Auction Car of the Week: 1952 Woodill Wildfire
Three things we know about the immediate post-war period in the United States: One, sports cars were hot. Two, you could make anything out of fiberglass. Three, if you sold a brand that didn't have a sports car, you made one yourself. That's the story behind the Woodill Wildfire, a unique sports car based on a custom hot rod chassis and Willys running gear. It's credited with being the first complete fiberglass car sold in the United States. This 1952 Woodill Wildfire is up for sale in New Jersey. Blanchard Robert "Woody" Woodill had a Dodge and Willys dealership in Downey, California between the years of 1952 and 1958. His store was in Downey, California, just 13 miles from downtown Los Angeles. We can only suspect that he saw all kinds of celebrities driving Jaguars and Mercedes SLs at the time, and wanted a piece of that action.
Woodill got in touch with Bill Tritt of Glasspar Corporation, who hand-laid the fiberglass body, and at the same time was building his own fiberglass sports car, the Glasspar G2.
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The frame was constructed by famed hot rod builder Shorty Post at Post Body Shop in Orange, California. According to a 1952 article in Road & Track, the frame offered "no weight saving," but "it does have advantages in the matter of adequate pedal room, ease of assembly, and versatility."
The suspension was completely standard Willys Jeepster issue, with a transverse front leaf spring suspension, and a Willys solid axle in the rear.
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All running gear was contemporary Willys, including the 161 cubic-inch F-head engine. The engine was equipped with a triple carburetor manifold made exclusively for the Wildfire.
Production was incredibly low. Woodill built just three in 1953, and between seven and 11 the following year. Nevertheless, the Woodill Wildfire is credited with being the first complete car available in the States -- if not the world -- with a body made entirely of fiberglass.
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Along with the complete car, Woodill sold Wildfires as kits, so you could go nuts and set them up with whatever engine you happened to have laying around. The Road & Track article shows one with a Ford flathead mill.
Woodill was anything, he was a relentless promoter. Through various contacts, he managed to execute a one-man PR campaign that resulted in seeing his ultra-low production sports car featured in not one, but three major Hollywood pictures.
It appeared in the Tony Curtis film Johnny Dark...
...the Rock Hudson movie Written on the Wind...
...and the Danny Kaye movie Knock on Wood.
The example here looks to be in really decent condition, showing 65,000 miles on the Art Deco Willys odometer. It's for sale at a vintage car dealership in New Jersey, featuring a period correct Oregon license plate.