear coat, accented by subtle yet unique chameleon flames, plus a set of 17 inch Budnik Cobalt rims (17x7" up front with 215/40/17 BFGoodrich radials, and 17x13" out back with 345/55/17 BFG's).
Inside you'll find a fiberglass dash fitted with Dolphin gauges. A polished Ididit steering column tilts up to a Budnik GT steering wheel, and is accented by various other plated or polished accent items. Upholstery consists of beige leather throughout, with the accommodations filled with the sound of music by a Sony AM/FM CD stereo system.
The Gregorski's 1941 Willys took about 18 months to complete, with the finished product unveiled in April, 2002. Since then it has been a winner at both the local and national level. Highlights include the "Bad To The Bone" pick at the Goodguys 4th Spring Nationals in Orlando; Best Engine, Interior and Street Rod at the Jacksonville Rod Runners 31st Memorial Day Rod Run; the Chew & Scott Miller Award at the Shades Of The Past Rod Run XX in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; a Street Rodder Magazine Top 10 a the Goodguys 11th East Coast Nationals in Rhinebeck, New York; and an ISCA Award Of Excellence, First Place Conversion Class and Best Overall Conversion at the Gainesville Super Chevy Show. But awards is not what drove this project, and Rich is happy just to have realized a dream from his youth....and have a cool car to boot! His love of orphan cars (no longer produced) has also gotten him involved in a Henry J project for Donna, so before long there will be a pair of dynamite street rods parked at their Largo, Florida home....and roaming the streets and hitting up the shows. CN