Publish date: 2016-04-25 10:07:55
A lot of people always dreamed to have a sports car even in the early 1950s but most are just too expensive. “If it’s expensive to buy one then why not just build your own sports car?” This is the idea that gave birth to the Woodill Wildfire. Created by Blanchard Robert “Woody” Woodill in 1952. The Woodill Wildfire was to be sold as Do It Yourself car kits. The body was made with Glasspar fiberglass so it was light weight making it easy to build for any handy man. In 1951, a fiberglass innovator and boat builder, Bill Tritt, was asked by an army major to build a fiberglass body that was later known as the Glasspar G2. Woodill heard of this and ask Tritt to help him in his soon to be Sports Car Company.
After the World War II, there was a high demand for new cars as there were virtually no production of new cars during the war. People were forced to repair the old ones with materials available, most used fiberglass as it was the easiest to work with. Eventually fiberglass was also used to by people who wanted to make their very own cars.
The rising fame of the sporty European cars and the rising demand for new cars gave an opportunity to small time car builder. Fiberglass body parts did not need any costly machinery and the materials needed were also cheap and easy to find.
Woodill was already experienced in the automobile business as his dad was also a dealer for Maxwell, Willys – Knight, Overland, and also Dodge. In 1948, Woodill became the youngest dealer for Dodge in the country after buying his father’s share of the company. Woodill wanted to have a sports car and eye the famous jaguar XK120 but was dissuade by his manage as the maintenance of the XK120 would be expensive and laborious. He remembered that there was an assembly plant for Willys near Maywood. He planned to build his own car with parts from Willys.
In 1952, Woodill bought 2 new Glasspar bodies from Tritt and became the Series 1 Woodill Wildfire. The Chassis was supplied by Harold “Shorty” Post from Orange, California. The chassis was purposely built for the Glasspar G2. Made of pure iron, the chassis was simple but durable. The suspensions was from a Willys Jeepster; the rear axle came from a Willys Aero. The engine installed was the Willys I-6.
Woodill’s original plan was just to build 2 Wildfire, one was to be sold just to cover the total expense of building his sports car. But probably due to its success, Woodill ordered for the Series 2 Wildfire with some modifications. He raised the hood and added a hood scoop. Changed the windshield, and redesigned the cowl with two humps. Bumpers from the Willys Jeepster were added and Taillights from Willys Aero for the rear fenders. Due to its fiberglass body, the Wildfire Do It Yourself Kit was easy to transport to any part of the USA via the Railway Express.
Woodill boasted that the Wildfire car-kits was so easy to build that it will only take 2 men to build it in just 14 hours. It was proved in the TV show “You Asked For it” with Art Bake0r. This publicity greatly helped boost the success of Wildfire. Although in the show, the stunt was done by 12 men who were probably Woodill’s employees. They converted a 1946 Ford into a Wildfire and it seemed like several of the Ford parts were already unscrewed and seemed like they had practice in all steps. After a quick paint job, Woodill was shown driving the said Wildfire during the show.
In a more realistic setting, Motor Trend had a team to simulate the 14-hour Wildfire build. The simulation was detailed and proved that it was possible to do given you have everything you need. During its time, the Wildfire was usually finished by 6 months, if not more, by the average person.
The success of the Woodill Wildfire made Woodill decide to focus on his own business and sold his Dodge dealership. The Wildfire frame was sold for $228 a $15 refund for returning the radius rods. The body kit was sold for $995 making it the most expensive part. By 1953, the total price for the frame and body kit was $1208 and in 1954 the total price rose to $1617. The total cost of building a Woodill Wildfire would be around $2000 without the cost of labor. A Fully built Wildfire was sold for $3260. Woodill tried to make franchising contracts for the Wildfires with other auto dealers but was not approved.
By the end of 1958, Woodill sold 300 Wildfires, 15 were sold fully assembled and 285 were sold as kits.
This sleek red two-seater Woodill Wildfire is owned by Fred Roth from Thousand Oaks, California. He also has other 1950s sports customs in his humble collection such as a Nash-Healey, a Muntz Jet, a Hudson Italia, and a Kaiser-Darrin. This sexy Woodill Wildfire is the very first prototype for the Series 1 Wildfire. It has Willys six with triple carburetors.
Although not as famous as the other sports cars, the Woodill Wildfire has certainly made its mark in history as the first sports car with fiberglass body to be in production.