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The Ace of Spade's

Jesse Spade built a 1950 Willys Jeep packing a 400-plus-horsepower Hemi motor swap.

1950 Willys Jeep Hemi

A skilled fabricator can artfully construct most anything their brain can think of. For Jesse Spade, his idea of a Jeep project meant one style and one style only: a hot rod. Odds are usually 10 to 1 that a modified Jeep will live life as a rock-crawling, mud-raking, beach-blasting, off-road monster with 35-inch tires and a barrage of high-output lighting that would set God’s eyes on fire. This particular CJ-3A owned by Spade is an example of a classic Willys shape to make your eyes believe what you’re looking at is original—but don’t be deceived. Like how our brains can cognitively decipher words correctly as long as the first and last letters are correct, this Willys has the basic look of an original but is far from it.

Exterior Exterior Exterior Exterior



While still in high school, Spade began working at a Jeep dealership, eventually making his way up the ladder to running and franchising a Fortec Jeep location in Atlanta. This was where he would learn the ins and outs of the 4x4 legend and use the knowledge gained to proactively build the car himself. Even though Spade has an obvious knack for tinkering with Jeeps, his real hobby has always been riding motorcycles, which is why there are certain cues on the Willys that hark back to motorcycle simplicity.


In order to get the proportions correct and visually appealing, Spade took two Omix-Ada CJ2A fenders and combined them to extend further versus stock. It offers the Jeep a lower, more grounded appearance. Along with the bumpers, he also cut and capped a CJ7 front bumper to fit the shortened front wheelbase.


Aside from the rear shock configuration, the bare-bones approach is apparent when you notice the raw aluminum, flat-black metal flake exterior encapsulating a tub that houses only the essentials. Visually speaking, you get what you see: a couple of reproduction CJ-2A seats, a Lokar shifter and a grab handle for the passenger. Even the “trunk” is only outfitted with a fuel cell. It’s a naked approach that makes it easy to visually understand what’s going on. There’s no innuendo with this ride.

Engine Engine Engine Engine


What really makes the Jeep tick a hot rod thump is the 5.7-liter Hemi motor sourced from a Dodge pickup with a bunch of go-fast and uprated Hemi-specific parts. Spade chose to use injectors from a 6.1 liter, an intake manifold and fuel rail from a 426 Hemi crate motor and an oil pan from a 6.4 liter, resulting in a hodgepodge of Hemi-specific enhancements to make the truck base purr.

Drivetrain Drivetrain Drivetrain


The result is a dyno pull making “around 400-ish horsepower,” as Spade puts it, in a vehicle weighing roughly 2,000 pounds. To put it in perspective, it’s roughly the same power-to-weight ratio as the new Corvette Z06.

Interior Interior


If you’ll notice, there are no gauges. Spade turned to a Diablo Trinity Tuner to use as the command center of the Jeep in order to display vital information with an easy-to-use program. He also used the unit to tune the engine to the correct configuration.


This 1950s sled isn’t perfect, and Spade admits that it still has quirks—buggy brakes, bent rear axle…the wobbles—but the point is to pass this down. Having just had a baby girl, Spade is now focusing on motorcycles for the foreseeable future with his new brand, Jesse Spade Designs, and he maintains that this Willys will become a family staple.

Extras Extras Extras Extras


Jesse Spade's 1950 Willys Jeep Hemi Specs



Exterior Color: Raw aluminum, flat black metal flake

Omix-Ada CJ2A taillights

Omix-Ada CJ2A side mirror

Omix-Ada tailgate

Omix-Ada CJ7 headlight assemblies

Omix-Ada CJ2A fenders

Omix-Ada CJ2A grille

Omix-Ada CJ7 OE front bumper

Omix-Ada CJ7 rear bumperettes

Omix-Ada CJ2A front turn signals


5.7-liter Dodge Hemi

Horsepower: 400

Transmission: Chrysler 545RFE 5-speed

 custom aluminum 2 core radiator

stainless 3-inch Sandrail mufflers

Comp Cams 
XFI street/strip Camshaft

intake manifold/fuel rail from 426 Hemi crate motor

Derale cooling fan

Hotwire Auto
Hemi hotrod harness

K&N intake and breather crankcase filter

Aeromotive Bypass fuel system (complete kit with pump, filter, bypass regulator)

Mopar 6.1-liter Hemi fuel injectors

Diablo Trinity Tuner

Rugged Ridge billet oil filler cap and dipstick handle

Mopar 6.4-liter Hemi oil pan

PATC Billet Torque Converter

SK Shift Kit

Red Eagle Clutch

Sonnax Line Pressure Booster

Eaton Detroit Truetrac limited-slip

Alloy USA axle shafts

Alloy USA differential cover

Lokar 545RFE shifter


Total Cost Involved ’28-‘31 Ford front suspension

QA1 adjustable rear coilover

Hyperco motorcycle shock springs for rear coilovers

Mopar rear sway bar

Wilwood 4-piston front brake calipers/rotors

Fabquest under dash brake setup


Front: 17-inch Ford Mustang Cobra compact spare; M&H Front Runner

Rear: 15-inch American Racing Outlaw; M&H Cheater Slicks


Interior Color: Raw aluminum, brown leather 

Omix-Ada CJ7 steering wheel

Omix-Ada CJ2A seats

Omix-Ada CJ7 passenger grab bar

Omix-Ada CJ3A glove box door

Omix-Ada CJ3A windshield frame latches

Flaming River GM style steering column

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