Willys-Overland Oddball: The 1950 Alcoa Coupe

In 1950, Willys-Overland and Alcoa partnered teamed up to create a four-passenger prototype coupe based on the automaker’s boxy station wagon. Here’s a closer look at the unusual beast. 



Willys-Overland found reasonable success in the years following World War II with an assortment of Jeep-based consumer vehicles. But all the while, the Toledo-based automaker continued to search for ways to reenter the mainstream passenger car market. The familiar 1948-1950 Willys Jeepster, designed by Brooks Stevens, and the stillborn 1947 Willys 6-70 program (read the Mac’s Motor City Garage story here) were two such efforts. Here’s another one that never quite saw the light of day: The Willys Alcoa Jeep project of 1950.



Also known as Project 6100, the Willys coupe was a joint effort between Willys-Overland and Alcoa, formally known as the Aluminum Company of America, and it was designed in part to explore applications for aluminum auto bodies and components. And as we can easily discern, the coupe was closely based on the production Willys Jeep station wagon and its 104-inch wheelbase chassis.

But in place of the boxy wagon shell, there was a rather oddly styled coupe body—formed in aluminum, naturally—with Jeepster-ish fenders and a panoramic rear window glass that mimics the 1947-1952 Studebaker. Another novel departure from the production models is the wraparound rear bumper, not found on any other Willys product we can recall. Seating for four in the close-coupled cabin was accomplished with a pair of side-facing jump seats in the rear, and a large deck lid opens to a generously sized cargo area.



It seems there were at least two Alcoa coupes built: one with a standard production-style grille assembly as show in the photo just above, and a second example with a unique, customized front grille section as pictured in the lead photo at the top of this page and in the final photo below. Reportedly, the standard-grille version was equipped with a four-cylinder, 134 CID Willys engine, while the custom-grille example was powered by the company’s 161 CID inline six. Obviously, the project never progressed beyond the running prototype stage.

The Alcoa custom-grille job is shown below parked in front of the old Willys-Overland administration building across the street from the Toledo factory. (Next to it is a Brazil-built Willys 2600, based on the American Willys Aero of 1952-1955, wearing 1970 Ohio license plates.) While the stock-grille version was reportedly destroyed, the Alcoa coupe in this photo is still around today in fine condition, owned by the family of a former Jeep engineer. Displayed at vintage car shows around the Toledo-Detroit area, the unique Willys never fails to turn heads.


6 thoughts on “Willys-Overland Oddball: The 1950 Alcoa Coupe

  1. Sure is a sharp looking thing. Wonder why, even in a steel form, something like this wouldn’t make it. Much lesser vehicles made it to production, take your pick. I’d think there would be a huge following for this, perhaps if it had more power. I mean, here’s a genius, like Stevens, and miss’s the boat, that people that bought sporty 2 seaters, like this, didn’t want to plod along with some Army 4 banger( the six wasn’t much better) Put an Olds V-8 in this baby, now we’re takin’.

  2. Howard, I like your style! Imagine how an Olds V8 in this coupe would have changed the hot rod scene which was then dominated by the flathead Fords!
    Studebaker and Dodge/Plymouth were still making 3 passenger coupes back then, so
    I definitely think there would have been a market for the Willys coupe, despite its quirky
    By the way, some years of the Jeep wagons and panel trucks did use wrap around rear bumpers. (’52? ’53?)
    Mac’s, thanks for once again bringing to light a little known automotive gem!

  3. The top looks just like the removable hardtop on my ’48 Davis Divan which is also aluminum. Far fetched, I know, but stranger things have happened.

  4. Guess what….I was born in Toledo very near the old W/O factory, and when I was 13 yrs. old in 1950, I caught a glimpse of this prototype Willys one day in the factory lot.. Yes, I really saw it. It was painted a dark blue, and looked very stylish to a young teenager.

    • And it was not based on the station wagon. Actually was based on the Jeepster.

  5. Once again Willys-Overland of Toledo, Ohio shows us what an imaginative and innovative automotive you to Mac’s Motor Citymanufacturer they were. Use of aluminum in production motor vehicles, think the current Ford F-150. As many of you will also recall Willys used the Knight patent sleeve valve engine in earlier motor cars. It is pleasant to have W/O in the collector car spotlight. Thanks to Mac’s Motor City Garage , which is one of the best and informative blogs for our collector car interests.

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