1954 Woodill Wildfire Parked in 1966 Is a Rare Corvette Fighter Ready for the LS Life

When it comes to American-made sports cars, the Chevrolet Corvette gets credit for a lot of things, but did you know that it's not the vehicle that pioneered the segment in North America? In fact, no fewer than three cars beat the Corvette to the sports car market in the early 1950s.
1954 Woodill Wildfire junkyard find 7 photos
Photo: Backyard Barn Finds/YouTube
1954 Woodill Wildfire junkyard find1954 Woodill Wildfire junkyard find1954 Woodill Wildfire junkyard find1954 Woodill Wildfire fiberglass shell1954 Woodill Wildfire fiberglass shell1954 Woodill Wildfire fiberglass shell
Nash Motors was the first U.S. automaker to jump on the bandwagon. It did it in 1951 with the Nash-Healey, a vehicle that resulted from a collaboration with British carmaker Healey. The Kaiser Darrin also arrived a couple of months before the Corvette did, even though production models didn't roll off the assembly line in 1954.

Then there's an even more obscure sports car called the Woodwill Wildfire. Introduced in 1952, it used a fiberglass body just like the Corvette. It was built by Dodge and Willys dealer Blanchard Robert Woodill until 1958 and one of the reasons you haven't heard about it is that he didn't make too many of them.

While production lasted six years, Woodill built only 300 examples. And only 15 were ready-to-drive automobiles, while the remaining 285 were sold as kits. Only nine factory-built Wildfires are known to exist, while many of the kit cars were destroyed when their owners decided to do something else with the chassis and the engine. A sad fate for a vehicle that pioneered the fiberglass sports car in the United States.

Fortunately enough though, some of these old kits cars pop up from time to time. YouTube's "Backyard Barn Finds," for instance, found one in a junkyard back in 2012. Come 2022 and he admits that his attempt to sell the Woodwill failed because most people thought it was a piece of junk. So he decided to keep it and give it a second chance.

Retired from the road sometime in 1966, the car was in rough shape when he bought it. So the project is still in its infancy, but he managed to fix the mangled fiberglass body. And he's dealing with a few dilemmas right now. For starters, he's been unable to have the body certified as an authentic Woodwill.

The way it looks and the way it was built point out in the right direction, but there's no real way to tell for sure. The original title doesn't help either, as it only says it was made from parts and that it had a Studebaker engine. But he's almost certain it's a Wildfire body because it rocks the correct 1952 Willys Aero taillights.

Second, he's finding it hard to decide whether to restore the Woodwill to its original specifications or take the restomod route. The former would be hard to achieve though since there aren't any parts available. Either way, he's planning to drop a modern LS under the hood and use an MG MGA windshield in place of the original unit, so it will probably be something in between.

But no matter the result, this is great news for a rare yet obscure sports car that spent more than 50 years off the road. And hopefully, it will sit beside early Chevrolet Corvettes and Kaiser Darrins at classic car shows soon.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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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.
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