The Woodill Wildfire was conceived and
produced in Tustin during
1952-58 by Dodge/Willys dealer B. R. “Woody”
still recall that Tustin was home to Woodill
Fiberglass Body Corp., which produced sports
cars Wildfire I and II between 1952 and 1958.
They remember how B.
R. “Woody” Woodill, a most successful Dodge
Willys dealer who after going into partnership
with his father in Downey, then buying him out
in 1948, became a sports car manufacturer.
Woody wanted a
sports car, particularly a Jaguar X K 120, but
the mechanics at his dealership, disagreed. They
said the Jaguar was unreliable and difficult to
repair. His chief mechanic warned him, “Woody,
she will be in the shop more than you’ll be
Woodill was in a
quandary. Most foreign made sports cars had poor
reputations, and no U.S. auto manufacturer was
making one. The solution came when his neighbor,
Howard Miller, a man with a reputation of being
able to make almost anything, suggested, “Why
not build your own sports car using all American
rapidly. Brooks Stevens had used a Willys motor
in his Excalibur J earlier that year. Bill Tritt,
a boat builder, had come up with a Vibrin
Fiberglas sports car body that could be used.
Shorty Post, a hot rod builder, could fabricate
a frame to accept Willys Jeepster suspension
components and adapt to the Glasspar body.
bodies were ordered with specific modifications.
Rear fenders were redesigned to accept the
Willys Areo taillights. A fake scoop was affixed
in front of the hood to balance the taillights.
Two humps in the dash area gave the car the M.G./Allard
Once the bodies
were delivered, work began in a Tustin shop.
Howard Miller assembled the components and made
the final adjustments. The engine was set far
enough back in the car to give it an almost
perfect 50/50 weight ratio. The car, which they
named Wildfire, had superb cornering, a hot cam,
three carbs and headers primed to reach speeds
in excess of 120 MPH.
to keep one car and sell the second to defray
his costs, but Willys decided to produce a
sports car using Woodill’s design. Modifications
were made and six cars were made before Willys
was taken over by Kaiser Frazer. The new
executives refused to replace their Darrin
sports model with his car.
After failing to
interest Ford, Buick and Cadillac, Woody and
Miller designed a kit that could be adapted to a
‘39 Ford frame and running gear. Dubbing it a
“14-hour sports car,” Woodill assembled one live
on the television program, “You Asked for It.”
appeared in four movies, the most notable being
“Johnny Dark,” with Tony Curtis and Piper
Laurie. Woodill managed to keep the Wildfire
alive until 1956 in this country. Then he went
to other countries where he almost made it big
Less than 15 of
the two door two-seater Wildfires I and II were
made between 1952 and 1958. The few surviving
today are collectors items.