1959 Willys Utility Wagon - SOLD
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  • Overview & History
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There’s plenty of no-nonsense utility here and it looks ready to tackle off-road adventures, but it’s also well-dressed enough to be at home on the streets.

Following World War II, the automotive changed as much as it remained the same. On the one hand, most automakers were cranking out facelifted 1942 models, but on the other, personal utility and heavy-duty trucks were brand new to the market. Dodge rolled out the industrial-strength Power Wagon, Marmon-Herrington was building 4-wheel-drive conversions for Ford pickups, and Willys-Overland, fresh off of building a record number of GPWs for the military, rolled out the Willys station wagon and utility wagon. It was a great time to be a consumer if you were looking for a vehicle that could work hard AND play hard.

The Willys Station Wagon was introduced as a 2-wheel-drive wagon in 1946, and it was the first all-steel wagon produced in America. That was as much by necessity as by design, as resources were limited at Willys-Overland so they had designer Brooks Stevens create a stylish, modern body that would sit on their standard chassis. To save money on tooling, the new wagon body used no deep-draw dies and in fact many body panels were stamped out by the same companies that made sheetmetal housings for household appliances like washing machines and refrigerators. That cleverness is evident throughout, with seats that can be removed to improve cargo capacity, available overdrive transmissions, and a simple dash layout that could accommodate both left- and right-hand drive configurations for sale around the world.

By the time this 1959 Willys Utility Wagon was built, the Kaiser Corporation had taken over Willys-Overland and created the first seeds of what would become AMC. The Utility Wagon featured 4-wheel-drive where the Station Wagon was always 2-wheel-drive, as well as the “Super Hurricane” 6-cylinder engine that was 30% more powerful than the standard “Hurricane” 4-cylinder. If you want an early Jeep wagon, this is clearly the one to own.

Thanks to several decades in a west coast museum, the sheetmetal on this red and white Utility Wagon is in fantastic condition with no evidence that it has ever been rusty or damaged. The bright paint scheme highlights the straight lines and contemporary-looking greenhouse, and especially brings out the familiar Jeep front end with flat fenders and the 7-bar grille, cues that still exist in today’s Jeeps. Finish quality is probably better than new and while there are some minor signs of use since the restoration was finished, it remains extremely attractive. The doors swing closed and latch with light effort and a solid sound and the two-stage tailgate swings on well-oiled hinges and secures itself well so it doesn’t rattle. As a civilian vehicle and the top-of-the-line on the Willys side, there’s plenty of chrome, including a pair of heavy-duty looking bumpers with an accessory grille guard, bright trim on the grille, hood, and headlights, and a neat rear license plate housing that pivots 90 degrees so it’s visible even with the tailgate in the down position. There’s plenty of no-nonsense utility here and it looks ready to tackle off-road adventures, but it’s also well-dressed enough to be at home on the streets.

The interiors were basic, no question about it. It’s right there in the name: Utility Wagon. Designed to work in the suburbs as well as on oil fields and farms, it’s a good balance of comfort and simplicity. Two seats up front have been recently reupholstered in tough black vinyl with bright red stitching, a nice upscale touch that really makes a big difference when you open the door. The large white steering wheel is ideal for wheeling the 4-wheel-drive SUV around town and in the dirt, and despite live axles at both ends and heavy-duty hardware, steering feel and precision are pretty good. The gauges have all been rebuilt, amounting to a single large speedometer with built-in fuel and temperature gauges, with idiot lights for oil pressure and generator. The knobs and levers are self-explanator and easy to operate, and this truck includes a Willys-logo lighter and accessory flashlight mounted under the dash—a nice find. Levers on the floor manage the 3-speed manual transmission as well as the front axle and 2-speed transfer case underneath. Floor coverings are industrial-strength rubber, although the beautiful wood skid bars in the cargo bay are surely nicer than new. This truck also includes a custom-fitted rear carpet that protects that lovely floor, as well as a set of freshly upholstered seats that match the fronts, making this a family vehicle that accommodates four passengers with ease.

The 4-wheel-drive Utility Wagon was introduced in 1949 and by 1959 the 226 cubic inch “Super Hurricane” inline-6 engine was making a reasonable 115 horsepower with surprising smoothness. Rebuilt to stock specs, it starts almost instantly with just a little choke and idles well hot or cold. Thanks to a nice, flat torque curve, it pulls the Utility Wagon around with enthusiasm and makes nice sounds while it’s doing it. Nice detailing includes proper silver paint on the block, a heavy-duty oil bath air cleaner, and an original generator to make electricity. All the wiring is brand new and beautifully done, and there’s a giant radiator up front so overheating is a non-issue, even in slow going off road. By 1959, the Willys was 12 volts, so it cranks over quickly and easily, headlights are bright, and service is easy with great parts availability almost anywhere. The only modifications are a fuel pressure regulator before the carburetor and it runs so well, I’d leave it alone. Just get in and enjoy!

There are significant upgrades underneath, not the least of which is a set of axles from a later CJ, which bring much more highway-friendly 3.73 gears in place of the original 4.88s, and this Utility Wagon cruises at 60 MPH without any strain at all. It’s not quite as snappy off the line, but it’s an acceptable trade-off, and there’s still low range for serious off-roading at low speeds. In addition, there’s a big disc brake at all four corners, giving this Utility Wagon impressive braking power that’s more than a match for its performance—great for the family who wants to hit the road. The 3-speed manual transmission shifts nicely with synchros on 2nd and 3rd, the 4-wheel-drive system was completely serviced so it works properly, and there are modern locking hubs on the front axle to improve fuel economy slightly. A brand new exhaust system has a pleasant 6-cylinder grumble and to be honest, ride quality is quite good thanks to modern tube shocks. The wheels are custom-built pieces that replicate the original 16-inch steel wheels, but have slightly more offset and width to give the Utility Wagon broader shoulders with those 215/85/16 Goodyear off-road radials.

This is probably the nicest Willys Utility Wagon you’re ever going to see. It’s not perfect, it’s not over-restored, but it’s exceptionally clean and well finished. There’s far more invested in the truck than the asking price, and it’s in exactly the right condition to be used and enjoyed as intended. Go out and have an adventure, this Utility Wagon is ready to join you!

Harwood Motors always recommends and welcomes personal or professional inspections on any vehicle in our inventory prior to purchase.

Vehicle: 1959 Willys Utility Wagon
Price: SOLD
Stock Number: 117032
Mileage: 51,382
VIN: 5416S46951
Engine: 226 cubic inch inline-6
Transmission: 3-speed manual
Gear Ratio: 3.73
Wheelbase: 104.5 inches
Wheels: 16-inch steel wheels
Tires: 215/85/16 Goodyear radials
Exterior Color: Red and White
Interior Color: Black vinyl
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