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Norb’s unusual Grille on his ’53 Wagon

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Norb purchased this basketcase and is working to transform it into a custom wagon.  However, he is puzzled about the grille.

Norb writes, “I own a 1953 wagon that was a plow truck out in Wyoming for most of it’s life. It came to me with a Ford Y-block motor. The frame and suspension were shot, but the body is pretty good. I chopped the top and put it on a shortened Dodge Dakota chassis with a 318 V8 and 5spd. trans. Should make a nice little hotrod.  I know it was a “Jeep salad” when I got it. It had been hit in the front and repaired many years ago. I cannot ID the grill though. The side aprons have parking lights on them. The air intake hole in mine looks factory, but they are usually below the parking lights.”

I asked Dan for his input.  He wrote, “It looks like someone added a heater inlet hole to an early wagon grill (which were solid and didn’t have a hole) and then added extra marker lights also in a different position than factory. The heater inlet hole looks both larger and higher than what the factory added to the later wagons. I’m not sure when the factory added the heater inlet hole, but my beat guess is late 1950s.”

So, has anyone seen a factory wagon grille with the intake hole where Norb’s is?

For comparison, here is an image search for 1953 Wagon grilles


2 Comments on “Norb’s unusual Grille on his ’53 Wagon

  1. Colin

    I don’t think the heater intake opening in the grille happened until about 1955 or 56 and it was below the factory parking lights. I think Dan’s input is correct. This looks like somebody modified the grille.

  2. Steve E.

    1957 was the first year when Willys started using the type of heater where the fresh air intake plenum is inside the engine compartment, the intake air is from the front of the grill and before fumes could accumulate. (CJ-5’s have an intake on the left side of the grill before the radiator, and you don’t see the opening from the front.) The Wagon/Pickup heater core and fan motor are inside the cab, fastened to the plenum in the engine side of the firewall.

    The earlier heater boxes were entirely inside the cab. Of course, in the 40’s and 50’s, heaters were a factory option in many cars.

    The grill in the photo shows the intake screen cut around the right parking light, and two others were added on the fender skirt. My ’49 Willys has two turn signals added by the PO in the fender skirts, and the parking lights were maintained, so there’s four little lights in front. Early cars did not have turn signals.

    Does anyone know when turn signals were required on Willys Wagons and Pickups? I’ve never owned any Willys between ’53 and ’57, when Spartan turn signal switches were added.

    **Steve E.**

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