Hot Rod Showworld: 1978 Annual
Car Builder of the Year: Winner of the ISCA Appreciation Award 1978/79
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 didnt 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
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 persons 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. Its now just a sport reserved primarily for
the Harry Willets of the world who have added so much to the world of
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.