Expression Session: Slammed Willys Jeep

Aidan reimagines a World War II-era Willys Jeep as a wild post-war hot rod

Photographers: Aidans Design & Illustration

IF YOU ask any street machiner or hot rodder what their favourite military vehicle is, there’s a decent chance it’d be the Willys Jeep. So it’s no surprise that the Yanks have an awesome array of flat-fendered rods, many ratted-out or military themed, and some being a combination of both.

First published in the December 2021 issue of Street Machine

On home soil, you wouldn’t see near as many, but that’s what made Adam Birch’s proposition for his 1945 Willys Jeep so attractive: what would his ’45 Jeep look like if a returned serviceman (such as his grandfathers) obtained one and hot-rodded it in the post-WW2 era, using whatever parts he could find once he returned home?

Being a fourth-generation retired serviceman himself, for Adam a military theme was a given, and the Jeep would be on the receiving end of a suite of period-correct modifications such as a flathead V8, radical roof chop, and a variety of Model A and Model T componentry.

With Adam’s brief in mind, we set about getting the Jeep’s stance and suspension spot-on before getting into the finer modifications. Starting with a ’45 Jeep 3D model, I separated the wheels and tyres, chassis and body, and moved them around until we achieved the stance and attitude we were after, settling with a 100mm body drop to get the bottom of the chassis rails level with the lower edge of the body, and tipping the nose down for some slight forward rake. I then moved the rear wheels and tyres outboard, and widened them by three inches to fill out the raked stance. The front wheels were also moved forward to allow enough room for the tall original bar-grip tyres at full-lock and the Model A hot rod-style suspension.

To fit in with the rest of the lowered body, the front grille was notched at the bottom edge to make way for the chassis rails, while its top edge was extended over the top of the radiator, to fill it out a bit now that the guards have been removed and hide mounting and wiring for the headlights and indicators.

Model A hot rod-style suspension components were then added in, albeit much wider to suit the broader Jeep frame. The front of the chassis rails were extended forward so the front bumper could be retained but kept clear of all steering and suspension components.

Being a post-war hot rod, Henry’s flathead V8 is Adam’s mill of choice for the Jeep, swathed in a thorough coat of Military Grey (bar some smaller components). In keeping with the military theme, two .50-calibre ammo tins are mounted to the firewall with a modified Jeep rear jerry can holder to hide the battery and fuse box from view. Miniature steel ‘Brodie’ helmets will sit atop the air cleaners, inspired by the helmets on Norm Hardinge’s wild ’32 Ford hot rod.

The Jeep already has a neat custom-fabbed hardtop from its previous owner, so this served as the starting point for the cabin and roof structure. A few details on it have been cleaned up, and its front portion has been cut back to suit the roof chop. Hard side and back panels were then designed to match the profiles of the body and the roof, with simple rectangular windows on each side.

In the cab, the floor has been raised 100mm as a provision for the body drop, with an added hump to accommodate the new driveshaft position, and seat mounts have been cut down to make sure Adam and his sons’ noggins don’t hit the roof while out cruising, since the cabin height is now a mere fraction of what it was. The controls have been shifted to the right side by the previous owner – using an early Holden column and Mazda Capella steering box – in the same spirit as Adam’s grandfathers would have built the Jeep back in the day, so Adam plans to leave it that way.

At the rear, the chassis rails were extended out slightly so the rear bar could be mounted behind the back of the cab, and the original jerry can holder remains. The factory tail-light holes were filled in, with the lights themselves swapped out for Model A units, recessed higher up the cab wall to make room for the relocated rear bar.

Adam has plans to begin the build with his sons Joshua (18) and Brayden (15) at the start of next year, alongside his 1961 Tank Fairlane Ranch Wagon and Joshua’s International AL110, and plans to enlist the extensive expertise of his hot rod club, Castlemaine Rods, to get it built, engineered and registered. “I want to get it as close as we possibly can to these renderings,” he says. “Most other Jeep rods are a Frankenstein of a lot of different parts and styles; this one just works!”

How awesome will this thing look cruising the streets of Melbourne when it’s done?


  • Body dropped 100mm
  • Model A Ford front suspension
  • Flathead V8
  • Rear chassis notch
  • Custom hardtop and cab sides

Got a cool idea for a build that you’d like to see brought to life in Expression Session? Email us at [email protected] with a detailed explanation.