Willett Specials Chicago
Hot Rod Showworld: 1978 Annual

Car Builder of the Year: Winner of the ISCA Appreciation Award 1978/79

Harry Willett, well-known car customizer and, more recently, auto show producer, started getting involved with cars at an early age, as many car buffs did, by building model cars. At the ripe old age of 15 he bought his first car, a wrecked 1953 Plymouth coupe. Out of necessity to repair the car, and with a little help from dear old dad, he got his first stab at customizing. While in school, Harry majored in art and used this talent to get more involved in cars by pin-striping and lettering in the early days, and later by designing and building custom cars.

Willett started showing card around 1967 but didn’t get involved in street rodding until after giving up drag racing in 1970. He joined NSRA as a lifetime member and has attended every National event to date. In 1972, he got more involved in showing cars with his construction of the Phoenix T1923 Ford roadster, which ended up in 9th place in the International Championship. He returned the following year with the car redone as the Chicago Fire and ended up 3rd in points Internationally. More and more determined to win the championship he redid the car completely-from the ground up. After coordinating the car and display theme, calling it the DISCO T, he returned for the 1975-76 season and did, in fact win the championship, setting a new four show record of 1068 points which still stands today. The Disco T Roadster was and still is being toured as a feature car across the country.

Enjoying car shows and the many wonderful people he met around the country, Harry wanted to stay involved so he started designing and building other cars to be sued as features in the new Willett Features Tour. He also started producing his own custom shows and joined IASPA to fully support the efforts of the ISCA and the championship.

For Harry Willett, hardly a day goes by without his involvement with cars, because when not designing for building a new car for Willett Features Tours; or working on one of several shows produced by C.A.R. Productions, Inc.; or running Willett Coachwork, Inc., his auto body and chassis shop located in Chicago; or working out details at the new Wilco, Inc. Auto leasing and Daily Rental, his time is spent with the many duties of director of both Chicago custom shows.

In his “spare time” you might find Willett working on a car like the $30, 000, 1957 rolls Royce he customized for Chicago Bears’ running back, Walter Payton. Currently he is working on ideas for a car for Burt Ward who played the part of Robin the “Batman” television series. “I have to know something about a person’s personality before customizing a car for him, “ said Willett.

Although it is not unusual for customizers for spend anywhere from $12, 000 to $60, 000 on their cars, Willett feels that customizing a car is not expressly for those with thousands of dollars and hours to spend. “Depending on how you can spend it,” says Willett, “you can give a car a while new look for about $1,000,” and custom auto shows are prime places to pick up new ideas about jazzing up bodies, interiors and engines. Car customizing can be a very rewarding hobby and sport for any ordinary car buff. It’s now just a sport reserved primarily for the Harry Willets of the world who have added so much to the world of customizing.

This past season Harry once again received more acknowledgements from his peers in the custom car industry. First of all, he was voted “ Producer of the Year” for the Mid-America Division. Then at this years grand finale he won the ISCA Appreciation Award for “Car Builder of the Year”. An award well deserved by a man who puts so much into the International Championship Auto Shows.