1955 Bermuda and Custom Models, Oh So Hard To Find.

glennstin

Bigger Hammer
Joined
Apr 29, 2011
Messages
45
Location
Smithfield, Maine
First Name
Glenn
Willys Model
Other
Willys Year:
1956
#1
I guess it's become an obsession. I've been playin' with Willys for 60 years and here it is very late in the game only to find a need to fill my life with probably the oddest products from Toledo.

So far I've hauled home three examples of the last Toledo-built passenger car with a Willys name along with a few wayward parts.

First, we should look at why so strange with a bit of history. Hopefully others will chime in here to keep things straight. In early 1953 when Henry Kaiser and Son, Edgar, found a way to buy Willys (and that's a story in itself), the products from Willow Run were losing money rapidly.

Once settled in Toledo the Kaisers went on a rampage to stop the bleeding. Kaisers were face-lifted, Henry J dropped, and Willys only passenger car, the Aero, needed a transfusion. Model identification became a multi times a year merry-go-round. Gone were the post-WWII easy time to sell any car. Selling an Aero against the outdated sixes of the Big Three yielded some results in '53 & '54, but just imagine going against that new '55 Chevy V-8 or a pretty '55 Ford. A little lipstick was applied to the Areo to create the '55 offerings. Not enough money to really change much, or even create an advertising budget to sell 'em, Kaiser pulled the plug after only about 5900 were built.

Probably many of us have never seen a 1955 Willys car at a show. If you are an AACA Member you were treated to a 1955 Bermuda Center Fold a few months back. This beauty owned by a Massachusetts friend, I've followed since it was for sale at the Stowe VT meet several years ago. I didn't quite put a deal together and it's a good thing as the car today is way past my abilities. As you've seen in previous posts I captured a reasonably nice driver quality Bermuda from SC. Then a '55 Custom showed up in KS that I couldn't resist. Now, this darned virus has us all confined looking thru our notes of explorations from years past. There I find a note about visiting a field full of rusting critters 2-3 years ago which included a Bermuda hulk. I don't suppose any of you are afflicted like this, but I just had to chase it down.

Yesterday a 250 mile round trip got us out of the house and a trailer full of "Why Did You Need That?" from the other half. The easy answer is it's a very early built edition, SN # 52567-10247. of 2156 built with the flathead 226 engine. It has the upper chrome strip on the rear quarters which I'm told was only on the first ones built. I've been in contact with Rick Kamen who sells a great reference titled "WILLYS AERO: A Reference Guide to the Cars Built in Toledo, Ohio, from 1952-1955" A fellow from Illinois well known in Aero circles also has fed me sources and hints. He says the chrome strip was because the holes were already drilled in the hold-over '53 & '54 bodies and the strip covered them up.

Anyway you seldom see a car with that strip, and as bad as it is, I had to drag it in. OK, 1955 fans, it's your turn.

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glennstin

Bigger Hammer
Joined
Apr 29, 2011
Messages
45
Location
Smithfield, Maine
First Name
Glenn
Willys Model
Other
Willys Year:
1956
#2
Oh, I forgot to mention: Several boxes of chrome and other goodies, most of which are '55 only parts, came along with this hulk. Parts cars are even better when stuff is already unbolted and ready to use with your other choices. A very low production vehicle means almost no repro parts are available and having several parts for each position is an answer. Let's hear from others needing stuff. In case you missed it here's a peek at that AACA National award winner as it came back to Stowe and one other on the Hershey Show Field.


Glenn

1955WillysBermuda9.JPG 1955WillysBermuda10.JPG 1955WillysBermuda2016Hershey1.JPG
 

Vintage Don

Well Oiled
All-Star
Joined
Oct 9, 2017
Messages
1,468
Location
Medina, Ohio
First Name
Don
Willys Model
Pickup
Willys Year:
1948
#3
Very good posts, I enjoyed them. Wonderfully rare cars, indeed. I would love to wander that rusty graveyard you pictured! I am consumed with the same disease, and have spent almost 50 years dragging home equally "questionable" treasure - but thankfully, beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder...

I've been by your space a few times at Hershey, but always manage to miss you while you're inside your trailer. But there are other friendly fellows there too. Cheers.
 

colinsjeeps

Gear Grinder
Joined
Aug 23, 2012
Messages
8
Location
Phoenix AZ
First Name
Colin
Willys Model
Jeepster
Willys Year:
1948
#4
Oh, I forgot to mention: Several boxes of chrome and other goodies, most of which are '55 only parts, came along with this hulk. Parts cars are even better when stuff is already unbolted and ready to use with your other choices. A very low production vehicle means almost no repro parts are available and having several parts for each position is an answer. Let's hear from others needing stuff. In case you missed it here's a peek at that AACA National award winner as it came back to Stowe and one other on the Hershey Show Field.


Glenn

View attachment 74351 View attachment 74352 View attachment 74353
Is that red Bermuda the one that Jim Mackay owned? Your latest acquisition has some promise! Colin
 

glennstin

Bigger Hammer
Joined
Apr 29, 2011
Messages
45
Location
Smithfield, Maine
First Name
Glenn
Willys Model
Other
Willys Year:
1956
#5
The Red Bermuda that was the AACA Center Fold (Shown here as it returned to Stowe, VT all restored and before it went to Hershey for a BIG WIN) was a very solid original Texas car which I saw several years ago in the flea market at Stowe. I drooled, panted, and tried my best to capture it, but it slipped away to a Massachusetts buyer. Sometimes fate protects these rare babies from us Wanna- Bees and the restoration job this guy did is way past anything I am capable of. I've followed it carefully as the restoration progressed, even moved the new owner into flea market spaces beside mine at the new Waterbury location of the Stowe meet. (NOTICE: The Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts at Waterbury, VT scheduled for Aug. 6-9, 2020 has been CANCELLED due to the virus). The restorer and his brother invited me especially to be a part of the return to Stowe and again as it majestically drove onto the AACA Show Field at Hershey. What a thrill to watch! AACA officials promoted it to National Awards and what you see in "Antique Automobile" is probably the best 1955 Willys Bermuda on the planet. I'm just a bystander, but like a proud Daddy, life is good.

My red / white '55 Bermuda is a candidate equally capable, if the right guy got a hold of it. It has SC, FL and TN connections all mostly in the hands of the Willys Dealer who ordered it and kept it in his family with very low mileage, missing all the hash elements that destroyed these easily. ( I have almost complete history) Only a very few survive in Driver Quality condition. I'm 77 and a short time holder. Unless a calamity happens, it will be someday available to another enthusiast. History will dictate its future. Until another day, its use will be limited, and its protection a given. I'll be gathering top quality parts on the shelf as we enjoy each other. Even that junk yard rat shown here is yielding '55 only parts I didn't have previously.

Stay tuned as this saga continues.

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