Hot Rod|September 2020
Scratch-built 1936 Willys Runs a Rare 800hp V6 Hemi
Tim Bernsau
The big news at the Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS) in January was the revamped Slonaker Award. Named for the man who established the GNRS back in 1949, the Al Slonaker Memorial Award has been presented to the professionally judged best non-roadster at the GNRS ever since 1974. Previously, this prestigious award hasn’t received as much attention as the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) award, but with a new trophy, new sponsor, and a big cash prize, that’s changing.

Like the AMBR award, the Slonaker Award involves a regular-sized trophy presented to the winner, and a larger perpetual award that will feature the names of all winners. Automotive Racing Products is the new sponsor of AMBR and the Slonaker Award. Both awards now include a prize purse of $12,500.

The Willy Wins

The first vehicle to claim the new trophy is this extraordinary 1936 Willys pickup, owned by Ron and Vicki Ernsberger from Napoleon, Ohio. The truck was built by Brian Limberg and the team at The Tin Man’s Garage in Sycamore, Illinois.

Ron has been immersed in hot rodding since he was a grade school kid mowing lawns to earn enough money for the newest issues of HOT ROD, Car Craft, and Rod & Custom. Reading hot rod mags evolved into racing hot rods—and Ron has owned and raced a few. He drove his 1949 Hudson at Bonneville, earning a spot in the 150 MPH Club. His 1938 Willys pickup (one of many Willys in his corral) has raced at the historic Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California. He bought the 1936 Model 77 truck in 2002 from Bill Fowler, another lifelong rodder and gasser aficionado out of Southern California. Ron says the pickup started out as a U.S. Post Office delivery truck—but fate had more exciting plans for it. Once Ron got the truck back to Ohio, he called Brian Limberg at The Tin Man’s Garage.


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September 2020