This story is from The Corvette in the Barn and it’s a good one. Make sure to signup for email updates so you will be entered in our weekly book giveaway. Also, send in your own find stories because the best one submitted this year will make it into Tom’s next book. Now back to The Silver Dollar in the Barn, enjoy!
For many enthusiasts, the seed for acquiring an old car is planted early in life. A permanent image of a certain car is burned into the hard drive of the brain, and age does not dilute that image. Such was the case with Chris Unger, a car-crazy youth who was exposed to drag racing early in life. “I was thirteen years old when we moved to Orange, California, and my older brother would let me tag along with him on weekends to Lyons Drag Strip in Escondido,” said Unger. “Early on, I heard there was an old A-Gas Willys sitting in a barn somewhere in Escondido. It apparently belonged to an electrician who lived in the area.”
Unger grew up in the heart of drag racing country during the golden era of the 1960s. Like scores of young guys during that time, he was attracted to the pure horsepower and muscle of the A- and B-Gas cars, especially the Willys gassers that were once common. Unger had never actually seen the Willys gasser, but he had heard the rumors that it was put into storage before he moved to Orange. In his mind’s eye, he knew just what it looked like. He knew it was a 1940 Willys pickup truck called the Silver Dollar, so he imagined it was silver in color. And like all proper gassers of the day, it probably had a straight tubular front axle and magnesium wheels.
“So eventually I found the electrician, Mike, and we became friends over the years. At one point as a young fellow, I was even an apprentice electrician for him.” Even though they had become friends, though, Mike never offered to show Unger the Silver Dollar.
Mike had built the Willys from a stock steel truck in 1960 and originally painted it red. According to Unger, it was featured in some early-1960s rodding magazines before some of the steel parts were substituted for fiberglass and it was painted silver. The hood came from Cal Automotive, but Mike manufactured the fiberglass fenders and pickup bed himself and actually made a fiberglass floor panel to cut the weight. Eventually he had it down to about 1,800 pounds.