Dennis Delphus' 1941 Willys "Swoopster" Roadster (from Volume 12, Issue 136)

Fort Lauderdale, Florida resident Dennis Delphus told us he has been attracted to, as well as addicted to, unique custom cars and trucks for most of his life....which is a long time (his words, not ours - haha!). Since he acquired his driver’s license back in the 60’s, Dennis has always had a custom car or truck. He told us the pinnacle point of his car obsession occurred many years ago, while attending a national drag racing event at Indy Speedway. At that time there were many A & B Gas Willys, like the legendary Stone Woods & Cook AA/GS ‘41 Willys. This is where Dennis was introduced and fell in love with the 1941 Willys....seeing it as the ultimate hot rod, and telling himself that “one day I’m going to have a ‘41 Willys”. Well, some 30 years later he has two Willys; a black 1941 with a blown Chevy big block, affectionately named “Over Kill”, and his newest addition is the 1941 Willys Roadster you see pictured here, called the “Swoopster”. Plus he also has a wild 1994 Chevy Pickup with an awesome custom paint job, nicknamed “Wild Thing”. Yes, Dennis Delphus is in hot rod heaven!

The concept behind the “Swoopster” design was to take a classic old hot rod, and make it modern by adding hi-tech, sleek and stylish cues. Dennis wanted something unique, new and outstanding. There were over three years of conception, drawings and design work that went into the project, and finally after countless modifications the “Swoopster” emerged from the traditional 1941 Willys Coupe. The key was to keep the integrity of the all-time traditional classic Willys body style, yet make it streamline and modern....a bit of a challenge to say the least.

The overall silhouette of the new “Willys” has wonderful curves plus very low sleek swooping lines, hence the name “Swoopster” was embraced. The body is one of only three in the country, custom build by Dennis Taylor’s Reproductions. In keeping with the hi-tech modern theme some untraditional accents were added, like the 2005 Mini Cooper headlights, a concealed electric license plate, and big diameter polished Billet Specialties “Chicayne” wheels (18x7” front, 22x10” rear) wrapped in Nitto tires.

In wanting to have the “Swoopster” stand out in a gathering of cars, Dennis decided on a conspicuously bright yellow PPG “Sunburst” paint job, performed by Dennis Taylor's Reproductions. One of the most outstanding and highly complemented features that was added are the amazing airbrushed graphics. This one-off design incorporates over 20 different colors, unique textures, designs, exceptional painting techniques, and a multitude of subdued images: like skulls, flames, iron crosses, and even things Dennis has yet to discover! It’s complexity and variations of color resulted in an extended two months for completion. This leads us to the second most highly commented feature being the LED taillights that are cleverly concealed and incorporated into the graphic design. You don’t really even notice them until they are needed when the brake lights actually come on. Keeping with the attention to detail, the inner fenders and under carriage have been smoothed and painted with the same quality and finish as the exterior.

The interior also has a decidedly modern twist, with the dash wrapping around onto the door panels, and an integrated waterfall console that separates the seats, reminiscent of a Corvette. The custom fiberglass door and floor panels were covered in brown ultra leather and light cocoa suede, while the custom fabricated seats were covered completely in light cocoa suede. Classic white faced gauges reside in the custom dash, and a hidden drop-down panel under the dash houses all the switches and stereo.

Power comes from an all chromes LS1 Corvette crate motor from Street & Performance pushing out 405 horse power, which new has hidden coil packs, polished heads, and custom headers with an all stainless steel exhaust. Behind it resides a 4L60E overdrive automatic transmission, and both the engine block and transmission have been smoothed and painted to match the frame. Speaking of the frame, it is a custom TIG welded stainless steel unit, which was smoothed and painted a custom shade of gun metal gray. To get that great stance the custom DTR/Mustang II based front end is fitted with Aldan chromed shocks, out back is a custom fabricated 9-inch Ford rear end with a 3.89 posi third member, and the entire suspension is augmented with Air Ride Technology air bags allowing for that scraping profile when parked, yet it can be raised up to five inches for an acceptable driving height when it is time to hit the open road. Keeping it all in check, Wilwood brakes with polished calipers, plus drilled and slotted rotors at all four corners bring things to a halt on command.

The “Swoopster” is a true outstanding labor of love that was finally completed and made its grand debut appearance into the hot rod world at the NSRA Southeast Street Rod Nationals held in Tampa in 2004. Obviously it has gotten lots of admiring looks, plus many awards since then. Dennis told us that he is very happy to be fortunate to have the privilege of being the proud owner of a Willys....and not one, but two! Who said dreams don’t come true? CN