Tornado Equipped: 1961 Willys 4×4 Utility Wagon Project – Sold!

Mar 2020 | Classifinds, Wagon Wednesday

Update: This one got away, but if you have your heart set on something similar, email us the details of what you’re looking for or call Rudy directly at (908)295-7330

Our second of four Willys Wagons featured today is this Peacock Blue over teal 1961 Utility Wagon listed on Craigslist in New London, Connecticut where the current owner is asking $2,500 or best offer.   Flipping through our latest hard copy of the NADA Classic, Collectible, Exotic, and Muscle Car Appraisal Guide confirms the seller is asking much less than the current “Low”, “Average”, and “High” retail value range of $7,075, “$17,700, and $34,300, respectively.  

Willys (and later Kaiser Jeep) produced over 300,000 Willys Wagons in the U.S. from 1946 to 1964.  Rather than rely on more expensive traditional techniques, Industrial Designer Brooks Stevens developed the bodies so they could be built by sheet metal fabricators who normally made parts for household appliances and could draw sheet metal no more than 6 inches.  This simplicity provided the Willys Wagon with the distinction of being the first mass-produced all-steel station wagons. In addition to the standard two-wheel-drive model, adding the availability of four-wheel-drive after 1949 such as the example featured here was called the “Utility Wagon” and as such is now considered the first production sport utility vehicle.  From a styling standpoint, this 1961 example features the one-piece windshield which only first became available on 4×4 models the prior year.  The seller documents his Willys has the overhead cam Tornado 230 cubic inch inline six-cylinder engine installed.

What makes the Tornado engine so special is the new engine’s overhead camshaft design, which was the first application of this design in an American-built passenger vehicle.  One unique feature of the design was that the camshaft only had six lobes. One lobe operated both the intake and exhaust valve for each cylinder. This made engineering cam profiles a bit more difficult than conventional two lobes per cylinder (one per valve) designs but allowed the valves to be better arranged for the cross-flow head. Valves were directly opposite their respective ports, and ports were short with wide radius turns.

While clearly a project given the amount of rust, the desirable color combination combined with the presence of a 230 cubic inch overhead cam Tornado engine makes this example a prime restoration candidate versus a restomod or mild custom.  That said, we’re confused by the presence of this engine in a 1961 model as all of our resources indicate Willys Jeep did not offer this new innovative engine until May of 1962.  Consequently, either our sources have this incorrect or we wonder whether this Willys received the upgrade earlier in its lifetime.  You’ll have to determine that during your in-person inspection.  Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“Total project car or great parts car. This Jeep has the rare Tornado 230.
This has all the glass, all seats, door hardware , car is complete.


Engine turns over and cranks with starter. Have not been able to start yet.


2500.00 or best offer

Do you have a Willys Wagon story you’d like to share?  Comment below and let us know!


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