1953 Willys Aero Lark 161 Flathead Six from North America
Old school gas sipping econocar
Bad clutch/pressure plate.
Rusted gas tank.
Non functional electrical system.
Extreme underbody rust.
Carb really needs a rebuild.
Bought the car for 400 bucks, probably too much considering the extremely deteriorated shape it is in, the car dealership that had it before thought it was worth $1850.
At the moment it is all original. The uni-body construction is of very poor quality. Very thin metal for the frame rails, the hood of my pickup has thicker metal! There is practically nothing left of the frame rails from the cowl back. At least the A-Arm mounts are solid. The rear most spring hanger on the driver's side is no longer connected to the car. The transmission cross-member is connected to the car with chains wrapped around square tubing on the inside of the car. Somewhere along the line someone decided to do a "restoration" of the car using wooden 2x4's for rocker panels and chicken wire and body filler instead of sheetmetal. I took off a foot square chunk of body filler that that is just the tip of the bondoburg that awaits. No actual attempt was made to make any of the repairs structurally sound.
The little 161 flathead engine is the best thing about the whole car. Thing runs like a champ with no oil consumption, nor does it smoke. It propels the car reasonably well, but the rear end ratio is a little steep. Car revs high, but the clutch is so bad that now it could be just that it is slipping so much. The little 3 speed seems to work well enough, but it is hard to down shift from 3rd, might be due to the bad clutch and pressure plate.
I haven't taken this car on any long trips, usually just short little jaunts about a mile or two down the road. Longest one way trip was 12 miles on back roads. Car still does not have functional brakes so I don't really take it anywhere where there is traffic. It pulls a little one way or another. The ride is nice, handling is about what I would expect from a 57 year old car. The front end suspension is a fairly modern one compared to other cars of the era.
Parts availability is pretty poor for front end parts and brake parts. Engine/transmission stuff is pretty simple to find, and the parts cost are reasonable, no doubt due to the car's more famous siblings, the CJ series.
Due to the extreme rust issues, the car is not safe to drive, even though I take it out for the occasional spin. I think mounting this thing on a modern chassis is in its future.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 30th November, 2009