JOEL TAN'S WILLYS JEEP

A POST-WWII CIVIL­IAN JEEP IN­FUSED WITH JA­PANESE PARTS AND FILIPINO FLA­VOR

Super Street - - Contents - Lott WORDS Austin Wil­liams PHO­TOS Zack

Why is there a Jeep in Su­per Street? To un­der­stand, you have to take a peek into the mod­i­fied car scene half­way around the world, specif­i­cally 7,000 miles away in the Philip­pines. Joel Tan grew up there and got his start mess­ing with a Jeep just like this one when he was 16 years old. Joel ex­plained that in his home­town of Manila, the Willys Jeeps are a start­ing point for most young car en­thu­si­asts. They’re prac­ti­cal, cheap, and sim­ple enough that en­gine swaps are quite com­mon. Joel swapped a 3T in­line-four from an ’82 Toy­ota into his first Jeep, then used it to go street rac­ing around the Green­hills Shop­ping Cen­ter in Metro Manila.

Fast-for­ward more than 25 years, and Joel now calls Los An­ge­les home. In his garage re­sides a ’72 Nis­san Sky­line with a port and pol­ished L28 straight-six, Mikuni carbs, fender flares, and SSR wheels, plus a '72 Corolla that fea­tures a re­freshed 2T-G en­gine, cus­tom coilovers, Enkei wheels, and a JDM aero. So, how did this Jeep fit in? Well, he wanted to recre­ate the ve­hi­cle of his child­hood, the ve­hi­cle that taught him how to turn a wrench in the first place. Then he added, “I re­ally wanted to chal­lenge my­self.”

This par­tic­u­lar ’46 Willys Jeep was picked up as a rolling shell with a wind­shield from a San Diego–based mil­i­tary vet­eran. The SR20DET and fivespeed gear­box out of an S14 Sil­via came later, which was quite easy to source from JDM Cal­i­for­nia. Joel ad­mit­ted the Nis­san pow­er­train barely fit in the Jeep’s tiny en­gine bay, but de­spite the tight squeeze, he ex­plains he didn’t have to mod­ify the fire­wall or frame—just cut the trans­mis­sion tun­nel to make the swap work. Up front, a ra­di­a­tor in­tended for a Dat­sun 240Z some­how fit into place, and an in­ter­cooler he had lay­ing around from a pre­vi­ous project (ro­tary-pow­ered ’72 Toy­ota Corolla) was mounted front and cen­ter so there was no mis­tak­ing this Jeep was boosted.

Me­chan­i­cally, the SR20 is as close to fac­tory as pos­si­ble, with a stock ECU map and 550cc in­jec­tors Joel drilled out to a lit­tle more than 600cc. “That’s the way we do it in the Philip­pines,” he chuck­led. The Jeep is loud (the ex­haust ex­its un­der­neath the driver seat), but it’s sur­pris­ingly ef­fi­cient. When Joel took it out for its first road test, he used $5 worth of gas and thought the gas gauge was bro­ken. Spo­ken like a man with a ro­tary in the garage…

“When peo­ple see this Jeep in per­son, it’s some­thing they can’t imag­ine see­ing in the States."

As for his wife’s thoughts about the loud and low Jeep? He ex­plained the orig­i­nal Jeep he built, which he still owns in Manila, is the ve­hi­cle that brought them to­gether. Af­ter rac­ing through Green­hills one night, he drove by his fu­ture wife and her friends wait­ing for a taxi. He stopped, she got in, and 28 years later they’re still mar­ried!

Af­ter our pho­to­shoot, we asked Joel which of his three project cars he en­joys driv­ing most. He con­cluded, “When peo­ple see this Jeep in per­son, it’s some­thing they can’t imag­ine see­ing in the States. It gets so much more at­ten­tion, and I love see­ing peo­ple’s re­ac­tions ev­ery time.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.