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Feb 3, 2013

Photography By: Jared Houston

Words By: Josh Wilson

Fabricating Lunacy: Joshua Joyce’s ’47 Willies Rat-Rod

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Just last summer I had the pleasure of introducing to our readers a 1950 Plymouth that has since then stuck out in my mind. It was a build that was completed by Joshua Joyce who is owner of Village Customs in Virginia and managed to take a disassembled shell and turn it into a neck-breaking hot rod. Well, Joshua is back at again with is latest handiwork that leaves you jaw dropped down a little more with each angle of his newly-created madness.


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The idea for Joshua’s newest project actually came partly from a previous ’39 Dodge rat-rod that he had built with a Corvette motor and 5-speed from a Z28. The end result was a beast when it came to power but the 14 MPG wasn’t exactly optimal for driving the truck too much. Joshua took what he learned from that build and started over with a plan to build something with some power but also something that could be driven regularly and not leave your wallet full of cobwebs.

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Joshua started out with a 1947 Willies pickup with the game-plan–make the truck as light as he could. This led to a completely handmade frame, suspension, and bed, and nearly half of the cab has been fabricated by Joshua. To get the look he was going for, Joshua chopped the top on the Willies cab and also raised the window sills to match the windshield so everything looked proportional.

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Next up is the drivetrain which will leave most doing a double-take as this is not a common direction when it comes to building a rat-rod. The motor is a fully built AHU TDI-M out of a 96 Jetta from Canada paired with a Suzuki Sidekick 5-speed. To go along with the 5-speed, Joshua got his hands on a Sidekick drive-shaft, Grand Vitara rear-end, and a 2WD Samurai front axle with the help of Sean DeVinney who runs aftermarket4x4.com. Even Joshua admits that the combination sounds pretty ridiculous but his goal was to build a truck that did decently on fuel mileage but also not be a total dog when it came to performance.

Joshua feels like he reached his goal as this Willies weighs in at around 1500lbs and makes around 165hp and 375lbs of torque. On top of that it is still in the 40 to 50 mpg range when it comes to the fuel mileage. The key for his success on this build was using the lightest parts he could find so he wouldn’t have to shove a huge motor in just to be able to have a little fun if the occasion arose. Even though in the end the motor was a success, Joshua, with the help of Mike Fall, had quite the battle getting the motor running like it should which led to having the engine down to the block 5 times before all of the issues were sorted out.

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One thing that went quite a bit smoother than the engine build was the frame. Joshua designed it to be very light but very strong at the same time. The frame is completely straight from front to rear running right under the axle. Since the front 3ft section is easily visible, Joshua put a few holes in them and also sleeved them to give them a better look. Both the front and rear suspension were designed to use the factory cab mounts on the Willies that way no extra metal had to be used to prevent adding weight to the chassis.

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When it comes to Joshua’s builds, you just know there are going to be some unique modifications included in each of his creations. By trade he is a welder and ship fitter and he got the chance to work on the Coast Guard USS Eagle which was Hitler’s personal sailing vessel that the U.S. took in WWII. They were replacing a bunch of the original doors so Joshua saved them before they were tossed. The steering arms on the truck are actually door hinges that he bent and modified for a pitman arm and also the light brackets are hinges as well. “I couldn’t help thinking the irony…a U.S. Army Willy truck and an Army M35a2 rear window, “the people’s car” motor, and Hitler’s door bracket, all on the same rat-rod.”

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I always love seeing Joshua’s creations as you just never know what to expect with each one because they always have a flair of their own and this Willies rat-rod is no exception. “This truck is 100% how I wanted it. A lot of people ask me questions like, “why right hand drive, why a 4 cylinder diesel, why 20 inch wheels?” Because I don’t enjoy building things everyone likes. I enjoy building things that I like.” Building with a passion is something we love to see and we can’t wait to see what kind of madness comes out of Joshua’s shop next.

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Joshua would like to thank: “Mike Fall for ALL the hours and days spent on that motor, Sean DeVinney for the hard to find Suzuki parts! Village Customs: Abe Lopez, Charles Williams, Jason Rollins, Lee Clarkson, Katie “Pepper” Moutvic, Lorraine Martin…. Always a pleasure doing shoots with Jared Houston…even if he tries to put my rat rod in a ditch, and thank you guys at Canibeat for the continued interest in what I do.”

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Editor: cristian loza

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