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Hairy Canary 1939 Willys Pickup Fought the Gasser Wars Along the U.S.-Canada Border

Hairy Canary 1939 Willys Pickup Fought the Gasser Wars Along the U.S.-Canada Border

Fast: If you hear the phrase gasser, what’s the first phrase that involves thoughts? We guess a well-liked reply is Willys, extra particularly the firm’s fashions assembled throughout the 1930s and early 1940s. Certainly, they’ve been an enormous hit with drag racers way back to the late 1950s, a selection we’ll get into in a bit.

One such classic racing Willys, the Hairy Canary, belongs to Cloverdale, British Columbia, resident Dave Love. Canada has been a hotbed of scorching rodding actions for many years, fueled partially by the creation of HOT ROD journal and different publications. Velocity outlets appeared round the nation as nicely, with the B.C. province being notably lively. Cal-Van in Vancouver, as an example, opened in 1952, although considered one of the enterprise companions had already begun importing high-performance elements into Canada underneath that identify in the 1940s. By the way, merchandise typically handed custom inspections as “marine equipment” to keep away from taxation.

Dave Love did an ideal job absolutely refurbishing this real ’39 Willys gasser, infamous in Canada (its homeland) in addition to throughout the border the place it additionally raced. In contrast to its 1960s iteration, the Hairy Canary will get sometimes pushed on the road, though the mechanical gasoline injection makes it finicky at occasions.

In the new millennium the scene stays robust in B.C., with a core group having a deep appreciation for American and Canadian scorching rod historical past particularly. Dave, one among these protagonists, took a liking to hopped-up jalopies at age 10, because of a pile of previous scorching rod and custom automotive magazines provided to him by a pal of his father’s. Afterward, his curiosity led to the development of a 1928 Ford roadster, which graced the pages of Deluxe a couple of years in the past (“The Border Roadster,” Nov. 2016).

In 1999, Dave unearthed the stays of the Hairy Canary Willys, a 1939 pickup extensively raced in B.C. and throughout the border. It had initially been constructed by Bert Straiton of Abbotsford, B.C., in the early 1960s, shortly after rivals realized the benefit of utilizing Willys cars. In reality, he particularly appeared for a 1937 to 1942 Mannequin 37 (the firm renamed it Americar for 1941-1942), ultimately deciding on a ’39 hauler.

The Hairy Canary sometimes competed in B/Fuel or C/Fuel, two of the quickest courses in NHRA’s mega-popular Fuel program. Word the chromed metal wheels, a extra reasonably priced choice than the magnesium and aluminum rims of the period.

However why this sudden fascination with the Willys? To know, you might want to flip again the clock to the late 1950s, when drag racers first started tweaking these automobiles. A part of the attract lay of their weight, with the 1933-1936 Mannequin 77 tipping the scale at 2,zero60 kilos, lighter than a three-window 1932 Ford by about 300 kilos. In his ebook Gasser Wars, writer Larry Davis lists the weight of the bigger 1939 Mannequin 37 at 2,180 kilos, fairly a bonus over the fashions provided by the Huge Three in the late 1950s, which diversified between 2,450 and a couple of,800 kilos.

The brief wheelbase of the Willys additionally appealed to automotive builders of the period, particularly when you think about the marginally sticky drag tires out there at the time. In different phrases, the prewar Fords and Chevys with longer wheelbases merely couldn’t get the horsepower to the floor. Numbers converse volumes: 100 inches for the Mannequin 77 (106 for the ’32 Ford, as an example); between 100 and 102 for the ’39 Mannequin 37 (112 for the ’39 Ford).

Bert Straiton rightfully thought-about his dragstrip contender to be good sufficient to enter exhibits in the Pacific Northwest. Right here it’s wanting its greatest in Canada’s 1967 Vancouver Expo. Since this can be a full-on drag automotive (in contrast to in the present day’s road/strip model), the engine bay lacks a radiator. As a substitute resides a spun Moon tank.

The consensus was that Willys fashions additionally provided higher weight switch to the rear axle than different cars, because of the Mannequin 77 and 37’s greater middle of gravity. All these causes made them prime materials for drag motion, particularly since they remained cheap. Scorching rodders had little curiosity in them, judging Fords and Chevys extra interesting. Racers akin to Okay.S. Pittman (’41 Mannequin 37), George Montgomery (’33 Mannequin 77), along with Glen Ward and Carl Taylor (’34 Mannequin 77), led the pack in the late 1950s; however many others adopted. A number of extra selected light-weight/short-wheelbase options, too, together with the Ford Anglia.

Canada embraced drag racing in the 1950s as nicely, and Bert Straiton was considered one of the younger lovers who joined the mayhem together with his nose-high Hairy Canary. Inbuilt 1962, it proved fairly aggressive in the B/Fuel and C/Fuel courses, operating in the low-11-second bracket. He typically raced at native B.C. tracks, together with Abbotsford Airport in his hometown and Mission Raceway, opened in 1965 and nonetheless lively in the present day. With Abbotsford situated a couple of miles away from the border, Straiton additionally repeatedly ventured to the U.S., competing at a number of Washington State tracks, specifically Seattle, Bremerton, and Arlington.

When discovered 20 years in the past, the ’39 Willys was lacking a handful of key elements, therefore Dave needed to seek for the two-piece fiberglass entrance finish, together with the field. He shortened the latter Eight inches.

Motivation got here courtesy of a high-compression Chevy 301ci small-block fortunately revving to 9,000 rpm. It featured widespread gasser attributes, from the Enderle stack injection to the Vertex magneto and Hooker fenderwell headers. The ’39 Willys chassis and manufacturing unit I-beam with inventory drum brakes remained in place, however Bert re-arched the entrance leaf springs to boost the nostril. Ponies traveled via a BorgWarner T10 transmission to a ’55 Chevy rear with 6.37 gears and inventory brakes. Inside facilities have been stored to a minimal, with modified chrome-legged kitchen chairs welded to the flooring.

The Hairy Canary remained lively till 1968. Straiton continued competing with different automobiles, although he considers his yellow Willys “the hairiest gasser I’ve ever raced.”

Some fanatics keep in mind the truck for its good end, therefore Straiton sometimes entered automotive exhibits. By the way, he misplaced the fiberglass hood when it flew off the car and right into a river as he was trailering the automotive over a bridge on his means house from one among these occasions.

In Dave’s well-equipped storage, the Willys retains firm together with his 1928 Mannequin A roadster, which we profiled in the Nov. 2016 problem (“The Border Roadster”). It’s actually a neat piece, that includes a number of 1940s attributes, resembling a Hallock windscreen and a Stromberg-fed ’47 flathead V8.

Few people confirmed any curiosity in these dragstrip relics when Dave Love discovered the Canary in the yard of an previous scorching rodder 20 years in the past. It appeared moderately forlorn; solely the cab and doorways remained of the physique, although the body was nonetheless fitted with the Willys entrance axle and parallel leaves, and a 1957 Oldsmobile rearend.

Dave eagerly searched for additional information on the truck’s historical past, with little success. It had not been raced since the late 1960s. One piece of the puzzle pertains to the 1980s, when it sat in a B.C. muffler store for years. He explains, “The guys in the shop would apparently roll it outside during the day to work on customer cars and drink beer after work, telling stories about how fast they were going to run it at the track. I can only assume it was all ‘drunk talk’ and nothing actually ever happened.”

The mean-looking, streamlined headlights with heart-shaped lenses make this truck recognizable as a 1939 mannequin. A yr later, Willys adopted extra conventional lights, considerably akin to 1940 Fords (though the latter had extra pronounced chrome rings).

With the truck’s gasser heritage in thoughts, Dave went on a hunt for lacking items, together with the V8, transmission, rear field and fenders, and two-piece fiberglass nostril. He then added ’39 Willys coupe taillights and an Eight-gallon Moon gasoline tank. He additionally constructed and ran a 283ci V8 with Hilborn injection for 5 years, adopted by a nasty, aluminum-headed 400-inch motor, which he blew up.

It now depends on a 327ci Chevy, bored to 336ci and assembled by Bud Bennett at Kerrisdale Velocity in B.C. It’s outfitted with GM 462-style fuel-injection heads and set for a compression ratio of 10.7:1. The looks is in keeping with the 1960s gasser period, with S&S 1 three/Four-inch fenderwell headers (hooked to Flowmaster mufflers) and the aforementioned Hilborn injection fed by a Hilborn PG150 pump.

The metallic and fiberglass at present put on a number of coats of PPG DP70 epoxy primer, together with door logos harking back to the interval lettering. Nevertheless, Dave nonetheless intends to repaint the car utilizing Canary Yellow lacquer to imitate the 1960s end.

Comp Cams provided the strong camshaft, springs, lifters, and rocker arms. Add TRW pistons, a Weber flywheel, a Centerforce clutch, a Melling oil pump, and a Donovan gear drive, and you find yourself with a dependable powerplant that delivers 418 hp. Dave completed the restoration with a ’65 Corvair steering setup, 4 Competitors Engineering shocks, and ’67 GM disc brakes in entrance, plus a Four.10 ’57 Olds rear full with drums. Lastly, a Hurst shifter hooks to a ’71 Tremendous T10 gearbox.

This mix permits Dave to sometimes drive the hauler on B.C.’s highways, in contrast to Bert Straiton’s track-only model. The truth is, Dave even cruised to our photograph shoot location a couple of miles away from this gasser’s place of inception. We guess Straiton definitely didn’t anticipate such a feat when he started turning wrenches on his drained Willys truck 57 years in the past.

5-spoke magnesium American Racing rims turned a drag racer favourite as quickly as they appeared on the market in 1963. The ’39 pickup runs such real Torq-Thrust fashions, measuring 15×Four and 15×Eight.5. Tires are 5.60-15 Firestones and 30×12.5-15 Mickey Thompson ET Road slicks.The Willys was lacking its tailgate when bought in 1999. Unbelievably, Dave stumbled upon it accidentally in 2015—in a restaurant. “I spotted the original piece on the wall of a 1950s diner in Abbotsford [British Columbia]. The owner wouldn’t sell or trade it, but she allowed me to photograph it, and then I had a local sign shop reproduce the artwork as a decal for the truck’s tailgate.”With mechanical gasoline injection, Joe Hunt magneto, and Cal Customized valve covers, the 327 Chevy (bored to 336 ci) retains an look according to gassers that raced greater than a half-century in the past. Hidden from view is a classic Cal Customized oil pan.A Hilborn gasoline injection setup at present tops the SBC, although Dave just lately managed to find the Enderle unit (purchased new by Bert Straiton) that outfitted the Willys in the 1960s! It nonetheless requires a little bit of restoration, together with the petrified rubber gasoline strains, nevertheless it ought to quickly discover its approach underneath the fiberglass hood.When constructed by Straiton in the 1960s, the cabin housed a pair of cut-down kitchen chairs, chosen for his or her feather-light weight. They’re lengthy gone, therefore Dave went looking for a compact various. He discovered 1966 Austin Mini seats, which supply an honest degree of consolation.The classic Superior 500 three-spoke steering wheel seems proper at residence in the cockpit. You can even make out the custom-mounted Moon throttle pedal additional down, one other era-correct drag racing accent.Take a look at the lovely 1939 gauge cluster. It has a touch of Artwork Deco styling whereas supplying the driver with extra information than most different automobiles of the time (oil strain, gasoline degree, amp, temperature). Dave added the Stewart-Warner oil strain and water temp gauges under.The mattress homes a Moon gasoline tank, along with a heavy Caterpillar D2 battery nearer to the tailgate. No, it isn’t attached, however its weight helps maintain the rear slicks glued to the monitor while serving to weight switch, a trick adopted by many drag racers since the 1950s.

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