1941 Willys "Son of Night Prowler" Is a Nostalgia Gasser With a Touching Story

Established in 1908, Willys is mostly known for the MB Jeep, the spiritual predecessor of the modern Wrangler. But Willys also made a long list of automobiles before WWII. They're far from iconic, but two of them became famous thanks to the hot rodding and drag racing scenes.
1941 Willys Americar gasser 7 photos
Photo: Race Your Ride/YouTube
1941 Willys Americar gasser1941 Willys Americar gasser1941 Willys Americar gasser1941 Willys Americar gasser1941 Willys Americar gasser1941 Willys Americar gasser
I'm talking about the Willys 77 of the early-to-mid-1930s and the Willys Americar of the early 1940s. These cars won many drag racing championships in the 1960s and are still popular as nostalgia gassers in 2022. And this black beauty dubbed "Son of Night Prowler" is one of the coolest 1941 Willys racers I've seen in a long time.

Recently showcased at Byron Dragway's Glory Days drag race event, this 1941 Willys is not a historic racer, having been built in recent years. However, it's as accurate as nostalgia gassers get and it's a tribute to the original "Night Prowler" that was raced in the Midwest from the 1960s through the 1980s.

The latter was also a 1941 Willys, which was sold in the 1990s to finance another build. And here comes the touching part: the guy who built "Son of Night Prowler" is the son of the racer who drove the old "Night Prowler" at the drag strip for two decades. Yup, it's a father and son affair that's keeping the flame alive 60 years and counting.

"Son of Night Prowler" actually started life as a street-legal hot rod. According to YouTube's "Race Your Ride," it hit the streets with a custom interior and various modern amenities.

But that didn't last long, as the owner wanted to take it to the drag strip as a tribute to his dad. And he obviously went for a recreation of the original "Night Prowler" with matching black paint, a similar name, and period-correct wheels.

And it's quite the slingshot, too, thanks to a 555-cubic-inch (9.1-liter) big-block Chevy V8. Sure, it's not as quick as a modern dragster, but the all-motor mill packs enough oomph to push the Willys down the quarter-mile in less than 12 seconds. Watch it do burnouts and noisy passes in the video below.

If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram X (Twitter)
About the author: Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea profile photo

Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories