Jet-powered ’41 Willys a star attraction

ROCKINGHAM — Outside of its unique profile, the reason the 1941 Willys is such a favorite of American hot rodders, even today, is that the four-cylinder Go Devil engine that provided the original power for the iconic coupe was so unreliable that it invited the substitution of ever more powerful alternatives.

First modified fours, then V8s and then supercharged and fuel-injected V8s.

Submitted photo

Submitted photo

Nevertheless, no one, certainly not anyone at Willys-Overland motors, could have anticipated the modification that makes the ’41 Willys that Terry Rosberg will drive this week in the Dieffenbach Super Chevy Show at Rockingham Dragway the most unique ever.

Rosberg’s “American Thunder” Willys is powered by neither a four, six or eight cylinder powerplant. It is powered, instead, by a jet aircraft engine. That’s a twist not even Terry’s late father, Top Fuel dragster, Funny Car and jet car driver Dick Rosberg, could have envisioned.

The second generation jet car driver will top the undercard at this week’s race along with Danny O’Day and the world’s fastest wheelstander. They’ll share the drag strip with a host of Pro Modified cars and the popular early model hot rods that race on the Gear Jammers circuit. Other features including the Camaro Challenge, the Dieffenbach Superstore GM car and truck show and a swap meet.

“We’re always looking for new attractions,” said track owner Steve Earwood, “and there’s not much that’s more unique than a jet-Willys. That’s a little added entertainment because the big draw is going to be the Pro Mod race with North Carolina legend Rickie Smith taking on all comers in his IDG Camaro.

“Rickie just won Indy, he’s leading the points over in the NHRA series and he’s got the fastest nitrous car around. That’s attracted a lot of challengers who’d like to boost their own cred by taking out an eight-time world champion.”

Adult admission for the event is $20 per day. Children 12 and under are just $5. Parking in Rockingham’s main lot still is free.

Filed in: Latest Headlines, Outdoors, Sports

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