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Top Builder Profile: Tucker Aims To Regain Crown With Drag Racing Willys

By Juan Torres

Tucker-Battle of the Builders
Kyle Tucker turned an all-steel Willys that has been a drag race car all of its life into a contender in this year’s SEMA Battle of the Builders competition.

After winning the first-ever SEMA Battle of the Builders competition in 2014 with a ’69 Camaro, Kyle Tucker and his staff at Detroit Speed in Mooresville, North Carolina, worked effervescently on a ’41 Willys in the hope that they could regain the title.

“Battle of the Builders is now the big thing for car builders,” Tucker said. “To be in the Top 10 with the best of the best and the who’s who in the automotive industry is a really big deal."

To accomplish their goal, the crew opted not to build a fiberglass Willys and instead put together an unconventional all-steel model using a car that had always been drag raced. They built the front fenders, hood, rear fenders, deck lid and a roof section from scratch because the car was beaten up from drag racing. Though builders often remove the trim, door handles, locks and hinges from a Willys, Tucker decided to leave them on and eventually laser-scanned and machined a scaled version of the original steering wheel from billet aluminum before adding a custom-machined shift lever, tach housing and speaker grilles.

Their attention to detail and meticulous work was obvious at first sight. “I like a car to sit right and have the correct tire and wheel look and to drive right,” said Tucker. “A lot of people can make a car look awesome, but for a car to look awesome and drive right, that’s what I want.”

Behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and stories of the 2016 Battle of the Builders competition will be showcased in an hour-long TV special that will air 10:00 p.m. (EST), February 6, on the Velocity Network. Mark your calendars, set your DVR and tell your friends not to miss the show!

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